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The People v. Steven Edward Gray

September 2, 2011

THE PEOPLE PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
STEVEN EDWARD GRAY, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of the Los Angeles County, Santa Monica Trial Court, Lawrence Cho, Judge. Santa Monica Trial Court No. C165383

The opinion of the court was delivered by: P. Mckay, P.J.

pub. order 9/30/11

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION AND JUDGMENT

Affirmed.

This is an appeal from the judgment rendered following a court trial where the citation was issued pursuant to the provisions of the automated traffic enforcement system (ATES). (Veh. Code, §§ 21455.5-21455.7.) The only issue presented on appeal whether the judgment should be reversed due to the failure of the governmental agency to issue warning notices only for 30 days, and to make a public announcement at least 30 days prior to commencement of the automated traffic enforcement program. (Veh. Code, § 21455.5, subd. (b).) As explained below, we affirm the judgment.

BACKGROUND

On November 21, 2008, a citation was issued charging defendant and appellant Steven Edward Gray with violating Vehicle Code section 21453, subdivision (a) -- failure to stop for a red signal. Specifically, the citation alleged that on the same date -- November 21, 2008 -- defendant failed to stop for the red light at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Helms Avenue in the City of Culver City. The violation was recorded by the ATES located at the subject intersection.

Thereafter, defendant was arraigned and pled not guilty. Prior to the cause proceeding to trial, a series of pretrial proceedings and hearings took place. One such hearing was a defense motion to dismiss based upon the City's failure to comply with Vehicle Code section 21455.5, subdivision (b).*fn1 The testimony and/or stipulation from the hearing was that "Culver City has only conducted such warning notices and public announcements prior to the commencement of the entire program in Culver City in 1998, and that no such notices or announcements were done specifically for the intersection (at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Helm[s] Avenue, Culver City) at which defendant was photographed allegedly running a red light." (Sic.) The court denied defendant's motion and trial was eventually held.

At trial, defendant stipulated that he was the driver depicted in the photographic and video evidence captured by the ATES. Sergeant Omar Corales, the Culver City police officer in charge of the municipality's ATES, testified regarding the installation, function, operation, and maintenance of the system. At the conclusion of the trial, the court found that the ATES-produced evidence was admissible, and thereafter found defendant guilty of the charge. Defendant was ordered to pay a fine. This timely appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

Vehicle Code section 21455.5, subdivision (b) provides as follows: "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."*fn2 Defendant contends that Culver City was required to comply with subdivision (b) of section 21455.5 each and every time it installed cameras at a new intersection following its initial 1998 decision to participate in an overall ATES plan. In support of his contention, defendant relies upon -- and urges this court to follow -- the recent Orange County Superior Court Appellate Division case entitled People v. Park (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th Supp. 9 (Park).

In Park, the court held that the requirement that the city make a public announcement and issue notice of the ATES 30 days prior to enforcement applied to each particular intersection at which an automated photographic system was installed, rather than merely to the overall city plan to institute automated enforcement. (People v. Park, supra, 187 Cal.App.4th at pp. Supp.13-14.) In doing so, the Park court stated as follows: "It would make little sense for the scope of the 30-day warning period to be limited temporally and to be defined arbitrarily by the geographic size of the local jurisdiction, inasmuch as the legislatively stated purpose of the warning requirement is to deter red light violations. This purpose is best achieved by the issuance of new warnings and announcements to proximate users each time automated enforcement equipment commences operation at an intersection." (Id. at p. Supp. 15.)

We are not required to follow Park and decline to do so. (People v. Corners (1985) 176 Cal.App.3d 139, 146 [decision of an Appellate Division of one Superior Court is not binding upon the Appellate Division of another Superior Court].) In reaching its decision, we note that the Park court failed to consider or analyze whether compliance with section 21455.5*fn3 constituted an element of the crime, or whether non-compliance ...


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