Hi everybody, I'd appreciate any help that you could give me. I'll give the short version, and a longer version that has some details that might affect the advice you have for me. The specific questions that I have are at the end.
Short version: I was pulled over for running a stop sign (vehicle codes 21802 and 22450 deal with stopping at stop signs and yielding to oncoming traffic), but the officer wrote me up for vehicle code 22350, which just says that you can't drive faster than what's prudent for the conditions. He didn't say a single word about the speed limit, nor did he say anything about my speed. All he wrote on my ticket was "22350 (A) - stop sign," and the courtesy notice I got in the mail says 22350.
Long version: I was making a right turn at a T-intersection at night. After judging that the car coming from my left was far enough away for me to make the turn, I pulled out and that's when the car, which happened to be the officer, flashed his lights.
I pulled over, and he asked me if I knew why he pulled me over. I told him I didn't, and then he asked me if I had seen the stop sign. I also told him that I didn't. He then asked me if I had had anything to drink that night. I told him the truth, that I had had a few beers with dinner (around 6:30 PM), but that I hadn't had anything to drink since 8 PM. It was past midnight when he pulled me over.
He then started telling me that I "reeked" of alcohol and said "you do know that if I give you a breathalyzer and you fail, you're going to spend the night in jail." I told him that I understood, expecting to have to do a field sobriety test and breathalyzer. He then walked back to run my license and registration.
He came back 5 minutes later, without a breathalyzer, but with his ticket pad, ready for me to sign. I signed it, and then he told me to park my car and walk back to my friend's apartment, which I did.
So that's the story. I'm weighing the option of contesting the ticket via trial by declaration, since I don't live in San Diego County. The questions I have are these:
1. Do I have any chance at getting the ticket dismissed if I contest it?
2. If I dispute the ticket for citing the wrong vehicle code, can the officer or judge just change the charge to a more expensive speeding ticket (he never mentioned speed to me) or simply say that he accidentally wrote 22350, which doesn't have any subsections, instead of the more appropriate 22450, which has subsections a-c? He wrote "22350 (A) - stop sign" on the ticket.
3. How detailed are the notes that police take during each traffic stop? Will he have written down that he smelled alcohol on me, and how likely is it that he would bring it up?
4. If he did bring it up, how damning would that be for me, and could the judge tack on a DUI or DWI charge without any proof other than the officer's statement that he smelled alcohol? Is the fact that he didn't give me a breathalyzer test important, considering that I "reeked" of alcohol? I ask this because if the smell was really as strong as he claims, shouldn't he at least have given me a field sobriety test or made me take the breathalyzer? I felt like all the posturing about arresting me for a DUI was to intimidate me to just accept the lesser infraction of the stop sign.
5. Would the fact that I said I didn't see the stop sign because I was looking at my phone for directions pretty much convince a judge that I was guilty, and would he have written that down in his notes? The reason I ask is that it is entirely possible to not see a stop sign but still come to a stop, especially at something like a T-intersection when other cars are coming.
6. I've heard people around here talking about motions for discovery to see what notes the officer took about the traffic stop. How would I go about doing that in California? Can I do that before I file for a trial by declaration, or do I do that at the same time/after?
7. How definitively can he say I didn't come to a complete stop when it was a T-intersection and he was a couple hundred feet away, driving toward me at a 90 degree angle at night?
8. Lastly, if I lose the trial by declaration, can I still erase the point by taking traffic school? I've read conflicting opinions here, with some people saying it's your right, some people saying you lose that right, and some people saying it's up to the judge.
Anyway, that's my situation. My court date is March 28th, so I really appreciate any advice you all might have.