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
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?