It is always worth fighting a red light ticket. The police department will be required to come to court and show a photograph of both the license plate and a clear photo of the driver. Educate yourself on the law. California Vehicle Code (Section 21455.5(a)(1)) says that warning signs must be posted at each camera-equipped intersection and "visible to traffic approaching from all directions," or at all the main entrances to town "including, at a minimum, freeways, bridges, and state highway routes." Check the intersection to make sure that warning signs are posted at each corner.
Are you sure you really received a ticket, or is it something called a "Traffic Violation Notice?"
If the "ticket" doesn't have the address of a local Superior Court on it, or if it says "Do not contact the court," it's not really a ticket at all.Some cities have realized they can't win red light tickets, so they don't even send them to the court. Instead, they send out these official-looking notices, but there is never a case filed with the local court.
Check out the website below for more information.
(No, it's not my website, but it has some very helpful information.)
Please understand that this is a general discussion of legal principles by a California lawyer and does not create an attorney/client relationship. It's impossible to give detailed, accurate advice based on a few sentences on a website (and you shouldn't provide too much specific information about your legal matter on a public forum like this, anyway). You should always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction who can give you an informed opinion after reviewing all of the relevant information.
I don't practice in this area, but I have beaten red light camera tickets for several friends. I honestly don't know if a non-lawyer can pull this off, because each time, I've had to educate the judge a bit. There hasn't been a "standard" case yet.
First, the police officer is going to read a statement in court. This statement contains all the information establishing that the city legally established the red light camera. When you are called, object to his statement on the basis that he lacks personal knowledge of the facts he is testifying to. (i.e. he only knows those things because he was given a paper.) Demand that the officer provide you with a copy of the paper and then suggest that he can testify from memory if he likes. Note any discrepancies or missing information. You aren't really looking to catch him in the discrepancy, per se. Rather, you are trying to show that he has no idea what the facts are.
Next, you object to the photographic evidence on the basis that it is hearsay and that it lacks authentication. That means that the guy in Arizona has to testify regarding the authenticity of the photograph. I've had judges mistakenly say that photographs are presumed authentic. That's a red herring. The presumption of authenticity is in the civil code and when, as here, the photograph is the only evidence against you, a presumption affecting the burden of proof is a violation of due process. Besides, you have a Sixth Amendment right to confront your accuser. In this case, the guy in Arizona is a witness against you, and you should have a right to cross examine him in court.
Now, I've had judges ask me if I subpoenaed the Arizona operator. This, again, is a red herring. You do not have an obligation to call a necessary witness. The prosecution is attempting to introduce evidence against you in court, and they have the burden of producing the witnesses necessary to make that photograph admissible. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that requiring a defendant to call prosecution witnesses in this manner is a violation of the Sixth Amendment.
Like I said, I don't do this type of work for clients. But, the ticket is beatable with a lawyer. You might even be able to beat it on your own. I'm not sure. But, the above arguments are, in my opinion, much stronger than the administrative gobbledygook that others have thrown out there. Of course, a careful lawyer would try any possible defense, and you probably should as well.