Yesterday, the L.A. Police Commission made it official: They voted 3-0 “to formally stop collecting unpaid [red-light camera] tickets,” according to the the LA Daily News. As of Saturday, there will no longer be a city mechanism to collect on those $475 envelopes from hell.
More from the Los Angeles Times: “We are not going to pay the contractor to support the system anymore,” said LAPD officer Michael Gregg, who has worked in the red-light camera program for the last four years. “Without that contract, we don’t have access to the data — the videos, the photos.”
In addition, LAPD officers will no longer appear in court on red-light camera cases, he said.
The larger question, though, remains what will happen if you don’t pay a red-light camera ticket issued by any other city within L.A. County.
As was explained in many previous articles in the LA Weekly on the subject, the L.A. County Superior Court — who processes all red-light camera tickets — treats them a little differently than most violations, perhaps due to their legally controversial nature.The fact of the matter is that until you confirm the person in the photo is you, the court has no way of proving it.
Sherman Ellison, a top L.A. traffic lawyer, told the LA Weekly that after months of dealing with red-light runners and court avoiders, he hasn’t seen a shred of evidence of anyone’s credit report or DMV record being affected by an unpaid ticket.
And yet, there will be court notices and credit agencies, and that judges will be able to view your unpaid ticket on future trips to court. Various ticket blogs confirm as much:
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve gotten so many calls from people with ‘failure to appears’ who ignored their red-light camera tickets, and faced repercussions from ignoring their ticket. Many people who did nothing about their red-light camera ticket were facing phone calls and letters from collection agencies whom the court hired to go after them. Many were receiving letters from the court directly for failure to appears, threatening to suspend their driver’s license and issue a warrant for their arrest.”
But according to Ellison, the only way you’ll get a “failure to appear” is if you respond to the ticket in any way. Yes, even if you just acknowledge the ticket to a court clerk over the phone.
Ellison, our know-all attorney on the red-light camera trail, says he’s not recommending that you ignore the ticket. But if you do, based on his ample experience, here’s what will happen (slash not happen):
If you are issued a red-light camera ticket in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Culver City, Inglewood, Hawthorne or any other municipality within L.A. County, it will be processed by the L.A. Superior Court. And if you ignore that ticket cold-turkey — no contact whatsoever — the court will send you, or whoever is the registered owner of the vehicle, scary mail. If you continue not responding, you’ll start getting even scarier collections letters from GC Services. But if you ignore those, your ticket will be tucked away in the court’s internal files.
As far as Ellison knows, the violation will not show up on your credit report or DMV record. So your insurance company has no way of seeing it, either.
One more important note: If you end up in traffic court for some other violation, and the judge asks you about that red-light skeleton in your closet, the same ignore-at-all-costs rule applies. “If you then acknowledge, ‘I thought those were being dismissed,’ you are now under the jurisdiction of the court,” says Ellison.
“It’s an ethic and a moral issue,” he says. “If living with this unknown works for you, then it’s your call.”
In a blow to those hoping to escape ticket consequences, the L.A. superior Court recently ruled that red-light camera photos are legit evidence, and cannot be dismissed as hearsay.
But the City of Los Angeles will not be pursuing tickets that have received no response.
It’s between you and you conscience. And that heavy right foot.
– LA Weekly