Challenge to red light cams refers to 6th Amendment

March 14, 2011 6:49:16 PM PDT
You probably know about those cameras a number of Bay Area cities use to catch people running red lights.

In Daly City, a new legal challenge could have implications for drivers all over the state. Thousands of tickets were dismissed last year from South San Francisco after the city failed to give adequate public notice of its red light cameras. Now, attorney Ellen Mendelson is taking on Daly City's red light cameras. She is representing Scott Conforti who was nabbed at the intersection of John Daly Blvd. and Pancetta.

He was heading east toward the freeway a couple of weeks ago.

"The only sign they have is up here heading west, but there's nothing east, south or north," he explained.

There is a red light camera warning sign for westbound drivers on John Daly Boulevard, but Conforti is right. There is none going east, which leads to the freeway.

State law says there must be "signs that clearly indicate the system's presence and are visible to traffic approaching from all directions or post signs at all major entrances to the city."

City attorney Rose Zimmerman says the city has met the requirements.

"What is required is that they are at the entrance to the city," she told ABC7.

While there may be no signage eastbound on John Daly, Zimmerman says there are 26 signs at the major entrances to Daly City.

There is another broader argument Conforti and his lawyer are making which, if they win this case, may have an impact on all red light cameras in the state. Conforti says the cameras violate his Sixth Amendent right to question witnesses in court. He points to traffic stops, when you can confront an officer during your hearing. However, since this is a robo-camera, Mendelson says there is no way to do that.

"What we need is testimony from somebody who can say that the photograph is an accurate representation of what's shown in the photograph," Mendelson said.

Zimmerman says it is inappropriate for her to comment on this aspect of the challenge.

"This is a pending case. A judge could rule it otherwise," she said.

The case goes to trial April 1.


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