Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Melendez-Diaz hits traffic court

From theNewspaper.com: "California courts continue to find the evidence provided by photo enforcement citations to be lacking. In both Orange, and San Mateo Counties, appellate division judges found the images presented in court by private vendors to be inadmissible hearsay. Late last month, Kern County joined the growing number of jurisdictions troubled by the quality of traffic camera evidence packages.

On January 19, 2010, Judge Charles R. Brehmer found a motorist guilty after reviewing the material provided by Redflex Traffic Systems, the for-profit company in charge of automated ticketing in America. The evidence consisted of a video, photographs and a declaration from Redflex regarding the manner in which the material was collected. The appellate judge was not impressed by its trustworthiness as the exception to the hearsay rule only applies to government employees.

"The custodian of records works for a private company, which installs and services red light cameras," Judge Colette Humphrey wrote in a December 23 ruling. "The witness who testified at trial was unable to establish the method and time of preparation of the evidence offered so as to indicate its trustworthiness. Therefore, the people failed to establish the foundation necessary for the admission of the video and photographs."

Because the lower court improperly admitted the evidence, Judge Humphrey overturned the decision and barred the state from attempting to refile charges on the grounds that there had been "significant prejudice to the appellant." Similarly, a three-judge panel of the appellate division of the Orange County Superior Court strengthened its decision on December 27. The court considered a case where a police officer offered expert testimony more comprehensive than previously attempted.

Nonetheless, citing the Melendez-Diaz case from the US Supreme Court, the Orange County judges found that motorists had not relinquished their right to confront their accuser. The actual accuser, a Redflex employee, did not appear in court, "Section 1553 sets forth a presumption that a printed representation of a digitally stored image is an accurate representation of the image it purports to represent, but that presumption is rebutted in this case as to exhibit 1 by the people's own evidence that the photos in that exhibit were 'derived from' (i.e., were enhanced/altered/modified from) the photos contained in Exhibit 3," Presiding Judge Gregory H. Lewis wrote ..."

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