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  1. #1
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    Default Defending Unsafe Lane Change at Court Trial

    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:
    "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."
    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 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.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    Default Re: Defending Unsafe Lane Change at Court Trial

    I can't follow your first bullet point at all. Frankly if the officer says he saw you in the mirror, then that will be assumed to be the truth. You'd have to have some pretty compelling evidence that the motorcycle mirrors are so restrictive that he couldn't spot you where he said you were.

    Your entire second statement isn't even meaningful. If you want to say you weren't driving at 20MPH state so, if you want to say you moved under certain conditions, then state so. To state that you'd be a "madman" for making the manouver as described just affirms the estimation that you are unsafe.

    If you really have a GPS record of your path, that is perhaps a more persuasive piece of evidence than anything that comes out of your mouth. You're not going to be held a reliable observer where as the officer will be.

  3. #3
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    Thumbs up Re: Defending Unsafe Lane Change at Court Trial

    Epilogue: case dismissed at trial, though on a technicality. Trial De Novo has to be scheduled within 45 days of request per CA Court Rules 4.210(b)7. Mine was over that, pointed that out to the judge in a verbal motion before trial began. I was about halfway through cross-examining the officer when the judge interrupted and dismissed the case.

    Yes, I'm aware that the very next Rule 4.210(c) says the court can "extend" any deadlines without having to give a reason, and also of the Behnoor precedent. This just goes to show that it never hurts to try!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Defending Unsafe Lane Change at Court Trial

    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
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    Epilogue: case dismissed at trial, though on a technicality. Trial De Novo has to be scheduled within 45 days of request per CA Court Rules 4.210(b)7. Mine was over that, pointed that out to the judge in a verbal motion before trial began. I was about halfway through cross-examining the officer when the judge interrupted and dismissed the case.

    Yes, I'm aware that the very next Rule 4.210(c) says the court can "extend" any deadlines without having to give a reason, and also of the Behnoor precedent. This just goes to show that it never hurts to try!
    Thanks for the update! I don't know how long this will last, but the 45 day rule for trials de novo is shaping up to be a viable defense to a LOT of tickets where a TDN is scheduled outside of the 45day limit. I was going to motion to dismiss my recent ticket from December (got it on the way back from traffic court lol), but the officer didn't show up. Score another one for the good guys, I say.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Defending Unsafe Lane Change at Court Trial

    Quote Quoting HonkingAntelope
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    Thanks for the update! I don't know how long this will last, but the 45 day rule for trials de novo is shaping up to be a viable defense to a LOT of tickets where a TDN is scheduled outside of the 45day limit. I was going to motion to dismiss my recent ticket from December (got it on the way back from traffic court lol), but the officer didn't show up. Score another one for the good guys, I say.
    Well, I was pretty pessimistic given the opinions I saw on here plus the lack of updates about actual successes. I was also apprehensive about doing it verbally before the trial (I wanted to do a written one but I was told in early August that the motion calendar was backlogged until early September, so it wouldn't be heard until then; best case, it would be heard ON the day of the trial). The judge was surprisingly cool about it, didn't even want an explanation about why it wasn't written, and "took it under submission" while the trial began. He then checked out the rule(s) as well as the specific dates/deadlines of my case on his laptop before he dismissed it.

    I think it all depends on how many such motions the specific judge (or Superior Court) has seen. You can bet that if/when it's frequent, they will start denying them based on Behnoor.

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