Friday, March 2, 2012
Court of Appeal Upholds Conviction in Red Light Camera Case
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Testimony on the reliability and accuracy of computer hardware and software that make up an automated traffic light enforcement system is not required as a prerequisite to admission of evidence generated by the computer, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Div. Three affirmed the red-light camera conviction of Carmen Goldsmith, rejecting her claim that computer-generated photographs and a video of her allegedly running a red light were improperly admitted at her trial in Inglewood. The opinion was filed Tuesday and certified yesterday for publication.
An investigator for the Inglewood Police Department testified at Goldsmith’s trial that he inspected the traffic signal at the intersection of Centinela Ave. and Beach Ave. on a monthly basis and that the average yellow light interval in February and March 2009 was a little over four seconds. The California Highway Patrol has established a minimum interval of 3.9 seconds for a 40-miles-per-hour highway.
The investigator explained that the city’s automated traffic enforcement system, operated by the IPD but maintained by Redflex Traffic Systems, generates three digital photographs and a 12-second video when sensors indicate that a car is in the intersection while the light is red.
One photograph in the sequence will show the care behind the limit line, a second will show the vehicle in the intersection, and the third will show the license plate. The system will store information on the hard disc of a computer at the scene, and Redflex will retrieve the information online.
A police office then reviews the photographs before a citation is printed or mailed.
In Goldsmith’s case, the data bar on the photos indicated that the light had been red for 0.27 seconds before Goldsmith entered the intersection and that she was still in the red-lighted intersection 0.66 seconds later.
The court found her guilty and fined her $436. The Los Angeles Superior Court Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the investigator’s testimony established an adequate foundation, that the accuracy of evidence generated by the data system was presumed, and that the defendant failed to rebut the presumption.
In doing so, the panel rejected the holding of People v. Khaled (2010) 186 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1.
Khaled threw out a red-light camera conviction, saying the police officer’s testimony lacked foundation because the office did not have “the necessary knowledge of underlying workings, maintenance, or recordkeeping of [the] Redflex Traffic System.” This district’s Div. Seven recently followed Khaled in People v. Borzakian, B227948, which was filed Jan. 23 and certified for publication Feb. 10.
Justice Patti Kitching, writing for Div. Three, said Superior Court Commissioner John R. Johnson did not abuse his discretion in admitting the computer-generated evidence.
The justice cited Evidence Code Secs. 1552(a) and 1553, establishing the presumption that printed representations of computer information and of images stored on a video or digital medium are accurate representations of the computer information and images they purport to represent.
There was no need, however, to establish the accuracy and reliability of the data in the computer itself, as opposed to that of the visual representations of the data, Kitching wrote. The photographs and video were not hearsay, and the data printed on the photographs by the computer was not hearsay, the justice added, so it was not necessary to establish a hearsay exception in order to admit the evidence.
Borzakian, Kitching concluded, was erroneously decided because the court did not cite earlier cases holding that testimony regarding the reliability of computer records is not a prerequisite to their admission.
Attorneys on appeal were John J. Jackman for the defendant and City Attorney Cal Saunders, along with Best Best & Krieger’s Dean R. Derleth and John D. Higginbotham, for Inglewood.
The case is People v. Goldsmith, B231678.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company