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  1. #1
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    Default VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo

    My question involves traffic court in the State of: California

    I was cited for VC 21453(c), failure to stop at a red arrow, in 2011. I filed a TBD (just wrote "not guilty")and was found guilty. I picked up a copy of the officer's submission for the TBD. Fighting a red light ticket is an uphill battle but I have chosen to focus on a few points from the officer's TBD filing. I am hoping to get some input prior to my trial. Here are the points I'm considering focusing on:

    • The officer states he could simultaneously view the limit and the traffic signal from the location he was parked. However, after visiting the scene it is impossible to see the traffic signal controlling my lane of traffic from where the officer states he was parked. Louvers on the signal make it impossible to see the light during daylight hours. Would photographs be a good way to introduce this evidence? Is there another good way to introduce the effectiveness of these louvers?
    • The officer states the light was red for three seconds before I reached the limit line. I visited the intersection at the same time of day that I was cited. From what I viewed anyone blowing through the light three seconds after it turned red would have been involved in an accident. Traffic from 90 degrees to the left of the 4 way intersection gets a green light a half second after my light turns red. The heavy traffic from the left wouldn't allow me to pass through the light 3 seconds after it turned red at 25 mph as the officer submitted in his TBD response. Would video of the intersection be the best way to present this?
    • This may be nitpicking but the officer listed the color of my vehicle incorrectly several times on the citation and TBD. It's not a huge deal in my mind but it may emphasize the fact that perhaps he saw another vehicle run the red light and mistakenly pulled me over 3 blocks and two 90 degree turns later. Perhaps he lost sight of the vehicle that had the violation and pulled me over instead. Any thoughts?


    Any input would be appreciated! I've taken pride in a clean driving record for over 20 years. I've never had a moving violation. I'm disappointed that I was issued a citation for running a light 3 seconds after it turned red. I know I entered the intersection legally and want to put together the best defense I can! Lastly, if I am unfortunate enough to lose my case is it still appropriate to ask for traffic school?

    Thanks!

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    Default Re: VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo

    Quote Quoting RedSnapper
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    The officer states he could simultaneously view the limit and the traffic signal from the location he was parked. However, after visiting the scene it is impossible to see the traffic signal controlling my lane of traffic from where the officer states he was parked. Louvers on the signal make it impossible to see the light during daylight hours. Would photographs be a good way to introduce this evidence? Is there another good way to introduce the effectiveness of these louvers?
    Louvers? I haven't seen a traffic signal head with louvers in ages... So where is this intersection? and which way were you turning? And the officer claims he was parked where?

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words... But there are times when you might need to use a thousand words to explain a picture. This might be one of those times! Photographs may be as close as you can get, however,the difficulty comes up when you try to authenticate them -as in submit them in a manner where the location/date/time/direction... etc, any relevant elements are easy to show/prove-. And in this case, you say it is difficult for the officer to see the limit line and the signal head simultaneously, and if you're thinking of a picture from that location, and when you try to show street name signs and other factors that may be needed... It gets tough at times!

    The other important point is if his version is that he saw you enter the intersection 3 seconds after the red phase started, there is little need for him to declare the ability to see the limit line, and I see no value to your pictures at all!


    Quote Quoting RedSnapper
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    The officer states the light was red for three seconds before I reached the limit line. I visited the intersection at the same time of day that I was cited. From what I viewed anyone blowing through the light three seconds after it turned red would have been involved in an accident. Traffic from 90 degrees to the left of the 4 way intersection gets a green light a half second after my light turns red. The heavy traffic from the left wouldn't allow me to pass through the light 3 seconds after it turned red at 25 mph as the officer submitted in his TBD response. Would video of the intersection be the best way to present this?
    Let me start by suggesting that a 1/2 a second of "alll red" signal sounds a bit iffy. My understanding and if my memory serves me right, the minimum "all red" clearance phase as recommended in the MUTCD Signal manual is 1 second... Add in human reaction time of 1 to 1.2 seconds for cross traffic to begin to move, and you maybe more than halfway through the intersection before anyone would even look at you!

    So again, this is a no starter as I see it!


    Quote Quoting RedSnapper
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    [*]This may be nitpicking but the officer listed the color of my vehicle incorrectly several times on the citation and TBD. It's not a huge deal in my mind but it may emphasize the fact that perhaps he saw another vehicle run the red light and mistakenly pulled me over 3 blocks and two 90 degree turns later. Perhaps he lost sight of the vehicle that had the violation and pulled me over instead. Any thoughts?
    It is nitpicking, and my guess it would probably be a worst case if you had told us what the two colors are... But before I get into that let me start by saying that the fact that a Trial De Novo is called that, is because it is considered a new trial. The TBD verdict is wiped off, the slate is wiped clean and the evidence is set aside. Now, the verdict is still out on whether a judicial officer can actually use your TBD or that of the officer to compare to testimony in a trial de novo, or to try to bring to light an issue that was not mentioned... But could one really stop one from doing so? When the actual declaration is right there in your file? I mean, what is to stop the judge from glancing at your TBD before that day's session, the day before or even during your trial? Nothing... And I'm betting that for him/her to see a brief, meaningless and effortless "not guilty" instead of SOMETHING is a real pisser with some of them... Simply because it is, in my opinion, a clear indication that you are attempting to manipulate the system, or you are somehow abusing the process. And that is why I never recommended just a brief "I stand by my plea of not guilty" declaration, and never agreed with those who did!

    Now, back to the issues you presented... Regarding the color discrepancy, and how it always gets turned around into "perhaps it wasn't me, perhaps it was somebody else"...

    Now, I am not suggesting you're lying, i am simply posing hypotheticals...

    If you really truly were either nowhere near that traffic light, or you were near that light but in no way did you make a left turn that was even remotely close to the red phase, would you at least try to make such statement in your TBD? I know I would...

    If there was ANY question that you were not the correct vehicle that the officer pulled over 3 blocks and two 90 degree turns later, would that be something to tell the officer at the time of the stop "officer, what left turn red arrow are you talking about?" and would you likely mention something to that effect in your TBD? I know I would!

    Now combine the two as is the case here... Officer writes the wrong color on the citation, even before that point, you were either nowhere near that traffic light, or nowhere near making a left turn on red... Would those matters receive an honorable mention in a TBD? I know they would in mine!

    back to the two matter mentioned first... What might be possibly helpful to try and establish the type of light-head used at that intersection (and though I cannot promise you this report will have any reference to any louvers), but an engineering report for that particular intersection might prove to be a good resource to document some features and functions of that traffic light. This would also confirm the length of the "all red" clearance phase.

    You can contact that municipality's public works department and they would be able to either get you one or refer you to someone who can provide one!

    Quote Quoting RedSnapper
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    Any input would be appreciated! I've taken pride in a clean driving record for over 20 years.
    Again, no disrespect intended... However, to suggest that you have been driving for 20 years and yet have never committed a traffic violation, is not only unrealistic, it is a bit on the pretentious side! It might only mean that you have never been caught! And though that still does not justify getting wrongfully cited, it does (or at least it should) sort of ease the pain!



    Quote Quoting RedSnapper
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    Lastly, if I am unfortunate enough to lose my case is it still appropriate to ask for traffic school?
    It is always appropriate to ask for traffic school. Whether you will get it after a TBD and TDN, is a matter for the judge to decide; if denied, there isn't much you can do about it!

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo

    Quote Quoting RedSnapper
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    • The officer states he could simultaneously view the limit and the traffic signal from the location he was parked. However, after visiting the scene it is impossible to see the traffic signal controlling my lane of traffic from where the officer states he was parked. Louvers on the signal make it impossible to see the light during daylight hours. Would photographs be a good way to introduce this evidence? Is there another good way to introduce the effectiveness of these louvers?
    You may want to double-check that the officer didn't have assistance from a red-light enforcement indicator. These are small devices that are attached to the back of traffic signals. They have them on the lights at the major intersections in my neighborhood. With one of these devices present, the officer is able to simultaneously observe the traffic at the limit-line, and see whether the signal has become red. There are a bunch of links to additional information in this post.




    Quote Quoting That Guy
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    They say a picture is worth a thousand words... But there are times when you might need to use a thousand words to explain a picture. This might be one of those times! Photographs may be as close as you can get, however,the difficulty comes up when you try to authenticate them -as in submit them in a manner where the location/date/time/direction... etc, any relevant elements are easy to show/prove-. And in this case, you say it is difficult for the officer to see the limit line and the signal head simultaneously, and if you're thinking of a picture from that location, and when you try to show street name signs and other factors that may be needed... It gets tough at times!
    I agree, generally. If the photograph is of the actual event, it's usually less controversial when it comes to getting it admitted into evidence. With photographs that are offered to simulate conditions at the time relevant to the violation, you'll need to be prepared to prove, over objection, that the photograph accurately represents everything that's pertinent to the violation. The best way to do this is to get the officer to testify that the photograph represents what he saw from where he was parked. However, if the officer doesn't agree that your photograph is an accurate representation of the conditions at the time of the violation, it's going to be much more difficult to get the photograph admitted. See People. v Jones for a case where a video tape was properly excluded; in McGarry v. Sax, a videotape was properly excluded because the witness who attempted to authenticate it could only describe its contents in the most general terms; Adams v. City of San Jose is a case where the photographer didn't testify, but the photograph was properly authenticated by a witness.

    Quote Quoting That Guy
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    The other important point is if his version is that he saw you enter the intersection 3 seconds after the red phase started, there is little need for him to declare the ability to see the limit line, and I see no value to your pictures at all!
    Maybe I misread the OP's post, but it sounds like he's saying that the officer could see the limit line, but not the signal.

    Quote Quoting That Guy
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    Let me start by suggesting that a 1/2 a second of "alll red" signal sounds a bit iffy. My understanding and if my memory serves me right, the minimum "all red" clearance phase as recommended in the MUTCD Signal manual is 1 second... Add in human reaction time of 1 to 1.2 seconds for cross traffic to begin to move, and you maybe more than halfway through the intersection before anyone would even look at you!
    FWIW, this is covered in section 4D.26 of the 2012 CA-MUTCD. Their conclusion is that the red clearance interval is optional, subject to engineering judgement. If it's used, it should conform to the ITE specifications and should normally range from 0.1 to 2.0 seconds. The ITE publication isn't available on the internet, but I found an ITE article that re-publishes the formulas for yellow-change and red-clearance.

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    Default Re: VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo

    Would it be possible or practical to take a video camera, stand at a 45 degree angle to the lights and see them both at the same time? Would it be possible to video and time the change, perhaps even putting a stopwatch in the picture?

    I have no idea what this view is like... ??

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    Default Re: VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo

    Thank you all for your comments. I hope to post more this evening after things slow down for me. I did get the Caltrans traffic signal data which shows a "red clearance" of a half second. I hope to get the photos in as evidence since they tell the story.

    I swung by the scene this morning to refresh myself prior to my hearing and saw a motorcycle officer doing traffic enforcement from the other side of the street where the light is visible. I walked up and spoke with him about my issue. He was helpful and sympathetic. I hope the judge is as well!

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    Default Re: VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo

    Quote Quoting themadnorwegian
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    I agree, generally. If the photograph is of the actual event, it's usually less controversial when it comes to getting it admitted into evidence. With photographs that are offered to simulate conditions at the time relevant to the violation, you'll need to be prepared to prove, over objection, that the photograph accurately represents everything that's pertinent to the violation. The best way to do this is to get the officer to testify that the photograph represents what he saw from where he was parked. However, if the officer doesn't agree that your photograph is an accurate representation of the conditions at the time of the violation, it's going to be much more difficult to get the photograph admitted. See People. v Jones for a case where a video tape was properly excluded; in McGarry v. Sax, a videotape was properly excluded because the witness who attempted to authenticate it could only describe its contents in the most general terms; Adams v. City of San Jose is a case where the photographer didn't testify, but the photograph was properly authenticated by a witness.
    Great citations TMN...

    We should also add that simply getting photos admitted into evidence does not really dictate that they will have the desired effect. The “weight of the evidence” is up to the trier of fact to decide.
    For example, I can manipulate several settings on a digital camera to somehow control the way a traffic signal or a sign might appear.

    Quote Quoting themadnorwegian
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    Maybe I misread the OP's post, but it sounds like he's saying that the officer could see the limit line, but not the signal.
    You are correct... (Now that I re-read it). But even if I change the words “limit line” in my post to “traffic signal”, along with other relevant information (underlined) it still leaves a lot to be desired, here:

    The other important point is if his version is that he saw you enter the intersection 2 to 3 seconds after the green phase for cross traffic started, there is little need for him to declare the ability to see YOUR signal, and I see no value to your pictures at all!
    now I am even more confused...
    If the officer could not see which phase the light was in, how could he determine how many seconds it had been red for?
    But lets stick with the presumption that he couldn't really see what indication the OP's signal was showing? Are we to assume that the other signal facing the other direction has louvers as well? and as such, the officer could not see what phase the other light is in?

    Let me play both hypotheticals:
    First, that he could not see either signal...
    What's the point of him being there then? And what good would that do anyone? I mean I would not walk into court claiming the officer could not see what phase either direction was in and he's lying about the whole entire thing!

    Second, let us assume that the officer could NOT see OPs signal but he can see the other signal:
    Now, he obviously has a way to establish the 3 seconds he testified to (because with only a 0.5 second for the “all red clearance”, which means that the signal for cross traffic went into its green phase, the officer sees it do that, he looks down a couple of seconds later (2.5 to 3 seconds later) and sees OP crossing the limit line at that time!

    And no, I don't feel his not being able to see the OP's signal indication is that big of an issue. Unless you can somehow familiarize yourself with the phasing of the system enough to be able to trip him up on cross examination, there should be zero issue with his testimony.

    Of course, without knowing where the officer was at the time, where this intersection is and which way the OP was turning, all of this is speculation! The questions were asked... We'll wait for the OP to answer!

    Quote Quoting themadnorwegian
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    FWIW, this is covered in section 4D.26 of the 2012 CA-MUTCD. Their conclusion is that the red clearance interval is optional, subject to engineering judgement. If it's used, it should conform to the ITE specifications and should normally range from 0.1 to 2.0 seconds. The ITE publication isn't available on the internet, but I found an ITE article that re-publishes the formulas for yellow-change and red-clearance.
    I stand corrected on the timing of the all red clearance phase. It can indeed start at 0.1 seconds.

    But more importantly, I correct my own standing, simply because it has ZERO effect on the yellow phase -it starts AFTER yellow anyways! Even in the way they are calculated separately. So as far as this discussion is concerned, it has zero effect on the outcome or the way to get there....

    Quote Quoting cmre3456
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    Would it be possible or practical to take a video camera, stand at a 45 degree angle to the lights and see them both at the same time? Would it be possible to video and time the change, perhaps even putting a stopwatch in the picture?

    I have no idea what this view is like... ??
    Anything is possible, I guess.. Question is, what would it prove/disprove? With the officer likely testifying in a similar way as he did in his TBD, I'm guessing he will mention the “3 seconds” and if he does, even the length of the yellow signal phase is no longer relevant!

    But that is something I am curious about OP... how long was the yellow phase?

    Or, better yet, if you can upload the entire report, that would be great!

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    Default Re: VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo

    OP, these are questions for the other posters, not advice for you. This is taking a lot of turns, pardon the pun.

    If the OP offers photos and a video perhaps into evidence, there is personal knowledge and they should be admissible even if the officer disagrees with them? It is the OP's 'version' (testimony) and evidence for the trier of fact? The OP can testify that this is how it was?

    The OP is free to disagree with the officer as to where he was parked and what he could see due to personal knowledge?

    I'm still hung on the fact that the officer pulled the OP over after making a couple of turns, and repeatedly got the color of the car wrong. I too would like to see a copy of the citation with the OP's personal info blacked out. OP, do you know how to scan that to a .jpg and upload it to a picture hosting service and post a link? You could make a copy, black out personal things, and scan that copy.

    In the end, the court is likely to believe the officer and that's how it usually goes unless there are solid witnesses, and even then...

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    Default Re: VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo

    Thanks everyone for the discussion. It is a big help in my preparation. The yellow phase was 3.5 seconds, but my contention really has nothing to do with the light phasing other than to note that the yellow phase was 3.5 seconds and the officer says I entered the intersection 3 seconds after the light turned red at 25 mph. The speed limit on the road I was traveling is 35 mph. Doing a little math I have calculated that I would be around 100 yards away from the intersection when the light turned yellow, which seems ridiculous to me to.

    As far as I can tell, the officer could only see the light in front of him. This light turns red when my light turns green. It remains red when my light turns red and I don't believe it could have tipped him to the phase my signal was in. A motorcycle officer at the location I spoke with said some lights have "rat holes"(his term, not mine) that indicate to officers what cycle an obscured light is in. The officer said that this intersection doesn't have this feature and he has to get up on the curb to see the light.

    I believe my case rides on my ability to create reasonable doubt as to whether the officer could see my traffic control signal. On the back of the ticket the officer noted his location. I cannot see the light from the location he noted. Motorcycle officers doing traffic enforcement at this light conduct it from the other side of the street up on the curb where the signal is visible. The officer who cited me was in a patrol car and parked on the shoulder where louvers on the signal completely block the view. I am hoping to prove this with photographic evidence.

    Thank you all. I'll do my best to upload some pictures and documents.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo

    Quote Quoting RedSnapper
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    Thanks everyone for the discussion. It is a big help in my preparation. The yellow phase was 3.5 seconds, but my contention really has nothing to do with the light phasing other than to note that the yellow phase was 3.5 seconds and the officer says I entered the intersection 3 seconds after the light turned red at 25 mph. The speed limit on the road I was traveling is 35 mph. Doing a little math I have calculated that I would be around 100 yards away from the intersection when the light turned yellow, which seems ridiculous to me to.

    As far as I can tell, the officer could only see the light in front of him. This light turns red when my light turns green. It remains red when my light turns red and I don't believe it could have tipped him to the phase my signal was in. A motorcycle officer at the location I spoke with said some lights have "rat holes"(his term, not mine) that indicate to officers what cycle an obscured light is in. The officer said that this intersection doesn't have this feature and he has to get up on the curb to see the light.

    I believe my case rides on my ability to create reasonable doubt as to whether the officer could see my traffic control signal. On the back of the ticket the officer noted his location. I cannot see the light from the location he noted. Motorcycle officers doing traffic enforcement at this light conduct it from the other side of the street up on the curb where the signal is visible. The officer who cited me was in a patrol car and parked on the shoulder where louvers on the signal completely block the view. I am hoping to prove this with photographic evidence.

    Thank you all. I'll do my best to upload some pictures and documents.
    You're still talking in code with regards to anything the report says or anything related to your turn, the officer's location, what the officer can/cannot see. ... We still have no idea what you're talking about or whether you stand an even remote chance of prevailing. It seems you're simply looking for confirmation of your idea that you can prevail simply by showing a pictures. Statements made by other officers and, unless they're appearing to testify, are hearsay... You repeating them as only your conclusion makes them speculative and even more questionable. Your speed argument is trivial in that you were not cited for speeding, so the officer's accuracy is not in question. He say 25, you say the limit is 35 and in 100 yards you could conceivably have gone down to 5 and back up to 15mph...

    There is no need to upload images of the location, it can all be seen on Google Street maps... Your own pictures, and with all due respect, are useless as far as I can see... Here and in court, example:


    Here is a picture a recent thread included. The claim there is "Illegal U-Turn at Night, With a Poorly Placed, Poorly Lit Sign":





    As it turns out, there are in fact two street lights illuminating that intersection and that is aside from the fact that the guys headlights would have turned that sign into a reflection of a torch! But by changing a few camera setting, one can make any picture look like a dark hole! The guy was full of it and you can tell easily!

    If on the other hand you're concerned about the officer reading what you post... The facts of the case are the facts of the case... He can't change reality! Then again, TMN was as apprehensive at first.





    Quote Quoting cmre3456
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    If the OP offers photos and a video perhaps into evidence, there is personal knowledge and they should be admissible even if the officer disagrees with them? It is the OP's 'version' (testimony) and evidence for the trier of fact? The OP can testify that this is how it was?
    Personal knowledge of what? That the pictures and or video are showing an identical view to what the officer saw?

    He can testify to the obvious: this is how it would look from such and such location... But to suggest that is what the officer saw? That is something the officer would have to agree with and confirm. If he doesn't, weight of his evidence is zero!


    Quote Quoting cmre3456
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    The OP is free to disagree with the officer as to where he was parked and what he could see due to personal knowledge?
    So you're saying the OP is free to decide what the officer can/cannot see?

    Sure he can.. But how factual would those descriptions be? But what's the point of doing that when the officer is there to ask?


    Quote Quoting cmre3456
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    In the end, the court is likely to believe the officer and that's how it usually goes unless there are solid witnesses, and even then...
    Good point!

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    Default Re: VC 21453(C) Trial De Novo


    Personal knowledge of what? That the pictures and or video are showing an identical view to what the officer saw?
    Yes, simply put, if the OP knows where the officer was at the time.

    He can testify to the obvious: this is how it would look from such and such location... But to suggest that is what the officer saw? That is something the officer would have to agree with and confirm. If he doesn't, weight of his evidence is zero!

    So you're saying the OP is free to decide what the officer can/cannot see?

    Sure he can.. But how factual would those descriptions be? But what's the point of doing that when the officer is there to ask?
    The OP says there are louvers on those lights, and that there are no indicator lights to see from another direction. The OP claims to know where the officer was. Those are material facts which the OP can ask of the officer.

    To all of that the OP can testify, along with introducing pictures. If it was impossible for the officer to see the OP's light, and if the OP can prove that the time is 3.5 seconds when the officer said 3, there is at least a chance, and I'd take it.

    The truth is for the finder of fact to declare, and again I agree that the judge usually believes the officer. I suspect that the chances of prevailing are very slim.

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