Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Court Rejects Use of Hearsay in Red Light Camera Case
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The use of photographs and the testimony of a police officer who wasn’t present to prove that a motorist ran a red light violated the Evidence Code, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.
Justice Fred Woods, in an unpublished opinion for Div. Seven, agreed with Beverly Hills attorney Annette Borzakian that her conviction for running a red light in that city in June 2009 was unsupported by substantial evidence.
Borzakian was cited based on “photographic evidence” produced by the city’s Redflex automated traffic enforcement system. Representing herself, she asked that the evidence be excluded because the officer who issued the citation on the basis of the photos taken by the red-light camera lacked a foundation for testifying that the camera was properly maintained.
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Carol Hallowitz denied Borzakian’s motion and found her guilty. She was fined $435 and ordered to take a 12-hour traffic school course.
The Los Angeles Superior Court Appellate Division affirmed, but the Court of Appeal agreed to transfer the case, and yesterday concluded that Borzakian was correct.
Woods cited People v. Khaled (2010) 186 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1, in which the Orange Superior Court Appellate Division threw out a conviction, finding that the officer who issued the citation “did not qualify as the appropriate witness and did not have the necessary knowledge of underlying workings, maintenance, or recordkeeping of Redflex Traffic System.”
In Borzakian’s case, the jurist acknowledged, photographic evidence with annotations was prepared by a Redflex employee, but was presented through the testimony of the officer. But the officer could not authenticate the evidence under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, Woods explained, because he doesn’t work for Redflex.
Borzakian told the MetNews that she was happy with the ruling, but “very, very upset” that the opinion wasn’t certified for publication. She said she will ask the court to publish the opinion, which she has the right to do within 20 days.
“The rules of evidence are supposed to apply” in traffic court, the former deputy public defender said. Instead, she commented, the courts are “rubberstamping defenseless convictions” and implementing a “very abusive” process in which defendants cited on the basis of red light cameras have no way of defending themselves.
The city’s lead counsel on appeal, William Litvak of Dapeer, Rosenblit & Litvak, was unavailable for comment.
The case is People v. Borzakian, B227948.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company