$400 traffic ticket. W. T. F?

I dreaded to open the letter I got today from the Department of Traffic Violations.

Sure enough, it was a ticket. From one of the stoplight cameras along Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles. They charged me with running a red light, and the photos pretty clearly show my car, license plate, and even me driving it.

I’m willing to admit it’s possible I’m guilty of this. I mean it’s freaking L.A., if you don’t drive a little bit aggressively you’d never get anywhere. So I was expecting something like a $50 citation when I turned the page over, and much to much shock and horror saw the amount of $381.00 clearly bolded as the “bail” I am supposed to forfeit to the court for the violation. What’s even worse is that the letter explains if I simply pay it, it will also add a point to my license and my insurance may be adversely affected. (effectively making it even worse than a $400 ticket)

This is really kind of soul-crushing to me, since I have to work pretty hard to make $381. Is there any way I can get it reduced? The letter says I can contest the violation of course and request a court trial in person, but what will happen if I do that? Anyone have experience with these things in California? I mean they have photographic evidence so I don’t know how I can claim I’m not guilty - or can I? Please help me out here!

Holy crap! Red light camera tickets are $50 here, $400 is crazy, that just can’t be right, are you sure?

Quite sure. The exact wording on the citation says:

IANALAL, but it seems to me they got you dead to rights. If you contest it you will almost certainly lose and you’ll be up for court and legal representation costs on top of the fine.

Pay up, and take it as a life lesson that you don’t have to drive “aggressively” (ie illegally) around LA or anywhere else.

Yellow means caution, a long yellow means yuo’re going to have to stop. I was almost (and I mean very, very close) hit by a guy who ran a red. It’s not funny, it scared the crap out of me, and I wasn’t alone.
A good driver should know the meaning of “stale green” and should also know that yellow means stop, unless you’re so close to the intersection that it would be dangerous to do so.
It’s extremely unlikely that the yellow is so short that a good driver wouldn’t know the difference. I’m willing to say that I believe you actually sped up to beat the red.
$381, that’s nothing compared to a decade or more in prison for vehicular homocide. Wake the hell up, accept the responsibility for your self indulgent stupidity, and pay the fine. If this was just a lapse in judgement, and you’re not a frequent scofflaw (i.e: a self absorbed S.O.B,), then the points against your driving recoed shouldn’t be a big deal, just a serious warning, albeit a bit costly, to take your driving habits more seriously. Here’s the possible consequence of points in CA.:
The California DMV may revoke your driver’s license if you receive:
Four points within a 12-month period
Six points in a 24-month period
Eight points in a 36-month period

That means if you have three points against your license and it has been over 12 months, you are not out of the woods yet. If you acquire three more points at any time over the next year, you could still lose your license. Even if you should only have one or two more points logged on your driving record over that year, you are still in jeopardy of revocation if, during the third year, two more points are added to your record.

I’m no scofflaw and I’m not really worried about racking up points as this is the first and only time I’ve received a violation like this (unless a single point will actually affect my insurance - does anyone know if this is the case?) - the big problem for me is that I don’t really have $381 to spare for this… I’m just wondering if contesting it can get the fine reduced, not necessarily get me off. Or is the “bail” amount really the “fine”? Looking at the court’s website (which is running incredibly slow for me right now for some reason) it seems to indicate that the bail and fine are not necessarily the same thing, but it isn’t really clear on this. It says the bail is the amount required to guarantee your appearance in court. But this is not a violation that necessarily requires me to appear in person, which is what has me confused.

So anyway I can do without the lessons in morality - I just want to know if I have any recourse at all here.

If you have the time to kill, fight it. Come up with a good line of BS and you should get a few bucks knocked off at minimun, or you might get lucky and beat it.

I have nothing *but * time to kill. I’ve beat the last two moving violations I’ve had.

How about ringing them, advising them of your financial situation and asking about a payment plan whereby you pay it off over a series of payments?

You don’t get it, the $381 and the point against your license are your morality lesson.
As to the financial situation, I’d guess your best option is to appear in court, plead NOLO Contendre and offer a sincere apology to the judge with a possible, brief, explanation of the hardship that a $381 would inflict on you. If you have a wife and kids, it might not hurt to have them there, standing behind you, to emphasize your plight. You might also be a candidate for traffic school, which will negate the point against your license. Traffic school costs about $30 to $50 and you can probably do it onlne.

Odd. I’m pretty sure that not paying the bail will guarantee your appearance in court too.

The intersections around here explicitly state “The fine for red light violations is x” where x = 280 - 390 dollars. I usually drive around with my visor down, to block sunlight and to reduce the chances of them getting a clear shot of my face.

I’ve gone to court twice for tickets. Once was for an illegal U turn. The officer thought I’d just come from a bar, but, in fact, I’d just come from work. He suggested I go to court. The fine was reduced from $75 to $10, and no points.
The second was a failure to yield. My car was totaled. It was an uncontrolled intersection. I was lost, going about 15 MPH the other driver was late for work (by his own admission) going about 40. My minivan flipped. again, my fine was reduced from $110 to $10. I went to court, not to deny fault, but to explain extenuating circumstances.

I’d say, go to court. Your chances of the fine being reduced are better than if you just pay it.

That doesn’t sound so bad, here you are likely to lose your driver’s license on top of a fine if you don’t obey a red light or stop sign.

Welcome to the wonderful world of California driving citations. Since Prop 13 limited the amount of money government can collect from property taxes, other fees have gotten, well I guess, intense would be the word.
All traffic fines in LA and Orange Counties are impressive. Carpool violations start at $371. (read the signs next time you are on the freeway)
Anyway your choices are:
[li]Pay the money (may have an insurance hit)[/li][li]Pay the money and take traffic school (no points on license, but you have to pay for the school)[/li][li]Go to court and grovel to the judge (good luck)[/li][li]Ignore it (cites are like saving bonds. the longer you keep them the more they are worth. Plus you may get a free ride in the back of a Police car)[/li][/ul]
Some courts will allow a payment plan.
[/factual answer]

This is one of the stupider statements I have read on this board in a while. The camera only trips if you enter the intersection AFTER the light has turned red. So if they sent you picture of you, you can pretty much bet large amounts of money that you ran the damn light. Take responsibility for your own actions.
See, the problem here is people who run red lights have a bad habit of killing and severely injuring people who are dumb enough to believe that a green light means go. Just ask the family of the guy that got killed 4 doors from my house by an asshole that ran a red light.
Personally I think they should remove the cameras and replace them with heat seeking missiles.[/opinion]

It seems to me that the camera already has the subject in view, so laser-painting guided missiles may be a more appropriate targeting system.

Here in Virginia, the state just raised traffic violation fines a LOT, enough that people are up in arms. I don’t know how much the new fine for running a light is, but $400 wouldn’t surprise me at this point.

If the driver is clearly visible in the photo, I assume it is a picture of the front of the car. What happens if the offending vehicle is from a jurisdiction that doesn’t require a front plate? Here in Maryland the automated cameras take a picture of your rear plate; as a result it is the vehicle owner that is ticketed, (no matter who is driving) but no points are assessed.

I can’t find a cite for Australian red light penalties, and I don’t know them off the top of my head, but I do know that whenever I see these threads, I never fail to be completely gobsmacked at the small American penalties - especially the $50 for running a red light, mentioned upthread. Fifty bucks? Aussie cops will give you that much for having a bad haircut! Running a red light is a pretty serious matter, and I don’t think there’s even a parking offence on the books here that still carries a $50 fine. $400 is quite typical here for a lot of offences, and you’d be looking at three demerit points for a red light offence - do it on a declared public holiday weekend, and it’s six points (of your twelve).

My advice to the OP is to put this down as an expensive lesson, and move on.

Yikes! In my town, they’ve recently put up flashing signs stating 'Red Light Enforcement Ahead". I know many intersections have cameras, but I still see people gunning the yellow. I’ll admit, I do it too.
But $381? I think I will put that amount on a post-it and stick it on my dash. Damn…

Running a red is a $223 fine here if you get caught by an actual officer. It’s $50 only for the red light camera offences. It was controversial when the cameras were put in since the cameras are run by a private company. The low fine was a means of getting the voters to allow the installment. The fine will almost certainly go up after the program is proven to be fair.

Well, if the OP’s reaction and your reaction are any indication, it seems that $400 is actually a good amount for the fine. After all, the main idea of fines (in principle, at least) is to act as a deterrent, and i’m betting the OP will make a concerted effort to stop from now on.

Running red lights is dangerous. Period. With something like speeding, you might make a compelling argument that you were just “going with the traffic flow,” and this could actually have some validity, especially if you’re only a few miles per hour over the limit. But there is simply no upside to running red lights, and the more we do to discourage it, the better.