City Prevails in Red Light Camera Case

Camera Technology That Has Successfully Reduced Accidents Related to Red Light Running Is Upheld in San Francisco

City Attorney Dennis Herrera today announced a win in the red light camera case that threatened to ban the City’s use of automated red light enforcement systems proven to greatly reduce the number of accidents resulting from red light running.

San Francisco Traffic Commissioner Paul Slavit handed down the order late last week, determining that the City and County of San Francisco’s implementation of the automated system is in compliance with the state Vehicle Code and also meets the requirements of the Kelly-Frye standard, which determines that a new or novel technology meets the accepted requirements of the scientific community. The decision will allow San Francisco to continue to use the automatic cameras to photograph red light runners at the time of their violation and, going forward, to improve the system to ensure that photos will be admissible as evidence in traffic violation cases.

“We are very pleased with the court’s decision in this case,” Herrera said. “San Francisco’s Red Light Enforcement program has been very successful in reducing an illegal and extremely dangerous practice. With Commission Slavit’s order, San Franciscans will continue to benefit from tough enforcement of our traffic laws and safer streets.”

According to the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, red light running is the leading cause of urban crashes today. Collisions caused by red light running are typically characterized by “broadside” crashes that are among the most severe types of accidents. San Francisco’s Red Light Photo Enforcement Program has been successful in reducing the number of such collisions, with crash data showing that collisions with injuries decreased by 10 percent and the total number of injuries decreased 15 percent in the five years since the program was implemented. To date, the program has issued more than 75,000 citations.

In the consolidated criminal red-light camera case before Commissioner Slavit, defense attorneys moved to have nearly 200 alleged violation cases dismissed on the grounds that the evidence generated by the automated system was inadmissible in court on two counts: that the photo-evidence produced by the cameras was not sufficiently reliable and that the red-light system did not satisfy the requirements of the scientific evidence standard.

In his order last week, Commissioner Slavit did not automatically dismiss any of the cases on the grounds of insufficient evidence, but did recommend that the City improve its documentation of the photos and packets to meet court requirements under the Business Records Exception of the Evidence Code. San Francisco has contracted with PRWT, Inc. to install and maintain the system, as well as produce the evidence packets used to prosecute the resulting violation citations since 1996. The case is of the People of the State of California v. Iqbal Ahmad [ZB0045906], et al. , Superior Court of San Francisco, Traffic Division.


* For national statistics and additional information about the dangers posed by red light running, please visit the Web site of the Federal Highway Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation at the following URL:

* For more information on the San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s Office, please visit our Web site at