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People v. Rekte

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

January 8, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
VIKTORS ANDRIS REKTE, Defendant and Appellant.

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County Nos. APP1300118 & RR182259VR. William A. Anderson, Temporary Judge. (Pursuant to Cal. Const., art. VI, § 21.)

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

D. Scott Elliot for Defendant and Appellant.

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Gregory P. Priamos, City Attorney, Kristi J. Smith and Rosemary Koo, Deputy City Attorneys, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

RAMIREZ P. J.

Viktors Andris Rekte received a citation by mail for a violation of Vehicle Code, section 21453, subdivision (a), for failing to stop at a red light, based on a photograph taken pursuant to the Automated Traffic Enforcement System (ATES). At trial, the court overruled in limine objections to the admission of the photographic evidence on foundational grounds. Thereafter, defendant presented expert testimony to rebut the presumption of the reliability of the photographic evidence due to noncompliance with the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD or Manual). The trial court found defendant guilty of the offense. Defendant appealed to the Appellate Division of the Riverside County Superior Court, arguing, among other things, that the presumptions established by Evidence Code sections 1552 and 1553, affecting the burden of producing evidence, were rebutted. The appellate division affirmed the judgment and subsequently certified the matter for transfer to this court. We reverse.

BACKGROUND

Prior to the commencement of trial, defendant made an in limine motion to exclude the photographic and video evidence on grounds: (1) the yellow light interval did not conform with the standards required by the MUTCD; (2) defendant was not provided with pretrial discovery of the video clip upon which the ATES citation was based; and (3) the geometry of the intersection and placement angles of the ATES equipment and traffic signals obscured the view of a substantial portion of the traffic signal light.

The trial court denied the in limine motion. Defendant also objected to the foundational statement and introduction of the evidence of the videotape, or the declarations of any Redflex Traffic Systems employee, which objections were overruled. The matter proceeded to trial with Operator Teagarden appearing on behalf of the City of Riverside.[1] Operator Don Teagarden is a retired Riverside Sheriff’s Department deputy. Since May 2010, he has been employed by the Riverside Police Department to review violations of the

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ATES.[2] The automated camera system captures drivers who enter an intersection while facing a red traffic light. The system is triggered when a car goes through a red light while driving at least 15 miles per hour. The ATES system was installed and maintained by Redflex Traffic Systems (Redflex).

The system takes a series of still photographs and a 12-second video, depicting the elements of the violation. The images are transmitted electronically to the Redflex office in Phoenix, where they are reviewed by Redflex personnel. Redflex then sends a compact disc with the images and the 12-second video on it to the Riverside Police Department, where Operator Teagarden reviews them. Digitally printed on the photographic image is information relative to the date, time, location, vehicle speed, and how long the signal light had been in the red at the time the photograph was taken. Although Operator Teagarden did not personally test the sequence, he testified that the yellow light phases met or exceeded the minimum “recommendations”[3] established by California's Department of Transportation (CalTrans).

On November 5, 2012, Operator Teagarden received digital photographs and a video clip from Redflex, showing defendant’s vehicle, as it was photographed on October 26, 2012, traveling southbound on Tyler Street where it intersects with State Route 91. The digital information on the photograph, received by electronic means from Redflex, indicated defendant was traveling at 15 miles per hour in a posted 35 mile an hour zone. The photographic and video evidence showed defendant’s vehicle to be approximately six feet behind the limit line when the signal had been red for at least 0.96 seconds, and showed the vehicle failed to stop for the red light, continuing to make a right turn.

According to the digital information on the photographic evidence he received, Operator Teagarden testified that the yellow light interval time was 3.65 seconds, which exceeds the 3.6 seconds required for a 35 mile an hour roadway. After reviewing the photographic and video evidence, Operator Teagarden issued a citation for violating Vehicle Code ...


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