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People v. Winters

June 28, 2012


Appeal from judgment of conviction after court trial, San Bernardino County Superior Court, Victorville District, V053926ADW, Patrick L. Singer, Commissioner.

Per curiam.

Brisco, P. J., Ochoa, J., and Pacheco, J.



Appellant Donovan James Winters received a notice to appear issued by the Victorville Police Department, charging him with failing to stop at a red signal (Veh. Code, § 21453, subd. (a).) The violation had been recorded by an automated traffic enforcement system camera (commonly known as a "red light camera"). (Veh. Code, § 21455.5.) The red light camera system in question was provided and operated by a company known as Redflex Traffic áSystems of Phoenix, Arizona.

Appellant entered a plea of not guilty and requested a trial by written declaration. (Veh. Code, § 40902.) The trial by declaration resulted in a finding of guilty by the trial court. Appellant then timely requested a trial de novo (Veh. Code, § 40902, subd. (d)), which was granted by the trial court.

The court trial was held on October 4, 2011. At trial, appellant brought a motion to dismiss the charges, which was denied. The court then heard testimony from prosecution witness Barbara Hill, a Sheriff's Services Specialist from the Victorville Police Department.*fn2 Ms. Hill offered testimony designed to lay a foundation for the admissibility of the citation, the photographs and the videotape that purportedly depicted appellant's offense. That testimony consisted of reading a prepared three-page "Foundational Statement," which the trial court attached to the settled statement. That statement includes a recitation of facts relating to the public hearings and other steps taken by the City of Victorville in implementing the red light camera system, as well as a recitation of the manner in which the system records traffic violations. It also contains an explanation of how the photographic images of traffic violations are captured, stored, downloaded and transmitted to Redflex for review by Redflex employees. The statement also addresses the procedures for synchronizing, inspecting and maintaining the camera system equipment. The concluding language of the statement indicates that the statement was read by Ms. Hill as a preliminary to all of the Redflex red light camera cases tried before the court that day.*fn3

Ms. Hill also introduced what is referred to in the settled statement as the "City of Victorville Court Evidence Package," which included the photographs and videotape taken from the red light camera system. Ms. Hill testified as to the contents of the photographs and the video, and the bench officer then viewed the photos and video. The court found that the photos and video were "authentic depictions" of the intersection in question, based on the court's own personal familiarity with the intersection. The court further found that the photos and video depicted appellant committing the infraction with which he was charged.

Appellant cross-examined Ms. Hill, and asked if she was present at the time of the offense. She responded that she was not. He also asked her several questions about whether she was a Redflex employee, whether she knew the manufacturer or model of the photographic equipment or computers involved, the encryption procedure, or the operating system.

Appellant objected to Ms. Hill's testimony on grounds of hearsay and on Sixth Amendment confrontation grounds. The court overruled the hearsay objection "since none of SSS Hill's testimony included declarations by an out of court declarant and the photographs and video constituted demonstrative evidence and did not meet any definition of hearsay in the Evidence Code." The court overruled the confrontation objection "since Defendant Winters had not subpoenaed any Reflex [sic] employees and the court found SSS Hill's testimony concerning the operation of the automated system sufficient to authenticate the photographs." The court noted in the settled statement that appellant did not request a continuance to subpoena Redflex employees or to gather additional evidence.

On appeal, appellant contends the trial court erred in admitting the testimony of Ms. Hill and the photographic evidence. He also contends the trial court erred in ruling that it was appellant's obligation to subpoena witnesses from Redflex to appear at trial. We agree with both contentions, and we therefore reverse the judgment.


Standard of Review

A trial court's decision regarding the admission of evidence is reviewed for abuse of discretion. (People v. Williams (1997) 16 Cal.4th 153, 197, 66 Cal. Rptr. 2d 123, 940 P.2d 710; People v. Rodrigues (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1060, 1167 [36 Cal. Rptr. 2d 235, 885 P.2d 1].) The trial court's exercise of discretion will be disturbed on appeal only if the court's decision exceeded the bounds of reason. (People v. Osband (1996) 13 Cal.4th 622, 666 [55 ...

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