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Guy runs a red light in a vehicle he doesn't own. Owner gets all the information and a slip to identify the driver. Can the owner just send a letter like this and have the violation(s) dropped:

I, the owner of said vehicle, am not the driver (see attached redacted copy of driver's license) in the photo provided. I will not be held to answer for the driver.

The driver and the owner are friends. This all took place in California. Both people are Californian residents.


Some relevant exposition:

Yet traffic cameras do not always produce probable cause that a particular person has committed a crime. To get around this “problem” (as a certain law-and-order president-elect might call it), several states have created an entirely novel phylum of law: the civil violation of a criminal prohibition. Using this nifty device, a city can charge you of a crime without any witnesses, without any probable cause determination, and without any civil due process.

In short, municipal officials and their private contractors have at their disposal the powers of both criminal and civil law and are excused from the due process duties of both criminal and civil law. It’s a neat trick that would have made King George III blush. - Adam J. MacLeod


It's interesting too, that the driver identification slip is not to be sent to the county in which the violation occurred, but to the location of the traffic system's place of business, which is in another state.


Also, if you're interested, maybe you could help come up with something clever to put in the "For:" section of the check I'll most likely end up writing. I'm thinking "due process" with a line through it.

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    I would imagine that you would need to nominate the person who is the driver in most cases, otherwise you assume responsibility unless you claim the car was taken without your permission, etc. Otherwise, the absurd conclusion is that as long as you're not the driver, you can lend your car to a friend to break any and all traffic laws. – jimsug Jan 15 '17 at 22:25
  • ...any and all traffic laws that are governed by cameras... – Domemy Jan 15 '17 at 22:26
  • Sure. But it's still an absurd outcome of the scenario you've suggested. Also - the fifth amendment is unlikely to apply here, as you would not be a witness against yourself, but against the actual driver of the car. – jimsug Jan 15 '17 at 22:29
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    I would suspect that the police or a court can do annoying things to you if you hand over your car to unknown persons, and they can do different annoying things to you if you hand over your car to known persons who commit traffic violations. You have a right not to incriminate yourself, but no right not to incriminate someone else. – gnasher729 Jan 15 '17 at 22:53
  • How do they know that there doesn't exist a reason that by way of incriminating someone else I'm incriminating myself? – Domemy Jan 15 '17 at 23:08
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(I am deliberately not citing specific laws, as the correct answer is likely to turn on precise sections of the California criminal code, for which OP should consult a qualified attorney not the Internet. But this is still an answer not a comment because of the question's actual phrasing.)

There is no way a letter is going to have the violation(s) dropped, as it or they definitely took place, and the fact that you are the registered owner provides a presumption that you were responsible unless you offer another reasonable explanation. ("Somebody else took my car with my consent, but I don't know who" is unlikely to qualify.) If the matter actually goes to court, you would probably have a good defence if you stated on oath "I was not the driver, as you can see by comparing me to the camera footage." However, once you are on oath, you can be asked, on cross-examination, "Your car was not, apparently stolen; do you know who the driver actually was?": a reasonable way of testing your credibility, and not incriminating you, so not involving the Fifth Amendment. From there things can only get worse until you identify the real driver, in which case you can save time and expense by providing his details to the traffic system now and warning him of the situation.

If he denies it, there would be an interesting point about who has to prove what to the satisfaction of the judge or jury. However, unless you are more interested in the principle than the actual expense (lawyers love that sort of client), the sensible advice would be to pay the ticket, and be more careful when lending your car in future.

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    In Oregon a few years ago I received a form letter in very similar circumstances. It had a "that's not me in the picture" line. I did not have to name the person though I recall there being a place to do so and nothing more came of it. This leads me to call your answer speculative. I'm prepared to believe the laws have "improved" and I expect CA to be ahead of OR in these things, but it'd be nice to cite something. – user4460 Jan 16 '17 at 17:35
  • I really don't see how, in order have the accusation against you dropped that you would have to say who the driver was. It should be enough that the video or picture shows the driver not to be you. The 'fact' (reality) that cities and states have subverted the constitution and laws in order to basically steal from people is still wrong. The original question was right - it's a new Phylum of law. – mark b Feb 17 '17 at 20:57
  • In Texas now, these things NEVER get to trial. The cities simply ask the state not to allow drivers to renew their car license tags until they pay up. No trial, no hearing, no nothing. You owe it, period. This happened to me (and my family) at least 3 times. – mark b Feb 17 '17 at 20:58
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    "If the matter actually goes to court..." In that case, wouldn't the OP have his own lawyer? And, when the "Who dunnit?" question came up, wouldn't said lawyer object as the question is not relevant to the matter at hand? I would imagine that the state's own photo evidence would be enough to dismiss the charges; after that, wouldn't it be up to the state to figure out who was in the picture, as a separate matter? – Roger Sinasohn May 16 '17 at 23:52
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    In the UK, there's always a choice: Either someone admits to it, pays a fine and gets points on his or her license, or things go to court. Going to court will be more expensive. You will always get a letter: "This is what happened. You are the owner of the car, please tell us who the driver is". You can tell them who the driver is (often yourself), or things will go to court. – gnasher729 Oct 15 '17 at 19:28
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Firstly, I am not a lawyer, nor your lawyer. But I would advise you to take all advise on the internet with a grain of salt, especially advice from people of the form "this unpopular thing I don't like is illegal and/or unconstitutional".

Was your car stolen? If not (i.e. you allowed the driver to use your vehicle), you are liable for the driver's misconduct, under the doctrine of vicarious liability.

Another common example of imputed negligence is attributing liability to the owner of a car, where the driver of the car committed a negligent act. This type of relationship has been labeled the family car doctrine. The doctrine is based on the assumption that the head of the household provides a car for the family's use and, therefore, the operator of the car acts as an agent of the owner. When, for example, a child drives a car, registered to a parent, for a family purpose, the parent is responsible for the negligent acts of the child at the wheel.

Liability can also be imputed to an owner of a car who lends it to a friend. Again, the driver of the car is acting as the agent of the owner. If the owner is injured by the driver's negligence and sues the driver, the owner can lose the lawsuit because the negligence of the driver can be imputed to the owner, thereby rendering him contributorily negligent. This concept is known as imputed contributory negligence.

Source: https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/vicarious+liability(bold emphasis mine)

Essentially, you can have legal responsibility for your friend's driving actions in your car.

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