One reason experts say many don't appeal is the narrow window drivers are given to make the choice. While City Hall has three months from the alleged infraction to issue a citation, drivers have a window of only three weeks to contest it.

In addition, the list of legal excuses is narrow as well.

Essentially the law excuses a violation only in cases in which:

— Your plate or car was stolen at the time of the ticket.

— You can prove someone else owned the car at the time.

— The photograph and video evidence show there was no infraction.

— Your car was authorized to violate the signal.

A Tribune examination of hearing officer notes in more than 12,000 successful appeals since 2010 found more than 8,000 in which the officials specified the reason for tossing the tickets.

In more than 1,400 cases the hearing officer ruled that no violations took place: The evidence showed the vehicle either stopped or had a yellow or green light when it entered the intersection.

More than a thousand tickets were thrown out for bureaucratic errors ranging from blurry pictures to missing records to illegible signatures. In about 80 cases there were malfunctions with the traffic lights themselves, about half involving yellow light times that were too short.

More than 2,300 tickets were tossed because they went to people who didn't own the car when the infraction took place. An additional 1,685 were tossed because the tickets went to people whose cars or license plates had been stolen.

In more than 1,100 cases, tickets were dismissed because the vehicles were in funeral processions.

Twitter @DavidKidwell1

Twitter @alexrichards