Vol. 25 No. 14- The Brakes Are Put On Red Light Camera Prosecutions


August 13, 2010

The Appellate Division of the Orange County Superior Court ruled in People v. Khaled, Appeal Case No. 30-2009-00304893, that the red light camera photographs maintained by a city’s vendor are hearsay evidence and are inadmissible to prosecute a red light camera violator.


Subsequent to being issued a red light photo enforcement citation by the Santa Ana Police Department, Defendant/Appellant Khaled requested trial.  At the non-jury trial, the photographs of Khaled failing to stop for a red light were presented by the police officer representing the Department. Over Khaled’s objections, the photos were admitted into evidence, supported by a declaration from Redflex Traffic Systems, the vendor to supply and maintain the photo enforcement camera system. The photographs and declaration were admitted pursuant to two hearsay exceptions:  Official Records and Business Records.

Khaled was ultimately convicted and appealed his trial court conviction on the grounds that the vendor’s photos and declaration were hearsay and were not an appropriate exception under either the Official Records or Business Records exceptions.

The Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s conviction and ordered the trial court to dismiss the charge against Khaled.  The Appellate Division found that indeed the photographs and declaration presented by the Santa Ana Police Department at the trial court were hearsay.  Further, in dissecting the Official Records exception (Evidence Code section 1280) and the Business Records exception (Evidence Code section 1271), neither evidentiary hearsay objection applied to the photos and documents which the Santa Ana Police Department received from Reflex Traffic Systems.


On August 2, 2008, Santa Ana Police Department issued a traffic citation to Khaled for Vehicle Code section 21453(a).  The citation was issued based on photographic enforcement.  No police officer witnessed the violation.  The photos were provided to the Department by its red
light camera vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems.  Redflex Traffic Systems contracts with Santa Ana to install, maintain and store digital photographic information.

The photographs depicted Khaled violating the red light Vehicle Code Section.  The photos also included the date, time and other information regarding the violation.  However, the Redflex Traffic Systems representative who retrieved the photographs and provided the declaration did not testify at Khaled’s trial.

The Court noted that, inasmuch as the Redflex custodian of records did not testify and the Santa Ana police officer who testified for the Department did not have any direct knowledge of the workings of the camera-computer system. “[T]he officer could not establish the time in question, the method of retrieval of the photographs, or that any of the photographs or the videotape was a ‘reasonable representation of what it is alleged to portray.'”

The appellate court found that “not only does [the Official Records Exception] require that the writing be [‘]made by … a public employee . . . , but the public employee must be under a legal duty to make such reports . . ..[’] Redflex employees created the photographs and they are not public employees.  Further, “there is a total lack of evidence to establish [that] the sources of information and method and time of preparation . . . were such as to indicate its trustworthiness.”

Therefore, the Official Records exception facially fails as a hearsay exception in this case and does not allow the introduction of the photographs or other documents presented to the trial court.

Turning to the “Business Records Exception”, the Court observed that the Santa Ana officer testified that he “did not have the necessary knowledge of underlying workings, maintenance, or record keeping of Redflex Traffic System.” Generally, the person who has such knowledge would be the custodian of Redflex Traffic Systems.  Without the foundational testimony of the Redflex custodian, the photographs are not a hearsay Business Records exception.


The Khaled decision was an Orange County Superior Court Appellate Division decision. However, because the decision was certified for publication (CRC 8.1105(c)(2) and (c)(6)), it can be used as case authority not only in Orange County, but also throughout California.


Photographs obtained through red light camera enforcement are hearsay evidence if not presented directly by the vendor who took the photographs.  This means that your city’s vendor must be called as a witness to establish the foundation necessary to be able to admit the photos into evidence.  Without this admissible foundation, your red light camera case does not have the essential demonstrative evidence that will be necessary to convict the traffic violator.

As in all matters involving the law, it is imperative that you confer with your agency’s legal counsel to secure advice and guidance on how it will impact on your agency.  However, as always, if you wish to discuss this case in greater detail, please feel free to contact me at (714) 446-1400 or via e-mail at dlp@jones-mayer.com.

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