Have you been caught running a red light? │ Free legal tips here!

If you have been caught running a red light and now face a fine, read these legal tips on what to do next.

If you have been caught running a red light, the first thing to do is to work out whether you are being charged with a standard or qualified red light offence.

running a red light

Picture: © Ideeah Studio – Fotolia.com

The classification of the offence is important, as the variations carry different punishments. A standard red light offence carries a €90 fine and 3 points. In contrast, a qualified red light offence carries a €200 fine, 4 points and the possibility of a one month driving ban.

A red light offence is classed as qualified if a red light was displayed for more than one second. If the act of running a red light endangers other road users or causes damage to property, the fine increases to €320 and €360 respectively.

We can defend you against the charges

As the emphasis in qualified red light offences is on the length of time the red light was displayed, defending against the charges of running a red light begin with examining whether the timing was correctly measured.

The authorities must properly document the offence, including a precise measurement and recording of the red light phases. Otherwise a qualified red light offence cannot be proven.

The period of time for which the traffic light displayed amber is also important, as this can influence a driver’s decision as to whether to stop or continue driving.

As your defence lawyer, we have the right to view the case file and the charges against you. We exercise this right in order to examine whether the authorities have correctly recorded the offence.

Under German law, only a lawyer has access to the police file in criminal matters. This is why, if you have been caught running a red light, you should seriously consider instructing a lawyer.

Our defence lawyers will also determine whether there are special circumstances which could be presented to the court in order to avoid a one month driving ban. Indeed, there may be circumstances where, despite the fact that the red light had shown for more the one second, the driver created no danger in the actual case and therefore there is no requirement to impose a driving ban.

Which traffic enforcement cameras are in use?

Here is a list of the red light cameras which are currently in use:

  • 2000 VKÜ RG-Control
  • 9052 VKÜ Rotlicht
  • TRAFFIPAX Traffiphot
  • TC-RG 1
  • Gatso GTC GS11
  • Multastar-Kombi
  • PoliScan F1
  • ProViDa

These cameras comply with the standardised measuring procedure.

What are the possible lines of defence?

There are multiple lines of defence in summary proceedings.

The first step to developing a strong defence is obtaining a copy of the police file. Only with the help of the complete police file will it be possible to assess any procedural irregularities. However, only a lawyer can gain access to a police file. This is why it is extremely important to instruct a lawyer when defending against summary road traffic law charges.

We provide an overview below of the possible defences available in red light offence cases:

Incorrect time measurements

Given that a precise measurement is required in order to prove a qualified red light offence, the authorities often make mistakes in measuring the period of time for which a traffic light remained red. Faults are also regularly found with the evidence produced to prove the classification of a red light offence.

A police officer’s estimate, based on the use of a watch or by counting, is generally insufficient to support the charges against a driver.

However, the courts do differentiate between specific red light observational duties and chance encounters. If a police officer specifically set out to observe a particular set of traffic lights, then their estimates may be accepted by the court, especially if they are supported by some other concrete evidence.

Evasion strategies

Another element to consider when defending against charges of running a red light is whether the case revolves around a so-called “evasion strategy”. This involves avoiding a red light by driving around it, for example by driving through a petrol station and exiting on a neighbouring road.

The crucial element in these cases is whether a driver comes into contact with the area which the traffic light is designed to protect. The case law in this area is not always clear. But generally, such avoidance strategies will be classified as running a red light if a driver immediately re-joins the original carriageway after steering around the red light.

Going through a red light in order to change lanes, for example changing from a filter lane where the filter light is red in order to continue straight on in a lane where the traffic light is green, is now considered illegal by the case law. This is also the case where the filter light is showing green and a driver undertakes those waiting at a red light in a straight on lane, only to then proceed straight on.

Instruction manual / operating guidelines

The correct use of any measuring equipment in road traffic cases plays a large role in securing a conviction. If a traffic enforcement camera is not operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s instruction manual, the measurements taken can be inaccurate. This means the measurements cannot be used as a factual and evidential basis to bring charges.

Calibration certificate

Traffic enforcement cameras must be calibrated at regular intervals. If the authorities are unable to produce a calibration certificate showing that the relevant camera was properly calibrated at the time of the incident, the measurements cannot be used in the proceedings. A lawyer would need to view the police file in order to establish whether the equipment used was properly calibrated.

Service history

Measuring equipment must also be calibrated after it has been serviced. To find out whether a traffic enforcement camera has been properly serviced and calibrated, a lawyer would request a copy of the police file. If it turns out that the equipment was defective, there is a possible line of defence.

Service history

Measuring equipment must also be calibrated after it has been serviced. To find out whether a traffic enforcement camera has been properly serviced and calibrated, a lawyer would request a copy of the police file. If it turns out that the equipment was defective, there is a possible line of defence.

Evidence of police training

The authorities must be able to produce a valid training certificate of the person who conducted the measurements. Official measurements can only be taken by personnel who have been properly trained. They must have the requisite knowledge the equipment’s characteristics, how it works, and how it is operated, and as a result the officer should be in a position to reduce the likelihood of errors occurring. If the training certificate is missing, the officer concerned should not have taken the readings. This is why we request a copy of the certificate and verify it.

Poor photograph quality

One of the most effective ways of avoiding punishment for speeding is for a lawyer to double-check the photographs in the police file. In many cases the quality of the photographs is so poor that the characteristics of the person accused are not recognisable. The speeding charges are often dropped as a result.

More Advice

For more advice on running a red light and other traffic law matters, contact our team of German lawyers on +49 (0) 221 / 951 563 0 for a free initial assessment.

Back to Road Traffic Law

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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