In March 2010, Tilem & Campbell senior partner Peter H. Tilem took a passing a steady red light summons to trial in Ardsley Village Court here in Westchester County. The offense was videotaped by the video camera behind the patrol car’s rear view mirror. Yesterday, Ardsley Village Justice Walter Schwartz issued a written decision finding the motorist not guilty and dismissing the ticket.

The issue raised at trial by Mr. Tilem is under what circumstances a police officer may issue a ticket for passing a red light when the police officer does not view the same traffic light as the motorist but rather views that the light is green in the perpendicular direction. May the police officer infer that the light facing the motorist is red? It turns out that the answer is no, the Officer may not reach that inference and rather would be required to examine the light to make sure it was working properly.

In the Ardsley case tried last month, the police officer never inspected the light but rather testified in very conclusory terms that the light was “working properly.” In addition, the police officer attempted to bolster his case by claiming that he saw the shadow of the red light from his angle, but that testimony was called into question when he admitted, during cross-examination by Mr. Tilem, that the weather was clear, that it was mid-day and that the cylinders over the lights were designed to prevent motorists from seeing the light from the side and becoming confused.

Justice Schwartz’s decision in the case was consistent with a whole line of decisions on this topic from Courts dating back to as early as 1960.

Red light tickets carry a fine of up to $450 plus an $85 surcharge and 3 points on your license. They should be taken seriously since many insurance companies take them seriously. If you, or anyone you know has been issued a summons for any moving violation, take it seriously. Contact one of the lawyers at Tilem & Campbell or visit us on the web at drsummons.com.

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