No Jury Trial for Traffic Citations Since 1969
Before 1969, traffic violations were misdemeanor offenses and defendants
were fully protected by our justice system. If you believed your
citation was unjust, you had the right to a trial by jury. Your
peers in the community, who drove the same roads you did and faced
the same potential prosecution that you did, would determine your
guilt or innocence. If they found that your driving was unsafe,
they could find you guilty. If your community found the prosecution
to be unjust or overzealous in your case, they could find you not
guilty, rebuking the government's weak arguments.
Since 1969 in California, citizens have been denied jury trials
for most alleged traffic offenses. Before 1969, there were only
two classes of criminal offense in the state of California, misdemeanors
and felonies. Felony offenses are very serious and can result in
the death penalty or state prison time. All other offenses in California
before 1968, including traffic offenses, were misdemeanors. Though
a misdemeanor offense could result in jail time, most people convicted
of a minor traffic misdemeanor usually paid a small fine and had
a point recorded on their DMV record.
Beginning on January 1, 1969, the state legislature created a new
category of criminal offense called the infraction. The state
would preserve all its rights in prosecuting these infraction citations
as criminal offenses, but would remove the citizen's most basic
rights to justice in these cases. For the first time in California
history, citizens would be legally denied their right to a jury
trial in criminal cases. The community would no longer be the arbiter
of justice in these contested criminal cases.
Penal Code 19.6 states: "A person charged with an infraction
shall not be entitled to a jury trial". Since 1969, the
government alone arrests, prosecutes, and adjudicates traffic cases
without any checks on their power that juries from the community
provide in a democracy. Since 1969, there has been no check on the
scale and scope of traffic prosecutions in California, which have
expanded to over six million traffic arrests and prosecutions yearly.
No Free Legal Advice Since 1969
Penal Code section 19.6 states: "A person charged with an
infraction shall not be entitled to have the public defender or
other counsel appointed at public expense to represent him..."
Since 1969, California citizens have also been denied the right
to any free legal advice in traffic infraction cases. You no longer
have the right to consult a public defender for guidance in contesting
your traffic citation.
Recently in San Diego, a wealthy gentleman paid an excellent attorney
$2000 to win him a dismissal in a $346 red light camera case. This
was accomplished with a twelve page legal brief and a well-crafted
argument that focused on red light cameras as an illegal speed trap.
Most of us cannot afford the justice that this man was able to purchase.
If you are poor and are accused of a crime, you should have a right
to be defended by state appointed counsel. No one even pretends
that a public defender, overworked and underpaid, can do as good
a job on each case assigned him as a well-financed private attorney.
However, public defenders do their best to ensure that a gross injustice
is not committed upon their clients. Stripped of their right to
state-appointed counsel, drivers who cannot afford a private attorney
have been denied their right to equal justice under the law since
Red Light Cameras Abuse The Working Poor
Traffic infraction fines act as a regressive tax on the working
poor. Already struggling to pay increasing insurance and gasoline
prices , they can ill afford to pay a fine of $77 to $346. Red Light
fines are among the worst of these, tripled in 1998 to $346 to finance
the state's then faultering automated enforcement program.
Automated enforcement produces the most confusing of traffic citations,
chock full of indecipherable mathematic equations and technical
jargon. Programmed corporate computers and faceless corporate apparachiks
determine your guilt. Our poorest citizens are left with no legal
help and no where to turn. Their modest income is raided by a profit
hungry corporation and money corrupted traffic court system, where
the cashiers and ATM machines are far busier than the collective
conscience of its judges.
No Witnesses and Judges Acting As Prosecutors
in Red Light Camera Cases
Citing officers usually act as prosecutors in traffic infraction
trials, but since there is no citing officer in automated enforcement
citations, these cases are essentially being prosecuted by the judge
himself. The judge's traditional role as an impartial arbitrator
is no longer possible.
Adding to this miscarriage of justice, the sworn testimony of defendants
is being disregarded in favor of machine-generated data provided
courtesy of a corporate privateer that only gets paid if you are
found guilty. The corporate technicians who interpret this data
and actually determine one's guilt are not made available for cross-examination.
In fact, the identity of these nameless accusers is never revealed.
California traffic courts have degenerated into a corrupt and unfair
institution since 1969, when jury trials and legal advice were first
denied to cited motorists. The billion dollars a year in fines collected
by these courts to the benefit of state and local government have
further blurred the court's clouded focus on justice.
Automated enforcement has expanded the scope of this injustice.
Now corporations determine your guilt behind closed doors with the
court's blessing. This illegal alliance of the court and private
enforcement businesses is the ultimate perversion of California's
already perverted traffic court system.