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  1. #1
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    May 2012
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    Default Does "Right Turn Only" Mean "No Left Turn"

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: California (Huntington Beach)

    I received a traffic ticket for allegedly violated CVC 21461(a), failure to obey traffic control device, and the officer marked on the ticket NO LEFT TURN, next to the Vehicle Code.

    I was exiting a private property driveway and on the private property there is posted a sign "RIGHT TURN ONLY". There are no NO LEFT TURN signs. I turned left into a center island marked by a single solid yellow line with a broken yellow line. This is the same island from which I entered the private property earlier.

    I understand I could legally make a left turn into the center-island because it is painted with a single solid yellow line with a broken yellow line, but for the sign "RIGHT TURN ONLY". I have the following contentions:

    (1) The sign is not an official sign because it is posted, I surmised, by the property owner on private property and not posted by the City on public roadway or public easements, such as on the sidewalks.
    (2) The sign, assuming it is an official one, is ambiguous and misleading because if the City wants to prohibit left turns from the driveway, the sign should clearly state: "NO LEFT TURN", and if the City really intends to prohibit left turns, it should marked the center island with solid double yellow lines. I believe a penal law that renders an act illegal should clearly and directly describes the conduct sought to be held illegal; the illegal conduct should not be inferred by implication (RIGHT TURN ONLY, therefore NO LEFT TURN). Besides, one who exits a driveway does not always drive on the extreme right that is controlled by a RIGHT TURN ONLY sign; one who exits a driveway may drive on the middle of the exit (no markings) and, arguably, may not be controlled by RIGHT TURN ONLY sign.
    (3) The officer wrote "NO LEFT TURN" and there is no such sign or marking, is the citation therefore defective?

    Am I correct?

    Thank you, and Airborne, All the way.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Does "Right Turn Only" Mean "No Left Turn"

    Your only hope is your first argument regarding whether the sign was officially placed by a gov't entity. The others are COMPLETE garbage. RIGHT TURN ONLY means just that... a right turn is the only allowed movement. The RIGHT TURN ONLY sign controls the ENTIRE thing, not just the portion it sits next to. What the officer wrote simply means what you did wrong. You weren't supposed to turn left.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Does "Right Turn Only" Mean "No Left Turn"

    Thank you for your response.

    One fact on the ticket I missed to mention: The officer described that the violation occurred at a major intersection (Gothard at Edinger, controlled by signals and has no NO LEFT TURN or RIGHT TURN ONLY signs; I can take pictures of it). The ticket describes that I made a left turn from northbound of Gothard to westbound Edinger. This is not what happened. I made a left turn about 1000 feet away from the intersection, from an exit of a private property. Will this make a difference? (I had a passenger who can sign an affidavit regarding this fact.)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Does "Right Turn Only" Mean "No Left Turn"

    The location is probably only the closest intersection. What's written on the ticket matters not, it's what gets testified to in court.
    Where were you? I'm guessing that you were in one of the businesses west of Gothard on the southside of Edinger? freeman has your only hope, that is, is that sign in the parking lot bushes an officially binding sign or just something planted their by the restaurant/shopping center.
    However, I suspect that caltrans or local zoning made them erect that sign even if it was put up by the business. If it's binding, none of your other arguments bear any weight. It's clear that you must turn (not go straight or turn left).

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    Default Re: Does "Right Turn Only" Mean "No Left Turn"

    Quote Quoting Airborne
    View Post
    I was exiting a private property driveway and on the private property there is posted a sign "RIGHT TURN ONLY". There are no NO LEFT TURN signs. I turned left into a center island marked by a single solid yellow line with a broken yellow line. This is the same island from which I entered the private property earlier.

    I understand I could legally make a left turn into the center-island because it is painted with a single solid yellow line with a broken yellow line, but for the sign "RIGHT TURN ONLY".
    You understand wrong. The center lane is marked that way to allow those who are traveling east or west to enter the center lane in anticipation and just prior to making a left turn INTO a driveway... etc. The markings of the center lane do not validate a movement that is forbidden by another traffic control device.

    The other way to describe that is as follows: yes, a driver can indeed enter the center lane at that point, but not from the driveway you exited simply because you are only allowed a right turn from that driveway.

    Fact is, the center lane has little relevance to your violation simply because (1) you committed the alleged violation before getting to the center lane, and (2) you were not cited for entering the center lane- that is NOT the element that the prosecution must prove-; you were cited from making an illegal left turn.

    Quote Quoting Airborne
    View Post
    I have the following contentions:
    Well, lets deal with them once and for all...

    Quote Quoting Airborne
    View Post
    (1) The sign is not an official sign because it is posted, I surmised, by the property owner on private property and not posted by the City on public roadway or public easements, such as on the sidewalks.
    Here is the code section you were cited for:

    CVC 21461
    (a) It is unlawful for a driver of a vehicle to fail to obey a sign or signal defined as regulatory in the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or a Department of Transportation approved supplement to that manual of a regulatory nature erected or maintained to enhance traffic safety and operations or to indicate and carry out the provisions of this code or a local traffic ordinance or resolution adopted pursuant to a local traffic ordinance, or to fail to obey a device erected or maintained by lawful authority of a public body or official.

    Here is another relevant code section:

    California vehicle Code section 41101
    (a) Whenever a traffic sign or traffic control device is placed in a position approximately conforming to the requirements of this code, it shall be presumed to have been placed by the official act or direction of lawful authority, unless the contrary is established by competent evidence.
    (b) Any sign or traffic control device placed pursuant to this code and purporting to conform to the lawful requirements pertaining to it shall be presumed to comply with the requirements of this code unless the contrary is established by competent evidence.

    Meaning, "go fish"... "Surmising" won't work. You carry the burden of proving the sign isn't official. And the only competent evidence would likely be an official letter from the agency/authority with jurisdiction over that roadway/area stating anything showing that they not only had no hand in the erection of the sign, but did not approve/allow/request it. There is a good chance that the private entity that private property belongs to or operates out of had to pay for the sign. It still would be an official traffic control device!

    Quote Quoting Airborne
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    (2) The sign, assuming it is an official one, is ambiguous and misleading because if the City wants to prohibit left turns from the driveway, the sign should clearly state: "NO LEFT TURN", and if the City really intends to prohibit left turns, it should marked the center island with solid double yellow lines.
    Again, the center lane and how it is marked is not relevant to your particular violation. This sign, the manner it is erected, the meaning it clearly gives and the direction it mandates is repeated around us hundreds of times.. Every “right turn only” lane is marked with either a sign with the words “Right Turn Only”, with a sign showing a right turn arrow (meaning no left turns/no u-turns and no straight through), or with a pavement marking showing a right turn arrow (or both, a sign and a pavement marking)... Same thing with a left turn only lane... Same thing with a “ONE WAY STREET”, and though I have seen “DO NOT ENTER” signs, you do not normally see those at every block. Instead, you see a directional arrow with the words “One Way”.

    Quote Quoting Airborne
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    I believe a penal law that renders an act illegal should clearly and directly describes the conduct sought to be held illegal; the illegal conduct should not be inferred by implication (RIGHT TURN ONLY, therefore NO LEFT TURN).
    Penal law can also mandate an action and failure to follow that law means you are in violation and should be penalized!

    Did the officer ask you for proof of registration? Because you should only drive a vehicle that is properly registered and only when the appropriate fees have been paid. It is unlawful for you to drive an unregistered vehicle or one where the fees are past due! You should also ensure that you have a valid drivers license in your possession before you set out on a trek. And you should always ensure that you carry -at least- the minimum required liability insurance on your vehicle(s).... I could go on and on! But you'll have quite a few statutory amendments to make a valid point there!

    [QUOTE=Airborne;617460]Besides, one who exits a driveway does not always drive on the extreme right that is controlled by a RIGHT TURN ONLY sign; one who exits a driveway may drive on the middle of the exit (no markings) and, arguably, may not be controlled by RIGHT TURN ONLY sign./QUOTE]

    There is no particular law that dictates how or where a sign should be posted. There are, of course, the guidelines and options offered via the CA-MUTCD, he manual On Uniform Traffic Control Device, and the California supplement.

    Standard:
    This Manual describes the application of traffic control devices, but shall not be a legal
    requirement for their installation.
    Guidance:

    The decision to use a particular device at a particular location should be made on the basis of either an engineering study or the application of engineering judgment. Thus, while this Manual provides Standards, Guidance, and Options for design and application of traffic control devices, this Manual should not be considered a substitute for engineering judgment.
    Obviously, and upon erecting a sign, the assumption is made that it will be complied with by reasonable people, it needs to be posted in a position where a reasonable person is likely to have seen it and understood its intent and meaning. So for you to attempt to argue that theoretically, someone could have missed it, that someone was not paying attention to his surroundings, and when we drive, being attentive is a requirement not an option!


    Quote Quoting Airborne
    View Post
    (3) The officer wrote "NO LEFT TURN" and there is no such sign or marking, is the citation therefore defective?

    Am I correct?
    Not even close!

    Normally, and in most citations where a violation of a sign was alleged, and someone is desperate for a defense (which typically doesn't exist simply because they were caught red handed), I would suggest a “guilty with an explanation” plea... In this case though, you don't even have an explanation!

    I am going to have to agree with Free9man and flyingron that your only hope is that you may find that the sign was not erected by way of official authority and that they had no knowledge if it... This will obviously be requested via a California Public Records Act to the agency with such authority... But before you go down that -often bumpy- road, think about it, how would the entity owning or using that private property benefit from posting a regulatory traffic control sign if it had no legal basis or justification?

    Quote Quoting Airborne
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    Thank you, and Airborne, All the way.
    Really??? And yet you come here claiming that “Right Turn Only” is “ambiguous and misleading”???

    Quote Quoting Airborne
    View Post
    The officer described that the violation occurred at a major intersection (Gothard at Edinger, controlled by signals and has no NO LEFT TURN or RIGHT TURN ONLY signs; I can take pictures of it).
    I would guess that there is something like JEO or JWO (meaning "Just East Of" or "Just West Of") "intersection name"... Even if that is not the case, officers will usually write a few brief notes regarding location of violation/direction of travel/any relevant signage as well as a few more details on their copy of the citation...

    Quote Quoting Airborne
    View Post
    The ticket describes that I made a left turn from northbound of Gothard to westbound Edinger.
    \

    How does it "describe it happening that way"

    If you're looking at that little small chart they have on the citation itself... My guess is the officer used it as a way to show direction of travel but not necessarily an indication of anything intersection related.

    Feel free to redact the citation of personal information and post a copy/image of it here... That migh tbe a better way to provide an answer instead of continuing to make guesses!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Default Re: Does "Right Turn Only" Mean "No Left Turn"

    Thank you so much for the explanations.

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