The Automated Ticketing Bias Against Motorcyclists in California

Greg Pickett's picture


Area of Law: 

Some fear motorcycles due to their risk during accidents while on the road. Others have an issue with motorcycle culture and recoil at the sight of leather and tattoos. No matter what the hang-up is motorcyclists have been at the raw end of ticketing and jury bias within recent years as law enforcement officials see them as a risk to their community regardless of their judgment.

However, there is a greater problem causing headaches in Californian motorcyclists. In addition to these personal biases and judgments, some forms of ticketing bias don’t have anything to do with individuals, but rather a flawed system. This problem is automated ticketing – and here are some ways to deal with it.

Automated Ticketing

It works like this: imagine that you’re a motorcyclist approaching a traffic signal. You arrive alone without any drivers behind you, and nobody is crossing the intersection in front of you. After a few minutes, you realize that the triggering device in the roadway isn’t picking up your motorcycle. Certain roads, especially smaller roads intersecting more congested routes, have “demand-actuated” traffic lights in which a piece of wiring detects metal in vehicles. However, these often fail to detect smaller motorcycles and scooters.

After several more minutes waiting behind a red light, you drive along in frustration. Later, you receive a letter informing you that you’ve been received a ticket from a red-light camera. You find a picture of yourself included which clearly illustrates that you passed a red light. While unfortunate, this automated reporting system has become widely used and supported as completely legitimate in California’s Supreme Court after the system was challenged in December of 2013.

Beating Faulty Camera Tickets

This instance is just one situation of many which demonstrate how faulty an automated ticketing system is when it comes to motorcyclists. Until this oversight is addressed, it is important to know how to beat camera tickets. Whether you were caught due to the failure of a roadway triggering device or not, it is always worthwhile combating these automated tickets.

In the case of People v Borzakian in Beverly Hills for example, it was decided that a motorcyclist who was ticketed by a camera should not have been fined, since the camera was not calibrated or maintained by the police department. It’s also important to remember that you can contest any automated tickets in which you weren’t driving your vehicle, or in which the camera does not have a clear view of who is in control of the vehicle. You are not obliged to inform on the identity of that driver.

In addition to carefully refuting any of these automated tickets, also be aware that it is an issue that has sparked a hotbed of scam letters and phone calls. Never provide your financial information without confirming that the letter sender or caller is working with legal backing. Look for the address of the court making this claim, and always look for notes such as “Do not contact the court” or “Courtesy Notice – This is Not a Ticket” to determine the legitimacy of your “ticket.”

This is a contribution by Greg Pickett with Michael Padway & Associates. In addition to recently writing content with Michael Padway, he is a weekend motorcyclist who enjoys riding his vintage BMW whenever road conditions allow it.