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Penalties for Running a Red Light in California

Red light running is one of the top causes of motor vehicle accidents in California. Ignoring traffic signals puts everyone on the roadway in danger. It is every driver’s responsibility to obey roadway rules, including coming to complete stops at red lights. If a driver runs a red light, he or she could face numerous penalties, from moving violations to criminal charges, in the event of an accident. Here’s what could happen to a driver who runs a red light in California.

Moving Violation Penalties

The most common penalty when police catch a driver running a red light is a moving violation. Drivers must come to full stops at or before the limit line – the painted line that indicates where vehicles should stop – when a traffic control device turns red. If there is no limit line, drivers should stop at the beginning of the intersection. Failure to stop, or “rolling through” a red light without coming to a full stop, is a moving violation.

A moving violation for running red lights in California can come with hefty fines – some of the highest in the nation. The average fine for rolling through a stop sign is $250 in California. Fines can escalate to $450-$500 for running red lights. The base fine for this infraction is $100, but the total increases with additional court costs depending on the county. These costs can include state and court penalty assessments, court operations, and conviction assessments. Attending traffic school is an additional cost associated with these violations.

A driver will not receive a moving violation for driving through a yellow light in California. The vehicle must have entered the intersection before the light turned red to avoid a citation. Drivers in California may make right-hand turns on red when applicable. California is one of 41 states that allow left-hand turns on red lights if both streets are one way. The state’s red-light rules and possible fines aim to encourage drivers to come to full stops at red lights and stop signs to prevent intersection collisions.

Possible Defenses for Red-Light Running

If you receive a ticket for running a red light, it may be possible to fight the citation depending on the circumstances. This can eliminate the fines, mandatory traffic school, and points on your license that running the light may inflict. The officer may not have seen your full stop before pulling you over. You may not have noticed the stop sign or red light due to conditions such as a low-hanging branch. Taking photographs of the intersection can help your case should you try to fight against a red-light ticket in California.

The Golden State is one of 24 states that use red-light cameras at major intersections. If you receive a ticket with an image that a red-light camera captured of your vehicle, you may be able to argue against the citation. These cameras are not always reliable. You may not have been the person driving the vehicle at the time or the yellow light may have been shorter than average. If you live in a city that requires posted signs for red-light cameras and one was absent, you may have a strong defense – especially if you take photos. A defense attorney may be able to help you fight penalties for recently running a red light or stop sign in California.

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2018 Undergraduate Scholarship

At Estey & Bomberger, LLP we understand the importance of a college education, while at the same time knowing how expensive college can be. We are proud to announce the Estey & Bomberger, LLP 2018 Undergraduate Scholarship. The cost of college tuition is now higher than ever and our goal is to take some of the financial burden off of dedicated and hard working students.


We are offering $2,000 to one student whom is in the final year of high school or currently enrolled as undergraduates at an accredited college or university in the United States. Applicants must be 17 years of age or older. There is no restriction on your field of study.


$2,000 awarded one time.


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