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  1. #1
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    Default How Valid

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: CA. If someone ran a red light and it was caught by video from someone behind, including an off duty officer, how likely can this be used to prosecute the runner? Or does it need to be a government video from a red light camera?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: How Valid

    There's no law preventing the government from using independent civilian witnesses. It's just unlikely for a traffic stop due to the time and expense needed and that the judge will believe the officer who wrote the citation anyway. As a practical matter, with a traffic citation you're guilty unless you prove that you are innocent.

    I can imagine that the prosecution would use independent civilian witnesses for a serious accident and certainly a plaintiff would in a civil suit.

    What's your story? Or is your question just hypothetical?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: How Valid

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
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    There's no law preventing the government from using independent civilian witnesses. It's just unlikely for a traffic stop due to the time and expense needed and that the judge will believe the officer who wrote the citation anyway. As a practical matter, with a traffic citation you're guilty unless you prove that you are innocent.

    I can imagine that the prosecution would use independent civilian witnesses for a serious accident and certainly a plaintiff would in a civil suit.

    What's your story? Or is your question just hypothetical?
    Just hypothetical. I have worried before though. To be clear, with using a video from a phone, is someone able to still be charged due to that? If so how would it be possible? I won’t ask again since you’ll explain enough but I just want to be clear.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How Valid

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
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    There's no law preventing the government from using independent civilian witnesses.
    I have never heard of an instance when an traffic infraction was issued when only a civilian witnessed it. Have you?

    I can imagine that the prosecution would use independent civilian witnesses for a serious accident and certainly a plaintiff would in a civil suit.
    For the purpose of determining negligence, not for issuing infractions.

    Quote Quoting Joey2992
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    Just hypothetical. I have worried before though. To be clear, with using a video from a phone, is someone able to still be charged due to that? If so how would it be possible? I won’t ask again since you’ll explain enough but I just want to be clear.
    Red light cameras have very strict requirements that have to be met before a citation can be legally written. Signs must be posted warning motorists in advance that a red light camera is ahead. The yellow light must be timed correctly for the speed of the road. And the biggy...A clear photo of the driver must be taken.

    In some areas of CA red light camera citations are still being written but you can throw them in the trash because they will not pursue you. Just be careful where you got that citation because some counties will pursue you.

  5. #5
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    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: How Valid

    Yes, the witness statement and video COULD be used to prosecute you. However, the odds of anyone taking the time to contact the police and present them with the video is about nil.

    And, to answer CONNOR99's question: Yes, I have heard of instances where a cold traffic infraction was pursued based upon witness testimony. In the 90s I was twice called upon to scenes where irate drivers followed offenders and called the cops. Twice I had to issue cites based upon private person arrests, and twice I prepared reports for the DA. To my knowledge, neither was filed by the DA, though.
    **********
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: How Valid

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
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    Yes, the witness statement and video COULD be used to prosecute you. However, the odds of anyone taking the time to contact the police and present them with the video is about nil.
    If it was a misdemeanor or felony, maybe. But I highly doubt it in the case of a traffic infraction.

    And, to answer CONNOR99's question: Yes, I have heard of instances where a cold traffic infraction was pursued based upon witness testimony. In the 90s I was twice called upon to scenes where irate drivers followed offenders and called the cops. Twice I had to issue cites based upon private person arrests, and twice I prepared reports for the DA. To my knowledge, neither was filed by the DA, though.
    Cops can pretty much do what they want in regards to arresting and issuing citations. But, the rubber hits the road when it must be prosecuted by the DA.

    Could it be that the DA in your cases agreed with me? In that, civilians are not trained to determine what traffic activity is legal or not.

    Maybe the DA dropped it because he knew he would lose if they fought it.

    My recent experience: I ride my dirtbike on my residential street once a month to keep it from gumming up. My new neighbor, who is a lawyer, video taped me and went to the local police. You can bet he tried use his video to get me cited but there was not so much as a knock on my door. And I feel I know why. The cops have to catch me in the act.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: How Valid

    Quote Quoting CONNOR99
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    If it was a misdemeanor or felony, maybe. But I highly doubt it in the case of a traffic infraction.
    In CA, an infraction is a public offense - a crime, and CAN be pursued by the DA. I don't personally know of any that are pursued, but, they can be. The San Diego County DA actually produced a memo on the subject to clarify the issue.

    Cops can pretty much do what they want in regards to arresting and issuing citations. But, the rubber hits the road when it must be prosecuted by the DA.

    Could it be that the DA in your cases agreed with me? In that, civilians are not trained to determine what traffic activity is legal or not.
    In both instances, what the witness described met the burden of probable cause. But, if I recall correctly, in each case the defendant denied the offense. Ergo, it was an unprovable case and THAT is probably why the case was not filed.

    Maybe the DA dropped it because he knew he would lose if they fought it.
    As they do with most any case where there is nothing more than the word of one complaining party and the word of another.

    My recent experience: I ride my dirtbike on my residential street once a month to keep it from gumming up. My new neighbor, who is a lawyer, video taped me and went to the local police. You can bet he tried use his video to get me cited but there was not so much as a knock on my door. And I feel I know why. The cops have to catch me in the act.
    Actually, they wouldn't have (assuming you are in CA). Your neighbor could have demanded a private person's arrest, but clearly he did not. More than likely the patrol officers discouraged the complainant from any action, were dismissive of it because they did not want to deal with it, or, were ignorant of the possibility and the applicability of PC 837. Likely a combo of all 3.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How Valid

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
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    Actually, they wouldn't have (assuming you are in CA). Your neighbor could have demanded a private person's arrest, but clearly he did not. More than likely the patrol officers discouraged the complainant from any action, were dismissive of it because they did not want to deal with it, or, were ignorant of the possibility and the applicability of PC 837. Likely a combo of all 3.
    Really? A private person can issue, or demand be issued, a citation for an unlicensed motorcycle being ridden on the street? I don't think so. If so, maybe you would also say I can demand that my neighbor be issued a citation for worn out tires? Because a non-street legal citation is basically a fix-it ticket.

    Or maybe I'm not thinking straight and it is actually a felony.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: How Valid

    Quote Quoting CONNOR99
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    Really? A private person can issue, or demand be issued, a citation for an unlicensed motorcycle being ridden on the street? I don't think so. If so, maybe you would also say I can demand that my neighbor be issued a citation for worn out tires? Because a non-street legal citation is basically a fix-it ticket.

    Or maybe I'm not thinking straight and it is actually a felony.
    <sigh> I didn't make up PC 837. A private person can make an arrest for any public offense that he or she sees. The definition of a "public offense" includes infractions, misdemeanors and felonies (PC 15 and 16). All because you don't like it does not make it any less the law.

    They can also ask the police to make a report of the matter and forward it to the DA. That is even less likely, but, possible. Most agencies (well, officers actually) would try and tap dance their way out of doing all that work for a mere infraction, but, it is possible and COULD be charged ... if the DA were so inclined.

    In retrospect regarding your scenario, the neighbor could demand a C/A for your speeding or riding without a helmet (if such was the case) or some other driving or apparent mechanical defect offense, but they could not do so for your driving without a proper motorcycle license as he would not be able to know about that ... and the officers would not be required to look that up solely based upon your operating a motorcycle (of course they probably would not have had your name and approximate age, anyway ... though if they had made an effort, they could have likely discovered it). If the motorcycle was a dirt bike and not registered for roadway operations, and the complaining party wished to pursue the matter, they could have. Yes, VC 4000(a) would apply as might a few other sections.

    Oh, and yes, you could make a "citizen's arrest" for a person operating a vehicle with bald tires. It likely would not go anywhere, but, you could do it. CA law says you can.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How Valid

    CONNER99,

    The issue you seem to be missing (or willfully ignoring) in your exchange with Carl is that there is a difference between what is allowed and/or prohibited by statutory law and/or appellate court rulings and what, as a practical matter, is LIKELY to be pursued by a LEO or prosecuting attorney. Carl has repeatedly stated that the issues discussed in this thread are unlikely to be pursued as a matter of practicality. It would simply require too much time and effort and, even if that effort was expended, unlikely to result in a beyond a reasonable doubt level of proof in what is essentially a he-said-he said scenario. However, there is no LAW or appellate court ruling (at least not in CA) PROHIBITING single witness testimony or other evidence collected by a non-law enforcement source (such as cell phone video) from being used as evidence in a prosecution for a violation of the law - even if that violation is a simple traffic infraction.
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