Wednesday, December 19, 2012
A.G. Says City May Use Cameras to Cite Motorists for Illegal Turns
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A city may install cameras in order to detect and cite drivers who make right turns at a location where such turns are prohibited at all times, Attorney General Kamala Harris has concluded.
Harris said Monday in a published opinion that the Legislature, when it passed what are commonly referred to as the “red-light” camera laws, intended to allow cities to use electronic systems to photograph and cite drivers for prohibited-turn as well as failure-to-stop violations.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, asked for the opinion to resolve any remaining uncertainty over his city’s plan to install an automated enforcement system at the intersection of Market Street and Octavia Blvd.
Ammiano has long campaigned for the system. He has said it is necessary because drivers seeking to enter the Central Freeway turn right from the northeast-bound lanes of Market on green and yellow lights—despite no-right turn signs—and strike cyclists proceeding lawfully through the intersection.
In 2010, Ammiano sponsored AB 2729, which would have expressly authorized an automated traffic enforcement system at that location. It passed the Legislature, but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill.
Schwarzenegger said in his veto message that the legislation was unnecessary because ““[c]urrent law already allows for violations of section 22101 of the Vehicle Code”—allowing cities to regulate or prohibit turning movements through the use of “official traffic control devices”—“to be enforced through an automated enforcement system.”
Ammiano last year asked the attorney general to issue a formal opinion in order to clarify that current law actually does allow the city to proceed, and the attorney general gave that assurance Monday.
She cited Sec. 40518(a), which provides that whenever a citation has been issued based on a violation allegedly recorded by an automated enforcement system—expressly including violations of Sec. 22101—“an exact and legible duplicate copy of the notice when filed with the magistrate shall constitute a complaint to which the defendant may enter a plea.”
That language, Harris reasoned, “plainly assumes” that prohibited-turn violations are among those for which a citation may be issued based on an automated enforcement system.
“It is only logical that an AES, which may lawfully be placed at a location where drivers are required to stop, may be used to enforce the laws that require drivers to stop there,” the attorney general wrote. “But little extension of this logic is required to conclude that an AES may be used to enforce a prohibition against making illegal turns in the same locations.”
The opinion, which was prepared for Harris by Deputy Attorney General Marc J. Nolan, is No. 11-1104.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company