Everything You Need to Know About Ignoring Red-Light Camera Tickets

Everything You Need to Know About Ignoring Red-Light Camera Tickets
File photo by Adriano Aguillo/Flickr

We still get questions almost daily about our coverage of L.A.'s red-light camera tickets — mainly, how you can essentially ignore them with little consequence.

So, cutting right to the chase: You can still ignore them with little consequence, experts say. And, no, a recent California Supreme Court red-light camera ruling in People v. Goldsmith does not change that, our sources say.

We hope that this update will allow you to carry on without emailing us for legal advice (we don't have time to respond — sorry) or asking one of our experts if a certain area qualifies as being within L.A. County (get a map!). Here's pretty much everything you need to know about ignoring L.A.'s red-light camera tickets:

— Yes, you can still ignore L.A.'s red-light camera tickets with little consequence, says Southern California attorney Mark A. Gallagher.

In this instance, L.A. is defined as any jurisdiction or city within Los Angeles County. If you don't know what that is, see this. So you got a red-light camera ticket from park police or an odd-sounding municipality? If the ticket asks you to respond to an L.A. County Superior Court branch, then, yes, this applies, Gallagher says.

Orange County and Inland Empire ticket recipients are out of luck, however. 

— Is there any fine print? A little. L.A. County Superior Court spokeswoman Mary Hearn says that, technically, you'll be on the hook for $300 if you ignore your red-light camera ticket. And a red flag with your name on it will exist at the court dealing with your ticket, she said.

However, this is not a binding "failure to appear" that will affect your DMV records, and the issue will only come up if you have the misfortune of getting an officer-issued traffic ticket that sends you to the same exact court that has your red-light camera ticket on file, Gallagher says.

Even then, he said, judges almost always dismiss the $300 fine, but they will likely make you address the red-light camera ticket (guilty, no contest, not guilty — fight it at a later date, or traffic school). So, in Gallagher's estimation, there's still no downside to ignoring the red-light camera ticket, even if you have the rare misfortune of later getting an officer-issued ticket that sends you to the same court.

"Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not you want to ignore it," he says. "You'll get a bunch of mean letters. You do not get a failure to appear."

And, uh, here's another caveat: Most people don't go to court even when they get handed a ticket by a live, human cop: They deal with it through the mail, either paying it, pleading guilty or no contest, or asking for traffic school. In that case, the $300 fee will not come up, and the so-called court-flagged failure to appear with have no consequence, Gallagher says.

"When the court says 'failure to appear,' they're using the term loosely," adds red-light ticket activist Jay Beeber. "What it means is, the court knows you had this ticket. If you tell the judge, 'I never got this in the mail, and I wasn't aware of it,' the judge may dismiss it."

— The DMV will not hold up your drivers license or registration because you ignored a red-light camera ticket in L.A. County. Hearn of the Superior Court confirms this:

"We don't request that the DMV put a hold on license or registration of the registered owner of the vehicle," she says, "because it's not always the registered owner of the vehicle who incurs the red light camera citation."

To review, according to our experts: Yes, you can ignore that red-light camera ticket if it's issued within L.A. County (again, see a map). Yes, a $300 fine is possible if you end up in the same court, in person, that has your red-light camera ticket on file, but it's rare. No, the DMV will not harsh your mellow for this.

Got it? Good. 

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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