5+ Arguments to Get Out of a Red Light Camera Ticket [California]

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You can definitely fight that traffic ticket. You might be surprised to know that California gives out around 4 to 5 million traffic tickets each year. So, it’s not really about if you’ll get a traffic ticket, but more about when you’ll get your next one. Right now, if you have been issued a ticket, I will show you the various arguments you can use to get out of a red light camera ticket in California. In California, running a red light and having a camera catch it is a common offense. I’m sure you don’t like those tickets. The camera flashes, and then, about 10 days later, you find a traffic ticket in your mail without even realizing you got one.

California’s Vehicle Code 21453(a)

Vehicle Code 21453(a) deals with what happens if you run a red light. According to this statute, if there’s a steady red light, you need to stop at the line before the intersection, or if there’s no line, stop before you enter the intersection. This rule is pretty much common sense and is similar in most places where ‘stop at red’ is a traffic rule. But I’d like to discuss a bit more about how you can defend yourself if you’re accused of this, how these rules are usually enforced, and what steps you can take if you get a ticket for running a red light.

How to Get Out of a Red Light Camera Ticket California

Let’s discuss how to handle those tickets in California. Some defenses against a red light violation might be clear to some people, but not to everyone. Whatever the case, you may have an argument in your favor to fight the charge.

1. Your Violation Was Not Correctly Interpreted

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It’s possible that the police officer or the automated camera that recorded your violation didn’t correctly interpret how you were driving. You might argue that you did stop at the line, or if there wasn’t a line, you stopped before entering the intersection, but the officer or camera thought you went too far. This could be used as a defense against a red light camera violation. Also, you might have made a complete stop and then made a legal right turn. The law usually allows this, unless there’s a sign at the intersection saying, ‘no turn on red.’

2. The Traffic Light Was Obstructed or You Could Not Help It

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Another defense to get out of a red light camera ticket in California could be that the traffic light was hard to see, or that you had to drive the way you did for reasons beyond your control, like a sudden muscle spasm, if you can prove it, or because another car was pushing you into the intersection by driving too fast and threatening your safety. These are all things worth considering.

3. You Were Not the Driver

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When a ticket is issued, it’s sent to the car’s registered owner. This means if you own a car and someone else was driving, you might receive a ticket in the mail, even if you weren’t driving. That’s how it works—they target the registered owner. Now, if you get one of these tickets and you weren’t the driver, fight the ticket. Don’t point fingers at anyone else. It’s usually simpler to get the ticket dismissed if you can prove you weren’t the driver. The best approach is using a California trial by declaration, which lets you contest a ticket without having to go to court.

When you look at the back of the ticket, there’s a part where you can name the driver. But remember, don’t fill that out or send it back. You are going to fight the ticket. When preparing your defense, include a color copy of your driver’s license. This makes it clear if you are not the driver. For example, if the license shows a male and the driver was female, it’s obvious you weren’t driving. The trial by declaration is a great way to highlight this.

4. Problems with the Traffic Light

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If you are the driver and you want to get out of a red light camera ticket in California, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of getting the ticket dismissed. For example, you might question if the traffic light changed from yellow to red too quickly, or if there were no signs indicating the presence of a red-light camera at the intersection.

Another point to consider is whether the city has a valid contract with the camera operator, who often operates from another state. These are all valid points to raise in your defense.

5. Request a Trial and Reduce the Charge to a Non Moving Violation

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You could also consider asking for a court trial and maybe even negotiating a change in the charge. If you are cited for running a red light under this specific law, it usually adds a point for negligent driving to your record in California, which might lead to higher insurance costs. However, if you can get permission from the court to attend traffic school, this can help remove that point.

Another strategy is to request the court to change your ticket to a non-moving violation, which doesn’t come with any points. For instance, Vehicle Code Section 38300 is a good option to consider. This law is about the general disobedience of traffic signals. There’s also Vehicle Code Section 22526(a), known as blocking the intersection. If you were cited for running a red light, it could be argued that you also unlawfully entered the intersection or ‘the box’, so the court may agree to change your violation to this instead.

Don’t Ignore the Ticket

There’s a lot of wrong information going around about these red light camera tickets in California. Many people think you can just ignore them and throw them away. Don’t do that. If you ignore the ticket, you’ll end up with what’s known as an FTA, or a failure to appear. The court will add a $300 fine, and they’ll send your ticket to a collections agency. So, a ticket that was originally $500 could end up costing you more than $800. You really need to take care of those tickets in California.


Now, when fighting a ticket in California, the best method is a trial by written declaration, especially for a red light camera ticket. But focusing on red light camera tickets, they are usually priced around $500, making them quite costly. Considering the fine and the potential increase in your insurance rates over 3 years, which could add up to $2,400, it’s really expensive to have one of these tickets on your record.

Here’s what I can share with you regarding red light violations under California law. If your situation seems unusual, or if you believe there is a chance to avoid a negligent operator point, you certainly need to talk to your local attorney to assist if you are dealing with a red light camera ticket or any kind of red light violation ticket.

READ ALSOVerified Steps to Obtain the Black License Plate in California

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