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  1. #1
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    Jul 2011
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    Default Contesting Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicle Citation, No Lights or Siren

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: California

    I am interested in contesting my citation for failing to stop at a stop sign and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. I am wondering if and seeking opinion on whether I could come up with a worthwhile and credible argument against one or either of these infractions.

    CA VC 22450(a): "The driver of any vehicle approaching a stop sign at the
    entrance to, or within, an intersection shall stop at a limit line, if
    marked, otherwise before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the
    intersection."

    CA 21806. Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle which is sounding a siren and which has at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light that is visible, under normal atmospheric conditions, from a distance of 1,000 feet to the front of the vehicle, the surrounding traffic shall, except as otherwise directed by a traffic officer, do the following:

    (a) (1) Except as required under paragraph (2), the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

    I was written up for both at the same time. I am mainly interested in arguing against the failure to yield citation, but as of now I think (and feel free to correct me) that I could ostensibly have a case against both.

    I was on a practice drive with my mother (a licensed driver) on the passenger seat, since I had recently gotten my learner's permit a month ago. I was driving on the right lane of a four lane street (two lanes going each way) when I saw a police motorcycle stopped on the lane I was on about 30 or so feet ahead. Unsure of what to do, I asked my mom, who told me that I should slow down and change lanes as there might be an accident up ahead. I changed lanes to the left and noticed that the upcoming intersection lights (a short distance away from the idling police motorcycle) were taped up but I didn't see any sign of an accident. I continued on the left lane across the intersection at reduced speed, then noticed in my rearview mirror that there was a police motorcycle behind me. I continued on across the bridgeway on the same lane and started getting freaked out that a cop was behind me, even though he had neither a siren or discernible emergency lights on. I consulted my mom again, who looked over her shoulder and shrugged and said she didn't know what was going on either. We started wondering whether I should just pull over anyway and in my ensuing anxious freakout, I came to a stop on the left lane. The cop motorcycle then turned on his light and I subsequently gathered my wits and pulled over to the right lane, although I had no idea what for.

    After rather crassly pontificating on our collective audacity to look bewildered, the officer informed me that I ran an emergency stop sign on the intersection put in place to warn people about the busted lights. I didn't see this stop sign at all and neither did my mother, but it made logical sense to me that one should exist there, regardless of whether I saw it or not, so I didn't even bother to say anything even remotely resembling a defense or an excuse to the officer. I already felt plenty intimidated and was smart enough to know that sassing a police officer, especially an already disgruntled one, isn't going to get you anywhere good. It was a hot day out and I wasn't wholly unsympathetic to the fact that he had to be out there in a motorcycle sans A/C. I'd probably act like someone pissed in Wheaties too.

    The cop, after taking his sweet time to write me up, comes back and hands me a ticket not only for running this purported stop sign, but also citing me for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. The former charge I could ostensibly swallow, but the failure to yield thing seemed unfair (not to mention petty given the big stink he gave in the beginning about my mom and I daring to look confused even before he told me about my initial offense--too bad none of that is relevant in court) since he failed to give me the appropriate impression that that I had to pull over to begin with.

    He had neither lights nor his siren on while he was in "pursuit" of me, so I had no reason to believe that I needed to pull over, especially since I was not aware of the stop sign I ran until he told me about it. I am theorizing he wrote me up for the failure to yield violation with an intent to get me on the hook for failing to "immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway". I am not entirely sure whether the word order in law is irrelevant but in this case, he failed first to alert me that I had to yield to him given his lack of lights/siren. He turned on the light only AFTER I made the improper stop on the left lane, after which I immediately pulled over to the right. I should think that pursuing CA 21806 would only be relevant after the conditions laid out by the first sentence (emergency vehicle with lights and siren on) is satisfied. If that is the case, then I would not be in violation of it as I pulled over to the right IMMEDIATELY AFTER he turned his lights on, as dictated by the law. In fact, CA law states that the the emergency vehicle must have a light AND a siren on, and not once did he have his siren on throughout our whole interaction.

    I also do not understand why said law would apply in this circumstance in the first place, as the cop (lights and siren on or not) was not on the way to any emergency where I had a legal obligation to get out of his way and his only intent while driving on that bridegway was to pull me over.

    Regarding the stop sign violation, I am less keen to contest it but I was wondering whether the circumstances could warrant an argument under a reasonable "mistake of fact". I have read that such an argument could be used if the stop sign was not readily visible or obscured. I did not see the stop sign at all and obviously didn't willfully run it, but it doesn't take a genuis to realize that wouldn't necessarily imply it was universally difficult to see. After having my mom drive back down that intersection, we found that the stop sign in question was an emergency one placed on a fold-up road barricade on the median left of the through traffic of that lane. It was placed rather low to the ground to the left, which would make it difficult to see if you were already driving up close to the sign. There's also the rather unorthodox location of the sign (I don't know if regular stop signs are ever placed on medians to the left?), although since it was an emergency road sign put up because of the broken intersection light I don't know whether that distinction is or should even be relevant in such a situation--it wasn't as if a new, standard-issue stop sign was put in place where one wasn't before. I could very well see the counterargument that I was an inattentive driver owing to my relative lack of experience (and thus rightfully deserving of the citation). There's no question that there was a stop sign there and that I did run it, so I'm not going to be bullish about it if my situation doesn't appropriately fall under "mistake of fact". I welcome everyone's thoughts in this matter. I am much more intent with arguing against the yield violation, especially as it is the costlier one out of the two citations.

    What are the steps I should take next should I decide to contest either of these infractions? There is an appearance date written on the ticket. From my understanding this would just be the arraignment and not the actual trial where I'd have to argue my case?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    9,914

    Default Re: Contesting Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicle Citation in Ca--No Lights or Sir

    Kid, lose the attitude. It's so nice that a student driver is now an expert at the world and has all the answers. It will get you no where in court. Part of learning to drive is not "freaking out" when normal things occur on the road. Officers are allowed to take their "sweet time." They are in fact likely checking out both your car registration and you and your mother's licenses to see, etc... in addition to the ticket form.

    Let me clue you in on something you missed: Even without the stop sign, at a light with non-functioning traffic signals you are required to treat it as if it were a stop sign. The temporarily erected one is just a reinforcement of that law. The fact that a police vehicle was stopped ahead of the intersection was most likely there to give you the warning that something unusual was ahead and to slow down. You've got absolutely no defense on the stop sign violation.

    As for the failure to yield, we can't tell absent the officer articulating what he observed. It may have been your initial blowing past him and through the intersection, or you may not have been quite observant of his attempts to pull you over. This one you can try to fight, but I'm not particularly hopeful.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    2

    Default Re: Contesting Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicle Citation in Ca--No Lights or Sir

    While I am genuinely thankful for your opinion, I don't appreciate your patronizing attitude. I didn't claim to know everything about driving or laws and I was quite frank about my lack of driving experience on the road. I am not a child to talk down to, I am just a person who has never bothered getting their license as I've previously always lived in cities with functional public transportation. I recently had to move to S. California for work after uni, and my mom was kind enough to help me along with driving. I don't think I had much of a case for the stop sign violation anyway, as there's no question of me running the actual sign. I would've had encountered a non-functioning light sooner or later, and it's not a bad thing that I learned a valuable lesson in safety and common sense now.

    Thanks everyone! I'll try to sound less like a disgruntled teenaged smart-ass next time. It would definitely be a good idea to do that in court...

    I did yield to the officer when he made me aware in the first place that he wanted me to pull over, which I've repeatedly reiterated was unclear. Strictly according the the citation he actually wrote me up for, the "emergency vehicle" must have its lights and sirens on for someone to be legally obligated to yield, regardless of whether I was inattentive of whatever other attempts he made to get me to pull over. If he had turned on his siren or light (the law he wrote me up for requires both, and like I said, at no point during our interaction did he ever have his siren on) right after had committed the stop sign offense (which I did after I initially switched lanes and passed him), then I don't think I would've been so oblivious for so long of his intent to pull me over, regardless of my lack of awareness about having committed any violation.

    I don't know why an attempt at thoroughness (a bit nit-picky, yeah) would serve me ill in court as long as I tried to present it in a calm manner. Yes, I was irritated by how unnecessarily rude the officer was and it shows in my above post, but I know that is irrelevant and I'm not stupid enough to make an emotional scene about it at court. The guy was just doing his job, saw that I committed an offense, and cited me for it. People have bad days. He *may* have possibly made a procedural mistake going from point 2 to point 3 (according to my own admittedly literal, word for word, non-expert reading of the exact rule he cited me for violating), but it's the judge's reading of the law that ultimately matters.

    Does anyone else have any opinions on the yield violation? I definitely agree with the poster above about the stop sign; I've talked with other peers who are experienced drivers (everyone I know around my age got their license years and years ago, so I'm no spring chicken unless it comes to driving ) and they all say that given that I should be watching out for all emergency road signs anyway regardless of location, and the busted lights should've given me a clue that something was up and that I should've treated the intersection like a 4 way stop even if the temporary stop sign wasn't there. Makes sense to me.

    It says on my ticket that I could show up prior to the date written on my ticket. This is for the arraignment, right, where I decide what to plead for each offense? I don't live near the courthouse written on my ticket, so I want to get the process at least started before I officially start my job. Since I am pretty certain I'm going to plead guilty to the stop sign offense, would I be able to pay the fine for this at the arraignment? As a permit holder, would I be eligible for traffic school?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Northern California
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    519

    Default Re: Contesting Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicle Citation in Ca--No Lights or Sir

    Quote Quoting uhyrelighed
    View Post
    I also do not understand why said law would apply in this circumstance in the first place, as the cop (lights and siren on or not) was not on the way to any emergency where I had a legal obligation to get out of his way and his only intent while driving on that bridegway was to pull me over.
    21806. Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle which is sounding a siren and which has at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light that is visible, under normal atmospheric conditions, from a distance of 1,000 feet to the front of the vehicle, the surrounding traffic shall, except as otherwise directed by a traffic officer, do the following:
    (a) (1) Except as required under paragraph (2), the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

    (2) A person driving a vehicle in an exclusive or preferential use lane shall exit that lane immediately upon determining that the exit can be accomplished with reasonable safety.

    (b) The operator of every street car shall immediately stop the street car, clear of any intersection, and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

    (c) All pedestrians upon the highway shall proceed to the nearest curb or place of safety and remain there until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.
    What are you a constitutionalist? Tell me where in 21806 does it say the authorized emergency vehicle (ie, distinctively painted police motorcycle with logo and emergency lights) HAS TO BE RESPONDING TO AN EMERGENCY FOR YOU TO YIELD TO THE RIGHT? (put that in caps so you don't miss it). Are you trying to imply that if he was on the way to an accident WITHOUT his siren activated that you can say, yield to the left or do donuts in the roadway? About 99% of the people I stop with my lights only pull over to the right.

    I don't know why anyone would stop in the left lane of traffic on their own (or be instructed to by their licensed passenger). You are impeding traffic at that point simply because you are "freaked" out. So he turns on his emergency lights to make an enforcement stop on you since you are now stopped for no apparent reason in the left lane. You then have to "gather your wits" and pull to the right. While you were "gathering your wits" did he sound his siren? I don't know, I wasn't there. Personally I would have written you for the stop sign and impeding traffic but that is me and his ticket he wrote is his.

    I'd say challenge it (the 21806). The worst that could happen (besides being found guilty) is the judge will chastise you for coming to a stop in the left lane.

    I had something else but I forgot it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    1,628

    Default Re: Contesting Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicle Citation in Ca--No Lights or Sir

    The 21806 is a no brainer. However, the 22450 may not be enforceable either if the "emergency stop sign" was not erected in accordance with the MUTCD. I don't know of anything in the vehicle code that allows for an "emergency stop sign". In fact, I have never heard of that before now.

    Now.... that being said, I don't care if you are a kid or not.... you really should lose the attitude.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Default Re: Contesting Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicle Citation in Ca--No Lights or Sir

    Quote Quoting EWYLTJ
    View Post
    The 21806 is a no brainer. However, the 22450 may not be enforceable either if the "emergency stop sign" was not erected in accordance with the MUTCD. I don't know of anything in the vehicle code that allows for an "emergency stop sign". In fact, I have never heard of that before now.

    Now.... that being said, I don't care if you are a kid or not.... you really should lose the attitude.
    well, I think he is ready for court; he sounds like an ATTNY !

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