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One of the great “joys” that motorists across the United States face is an encounter with RoboCop, also known as the red light camera.

Who hasn’t just driven through an intersection, or turned right on a red, only to see a bright flash and wonder, “Was that for me? Am I going to get a ticket?”

“Dorris,” wrote, “I read one article advising to ignore a red light ticket in Los Angeles County, and then found another stating the exact opposite. What should drivers do, act on the ticket, or just ignore it?”

We spoke with Southern California Attorney Paul Denni who provided insight into what drivers need to know about these tickets.

“Red light camera tickets are being prosecuted in Orange County and Los Angeles County. Yes, I have heard rumors that these tickets are not being prosecuted in L.A. County, but I have associates who are in court daily defending these tickets in the Los Angeles Superior Courts. And there are cities within L.A. County who vigorously enforce these tickets,” he points out.

If I ignore the ticket what about my driver’s license?

We asked, "What happens to your driver’s license if you ignore the ticket?"

“The brief answer is ‘No, do not ignore the ticket,’ but this requires understanding what the ticket can and cannot do to your license, pocketbook, and how you can create a nightmare for yourself by doing the wrong thing. There are two situations drivers need to understand:

In the “do nothing” situation, a ticket arrives in the mail and if you do nothing from the start – absolutely nothing – it will not interfere with your driver’s license, not delay getting a license or a renewal as a lack of response is not reported to the DMV.

“Why do you stress doing absolutely nothing?” We asked Denni, and he answered our question with one of his own:

“Dennis, what is the one big difference between getting a red light camera ticket and being pulled over by a traffic officer? The answer is acceptance of notice.

“Before the officer hands you the ticket, you will sign a promise to appear in court, which proves you have actual notice of what to do. Not showing up in court becomes an FTA - a failure to appear - and under the Vehicle Code, this FTA authorizes the court to notify DMV and they will put a hold on your license.

“But a red light camera ticket is mailed, and there is no way of proving that you actually received it. Therefore your failure to act on the ticket is not reported to the DMV.

Do anything and your goose is cooked

When Paul Denni says to “do nothing” he’s serious, explaining that, “Once you appear in court at the arraignment and then fail to appear for the trial, in that case, they can hold your license up, and you could face a fine for the FTA. Why? Because now the court knows that you indeed received that ticket in the mail.”

Other attorneys, we spoke with went even further, pointing out that if you so much as write or call the court and ask for a continuance, you’ve cooked your goose for the same reasons. Now they know that you got the ticket.

GC Services wants your money

So, let’s say that you are driving somewhere in Los Angeles County and receive a red light camera ticket in the mail weeks later. You follow attorney Denni’s advice and do nothing, confident this nastiness will fade from memory. And then you receive a letter from GC Services, explaining that:

  • You were mailed a red light camera ticket, and;
  • Did not pay the fine or appear in court by the given date, and;
  • Therefore, you owe $500 to Los Angeles or some other city.

Now what? “What if I don’t pay? How much trouble can they cause me? Can they report me to the credit bureaus?

“Consequences are that GC Services – which is a giant collection agency working for many cities across America – may hassle you. If you are concerned about it being on your credit bureau report, I would take care of it,” he stated, adding:

“It comes down to how much worry you have about the possible damage it could do you if it winds up on a credit report, but it’s not certain that it will.”

If our story has left your head spinning, that’s good. As the fines for traffic citations including red light camera tickets are so monstrously high in California, a free telephone consultation with a traffic ticket attorney just can’t hurt, and that’s our recommendation.

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Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to 661-323-7993, or emailed to Lagombeaver1@Gmail.com. And be sure to visit www.dennisbeaver.com.

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