Red Light Cameras – Was Someone Else Driving?

Red Light Camera Ticket Defenses

As a Los Angeles traffic ticket attorney, I get a lot of questions about red light camera tickets from my clients.

Simply put, to be guilty of running a red light, the light needs to turn red before your vehicle crosses the limit line.

Sometimes the light isn’t working properly, such as when the yellow light was not long enough for the speed limit in the area.

In many cases, we can beat the red light camera ticket on the basis that someone else was driving, because in order for you to be guilty, you must have been driving the vehicle.

This is called the “identity defense.” The identity defense usually applies in one of two scenarios:

  1. It was your car, but you were not the driver.
  2. You were the driver, but it was not your car.

Under the first scenario, you are the person who received notice of the citation in the mail. This is because the red light camera captured a picture of your license plate, and through the DMV they find out the home address of the person to whom the car is registered. In this scenario, YOU are the defendant.

Under the second scenario, you are driving someone else’s car (usually a friend or a family member’s), a red light camera took a photo of their license plate, and THEY got the ticket in the mail. The reason you know this is because they called you and said, “Hey, this is YOUR ticket, not mine. You better pay for it!”

Do You Have to Disclose Your Identity when Given a Red Light Camera Ticket?

Under the law, there is no obligation to disclose who the driver of the car was if the driver was someone other than the registered owner of the vehicle.

When you are charged with a crime, even if it’s an infraction (punishable by fines only), you have a 5th amendment right against self-incrimination and you do not have to answer questions about the charges against you – including questions about who the driver was.

This 5th amendment right extends to traffic court when you are fighting your traffic ticket.

Red Light Camera Ticket with Failure to Appear

When you receive a red light camera ticket in the mail, you will be given a date by which you need to either pay the ticket or respond to the court.

By the due date, you must either:

  • file a trial by declaration (a written trial),
  • pay the ticket online, or
  • calendar a court date to fight the ticket in court.

If you fail to do one of these three things by the due date, you’ll receive a failure to appear.

In Los Angeles County, if you fail to appear your case will be referred to the collections agency GC Services.

The good news is, a red light camera ticket in collections with GC Services won’t hold your driver’s license like other tickets in collections will.

Filing a Trial by Declaration on Your Red Light Camera Ticket

As long as you haven’t failed to appear on your ticket by the due date, you’re entitled to a trial by declaration

If you choose to file a trial by written declaration, you can write down your perception of what happened and file it with the court. The officer has an opportunity to respond in written form as well, and the judge will read both points of view and make a decision.

If the judge rules in your favor, you win. If the judge rules against you, you’re entitled to a trial de novo which means a trial in person (if you choose that option).

Get Help from a Los Angeles Traffic Ticket Attorney

In many cases, it doesn’t make sense to hire an attorney to fight your Los Angeles traffic ticket.

In some cases, it can be beneficial when you believe you’re entitled to a dismissal (such as in the ID defense discussed above) or when you have a court date scheduled and are unable to make it to court personally (in this case your attorney can go to court for you).

If you need help fighting a red light camera ticket in court, you can reach me (Attorney Paul Denni) here:


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