JUDGMENT ON APPEAL from the SUPERIOR COURT of ORANGE COUNTY. (No. SA137669PE). HON. DANIEL M. ORNELAS COMMISSIONER.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory H. Lewis, Judge
CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION
Based upon evidence obtained via an automated photographic enforcement system within the City of Santa Ana on February 17, 2009, appellant, Danny Byongun Park, was convicted of failing to stop for a red signal in violation of Vehicle Code section 21453, subdivision (a). On appeal, as at trial, appellant contends that the citation was unlawfully issued and that the conviction is therefore invalid, because the People failed to demonstrate compliance with the warning requirements of Vehicle Code section 21455.5, subdivision (b).
Appearing as amicus curiae, the City of Santa Ana contends that the requirements of section 21455.5, subdivision (b), were satisfied by the issuance of warning notices six years earlier when the first photographic enforcement equipment was installed within the City's jurisdictional limits, and that no additional 30-day warning notice program was necessary when photographic enforcement equipment was installed at the particular intersection at which appellant's violation was recorded. For the reasons set forth below, we agree with appellant's construction of the statute and consequently reverse the judgment of the trial court.
When issued "based on an alleged violation . . . recorded by an automated enforcement system pursuant to Section 21455.5," a written notice to appear constitutes a complaint to which the defendant may enter a plea. (Veh. Code, § 40518, subd. (a).) The issuance of citations based upon automated traffic enforcement systems is thus governed by the procedural requirements of Vehicle Code section 21455.5. Subdivision (b) of section 21455.5 provides,
"Prior to issuing citations under this section, a local jurisdiction utilizing an automated traffic enforcement system shall commence a program to issue only warning notices for 30 days. The local jurisdiction shall also make a public announcement of the automated traffic enforcement system at least 30 days prior to the commencement of the enforcement program."
The record indicates that the "local jurisdiction" which utilized the automated traffic enforcement system in this case was the City of Santa Ana (the City) and that the City sought to comply with section 21455.5, subdivision (b) by making public announcements and issuing warning notices during a 44-day period when the first automated enforcement equipment was activated at a different intersection in 2003. The trial court evidently concluded that the requirements of section 21455.5, subdivision (b), were satisfied by these actions. Appellant, however, argues that "automated enforcement system" refers not to the entirety of all automated cameras located at intersections throughout the City, but rather to the set of photographic equipment installed at each individual intersection, and that his conviction should be reversed because no warning notices or public announcements were issued pursuant to section 21455.5, subdivision (b), with respect to the intersection at which the violation occurred in this case. The case thus presents a clearly defined issue of statutory construction.
"Our task in construing a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the Legislature's intent. [Citation.] We begin by examining the words of the statute, giving them their usual and ordinary meaning and construing them in the context of the statute as a whole. [Citations.] If the plain language of the statute is unambiguous and does not involve an absurdity, the plain meaning governs. [Citations.] If the statute is ambiguous, the court may consider a variety of extrinsic aids, including the apparent purpose of the statute. [Citation.]"
(Leonte v. ACS State & Local Solutions, Inc. (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 521, 526-527.) Although no published decision has directly addressed the meaning of subdivision (b) of section 21455.5, the Leonte opinion, in discussing the statute, appears to have assumed that "system" refers to the automated enforcement equipment at each intersection: "Former Vehicle Code section 21455.5 (Stats. 2001, ch. 496, § 1)*fn1 authorized the use of automated traffic enforcement systems at intersections where drivers are required to stop." (Leonte, at p. 526.)
B. Plain Meaning of the Word "System"
The trial court's construction of Vehicle Code section 21455.5, subdivision (b) is inconsistent with the plain meaning of the word "system" as used in Vehicle Code section 21455.5, as well as in related statutory provisions. Section 21455.5, subdivision (a), provides that "the intersection . . . may be equipped with an automated enforcement system," and requires a governmental agency utilizing "the system" to "[i]dentif[y] the system by signs that clearly indicate the system's presence and are visible to traffic approaching from all directions . . . ." (Id., subd.(a)(1).) Based upon this intersection-specific usage, "automated enforcement system" in section 21455.5, subdivision (b) cannot refer to a ...