California Supreme Court Rules Red Light Cameras Are OK

If you have been watching for a decision in the “red-light camera” cases, one finally came out in People v. Goldsmith.  In Goldsmith, Goldsmith was convicted of running a red light based on photographs that showed Goldsmith at the scene, a police investigator’s testimony that the intersection was in fact the relevant intersection, and a twelve (12) second video from a red light camera (automatic traffic enforcement system or ATES) that showed Goldsmith’s violation.  Goldsmith objected to the video based on hearsay and authentication.  In the end, the California Supreme Court held that the ATES video was admissible without further foundational requirements.

This may be disturbing for several reasons.  First, usually one must furnish foundation and meet authentication requirements to admit videos into evidence.  The fact of the matter is that certain videos can be manipulated, and the burden should be and is on the producer to show that a video has not been manipulated.  The CASC expressly rejected this idea in Goldsmith.

Second, the question must be asked whether the same ruling would have been given if Goldsmith were appealing the conviction of a Felony or Misdemeanor, instead of a ticket.  Are we creating two evidentiary standards, one for tickets and another where custody time is on the line?

Third, the trend with the United States Supreme Court the last decade has been to make witnesses come to court.  Would the Supreme Court have come to the same decision given its recent jurisprudence?

I would love to hear your (or Justice Antonin Scalia’s) opinion on this.

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