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California Red Light Violations

Possessing a driver’s license in California is considered a privilege. With this privilege, however, comes great responsibility. One of the major obligations that is required upon receiving your license is becoming familiar with all of the rules of the road. In a standard driver’s education class one of the first rules you will learn is – a red light means stop, a green light means go, and a yellow light signifies that the red light is about to appear. Easy, right?

According to recent statistics provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, this rule may not be as easy to follow as you might expect.  The LAPD reported that the City of L.A. issues over 59,000 red light citations per year. 1

Stopping at a Red Light (VC 21453(a))

Under California Vehicle Code 21453(a): “A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line…before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown…” 2

If a police officer sees your vehicle cross an intersection while the traffic light is solid red, the officer will likely pull you over and issue you a red light ticket. If you do receive a red light ticket, all hope is not lost. An experienced traffic attorney may be able to prove that the ticket was not justified and, in that case, you will not have to pay the fine, nor will you receive a “point” on your driving record.

What to Expect if you Choose to Contest Your Red Light Ticket

A red light ticket is a traffic offense and will be handled in traffic court. Therefore, if you choose to contest your red light ticket and hire an attorney to appear on your behalf, it must done in traffic court.

Red light tickets are typically administered for one of two reasons:

  • A police officer personally witnessed you committing the violation. Or;
  • A ‘red light camera’ took a picture of your vehicle running the light.

In this section, we will focus on what occurs when an officer witnesses your offense.

Possible Defenses to a Red Light Ticket

In order to be proven guilty of a traffic offense, the State is only required to prove that you committed the offense, regardless of your intent.  After reviewing your particular incident, your traffic ticket attorney can present any of the following defenses at traffic trial:

  • You did not enter the intersection when the light was red;
  • The traffic signal was not working properly;
  • The yellow light did not remain yellow long enough for you to avoid running a red light;
    • Yellow light duration must “meet the criteria” set by CalTrans in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) under VC 21455.7 3
  • Your field of vision was obscured by something you had no control over; or
  • The officer’s field of vision was obscured.

Additionally, if your lawyer can prove to the judge that greater harm would have occurred had you not run the red light, your charge may be dropped.

Consequences of a Red Light Ticket

red light
Running a red light can result in some severe consequences

If you are found guilty of running a red light, two things will generally occur:

  1. You are ordered to pay a fine.
  2. A notation or “point” will be added to your driving record.
  3. This may result in your car insurance company increasing your premiums or cancelling your policy.

Additionally, if you obtain too many points in a particular period of time, California may consider you a negligent operator and you may lose your license to drive. You will be considered a negligent operator if your point count total reflects the following:

  • 4 points in 12 months,
  • 6 points in 24 months, or
  • 8 points in 36 months 4

If you are eligible, traffic school is a recommended option and may prevent your driving record and insurance rates from being affected.

Red Light Ticket FAQs

What are my Options after I Receive a Red Light Ticket?

Once you are issued a red light ticket in California, you typically have three options. You may plead guilty, not guilty, or request to attend traffic school (if you are eligible).

If you plead guilty, you will need to pay the citation. 5 You will also receive a point on your driving record. If you plead not guilty, your traffic attorney will have to prove in traffic court that you did not commit the crime you are accused of.

If you attend traffic school, you will need to pay the fine imposed for the infraction, a court administrative fee, and the traffic school fee. Once you successfully complete traffic school, you will not receive a point on your driving record.

What are Possible Defenses to a Red Light Ticket?

If you plan to fight your traffic ticket in court, or hire a red light ticket lawyer to do so on your behalf, there are a few possible defenses that can be raised.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer in my Red Light Ticket Case?

If you choose to contest your red light ticket, you should hire a traffic attorney to defend you in court.

An experienced traffic court attorney will be familiar with the courts and the judges. They will also be very well versed in all aspects of traffic law.

Call the Traffic Attorneys of Wallin & Klarich Today

Wallin & Klarich Red light traffic tickets
Wallin & Klarich Traffic Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been cited for running a red light, it is critical that you speak to an experienced traffic attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience defending persons cited for red light violations. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.


1. http://saferstreetsla.org/193/dangerous-rolling-turn/

2. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=veh&group=21001-22000&file=21450-21468

3. https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/pubs/vctop/vc/d11/c2/a3/21455.7

4. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/dl/dl_info

5. http://www.dmv.org/ca-california/traffic-ticket-faq.php

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