My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: California.
I was unlucky enough to change lanes in front of a motorcycle CHP on a local road and was cited for 21658(a): unsafe lane change. Pretty much a ticket-by-cop. Did a TBD and lost, court trial is coming up next week. The best way to describe the situation is with the below diagram/map and the officers TBD declaration, which I presume is pretty much how his testimony will go. A larger version of the diagram is here.
The essence of the cop's declaration is:In the figure, the blue dot is the CHP, the green is the vehicle he says was in front of him, and the red dot and line are my approximate path based on my GPS track log (still trying to figure out how to get that info directly into Google Maps). The length of the dedicated left turn lanes (solid white line) is about 180 feet."I was traveling at approx. 10 mph at the beginning of the L2 left turn lane of XX Ave, preparing to turn left on to highway XX. There was approx. 50 ft between myself and the vehicle in front of me, which was traveling at approx 5 mph. Traffic in the L1 left turn lane was full and backed up into the #1 through lane of XX Ave. A [vehicle] came from my right in the #2 lane across the #1 lane and into the L2 left turn lane at approx 20 mph. I had to brake abruptly to avoid being struck by the [vehicle]. The [vehicle] came within 2-3 feet from colliding with the right front of my motorcycle."
I was unfamiliar with that turn onto the on-ramp and the signs were confusing. I did change first into the #1 lane (no traffic there), checked that the vehicle ("a" motorcycle-darn!) in the next lane was far enough behind, signaled, changed into the L2 lane and continued into the left turn (on to an on-ramp). The vehicle in front of me (the "5 mph" one mentioned) was already into the turn when I entered the L2 lane. Both the straight-through and left-turn signals were green all this time. I know I crossed a solid white line, but there's nothing about them in the vehicle code and according to the Caltrans manual, their purpose is to "discourage" crossing. I'm sure the cop was just pissed when he thought he was being cutoff, but I believe there was nothing unsafe about that lane change.
I've attended a session of the judge who is going to be presiding and he seems eminently fair-minded and patient while defendants try to make their case. So far my strategy is to show:
- Since the cop saw me start crossing over from one lane over (not the adjacent one), I was in my original lane (#2) at his point of perception. He couldn't have seen me in his rearview mirror and he probably wasn't looking behind for no reason. The blue (cop) and red (me) circles in the figure illustrate this point.
- Given the scenario and vehicle speeds the officer describes (him at 10 mph and me at 20 mph), there is no way I would have entered his lane right in front of him even if I began crossing right after he saw me AND cut across the lane separating us as he states (unless I was driving like a madman, which I wasn't at 20 mph!)
- Finally use the GPS overlay to show that I did NOT simply cut across an entire lane.
I'm looking for more ideas or holes in my strategy; ideas on presentation are welcome as well. I am thinking of using some of the questions in "Fight Your Ticket" to try to raise doubts about the officer's memory/powers of perception in general.