Red Light Loophole for Traffic Scofflaws

Some government workers are avoiding hefty fines, along with their families

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If the general public runs a red light where a traffic camera is watching, they will likely get a ticket. But that's not happening to certain government employees and their relatives thanks to a California confidentiality law.

The law dates back more than three decades and bars the DMV from giving collection agencies for red-light cameras, parking citations, toll roads and bridges the home addresses of public employees who are eligible under the law.

Throughout California, 1.5 million vehicles are registered to public employees who have confidential status with the DMV. From lawmakers to peace officers, from local government officials to court clerks, social workers and even museum guards and their spouses and children, citations for red light and parking violations go unsent to them.

Uncollected fines and fees on toll roads and bridges alone cost the state nearly $10 million a year.

State Rep. Jeff Miller, (R) 71st District wants to correct that, with a law requiring those people to list their business address on their confidentiality applications.

"There's no reason that elected officials or these government bureaucrats have the right to exploit this system because they have confidentiality on their plates," said Miller.
"You want to protect people, but yet you don't want abuses," said attorney Mitchell Mehdy.

Mehdy, who specializes in challenging traffic tickets, sees Miller's proposal as fair and sound.

"Given the fact that the agencies themselves probably have very good security, I think they could still issue these citations to the agency itself and still maintain the integrity and the spirit of the confidentiality," said Mehdy.

At some point in the legislative process, there may be an issue of whether giving a business address is going to be enough to get tickets in the hands of the responsible parties, especially if they're spouses or children.

“I think it's unfair to begin with for the officials to get this kind of thing. But I don't see what the spouses or children should have to do with it,” said University Heights resident Terry Sullivan. “And why they should be given any kind of immunity or exemption."

The DMV said it could cost about $3 million a year to process new business addresses for the vehicles with confidential status.

Local red-light fines run upwards of $500 dollars for each ticket.

The state's cut is 45 percent.

Simple math suggests quite a return.

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