In California, the cameras at the traffic lights are operated by private companies hired by the police department. When you violate the red light, the camera will record the violation. The company will send the details of the violation to the police department. The company cannot determine if it is indeed a violation. The company can only report the violation to the police department. Only the police department has the authority to determine if there has indeed been a violation. If police department determines there has been a violation, you will receive a ticket and you will have the option of paying the fine or fighting the ticket.
The exact timeframe for receiving the ticket by mail will depend on the police department and how they deal with the violation. However by law, the company is required to mail the violation to you with 15 days of the violation. Generally the company will forward the details of the violation to the police department within 6 days of the violation. The police department may take up to 4 days to determine the violation. Once the police department determines the violation, the company will mail the violation to you.
Fight the Ticket
When you receive a ticket, the ticket will inform you that you have to appear in court on a particular day. You should contest the ticket. Appear in court on the particular day and request for a trial. Even if the penalty is a small fine, you should challenge it. The fine may be a small amount but it can have severe consequences. It will show up in your driving record. It can even add points on your license. In future if you are charged with another traffic violation, you could be subject to enhanced penalties because of your driving record. Also once you have a violation on your driving record, your insurance company will start charging you more for insurance. You cannot prevent this by changing the insurance company. The new insurance company will do a background check on you and your ticket will show up during the search.
The police department must prove in the court that you had violated the traffic light. At the beginning of the court proceeding, the court will ask you whether you want to stipulate. You should answer in the negative. If you agree to stipulate, the video footage from the camera will be played in court. This will make it easier for the police to prove the charge against you. If you refuse, the video cannot be played in court. Since you were caught on camera, the police cannot produce an officer claiming that he had seen you violate the traffic light. The only person who can provide evidence of the violation is the person who has custody of the video footage. In majority of the cases, where the defendant refuses stipulation, the police more often than not are unable to bring the person who has custody of the video footage to court and to testify. Even if the police manage to bring the person to court, the person has to testify against you and you can cross examine him. The video however cannot be played in the court. The police must prove that you were the driver and the owner of the vehicle.