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  1. #1
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    Sep 2014
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    Default Ticketed for Following Too Closely, CVC 21706

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: California

    Greetings,

    I was recently issued a citation for following too closely and the situation leading up to the citation was highly unusual and I believe the citation was simply issued to me as the officer was angry and frustrated and wanted to issue some sort of citation to appease his anger. Having been somewhat involved in law enforcement myself in the past, the one thing I am aware of is the need to write a narrative as soon as possible after the incident in case the issue goes to court, and this is something I did, and I signed and dated it as well. I am also aware that the courts generally rule against the plaintiff in traffic cases as they assume the officer is the expert and will not lie, however we all know this is not always the case, so I am wondering if you might provide an opinion on the chances I'd have of winning by submitting my narrative as a part of a trial by written declaration.

    The citation notes that I was traveling at 40 MPH and here is the narrative:

    I was driving in the number 3 lane in light traffic with vehicles to the left, right and behind me, traveling approximately 65 mph. I observed a California Highway Patrol cruiser enter the freeway from the right approximately 800 feet in front of me with it's emergency lights on. It began crossing back and forth across the lanes. I've seen them do this before so I know they were slowing down traffic, and I and the vehicles to the left, right and behind me followed at a distance of approximately 500 feet. I then noticed 3 or 4 vehicles exited to the right and once there was a cement median between their exit lane and the freeway, instead of exiting, they continued in the "through traffic OK" lane past us and then re-entered the freeway approximately 500 feet ahead of the patrol car. I can't speak for the officers involved, but knowing that they are trained to be aware of what is going on in a situation, I have to believe they also noticed what these vehicles did. We continued to follow the cruiser for about 1/2 mile as it continually decelerated until we were traveling less than 5 mph, at which point I saw the reason for the action, to let a Caltrans truck safely cross the freeway. We continued at 5 mph or less with the patrol cruiser maintaining the traffic break action and I saw the Caltrans vehicles proceed down the carpool lane with the rear vehicle displaying a flashing keep right indicator as they began retrieving emergency cones that had been placed between the carpool lane and number 1 lane.

    At this point I've changed to the number 4 lane and we are continuing to follow the patrol cruiser at a safe distance and traveling less than 5 mph when it then makes a right and pulls off of the freeway, over the right median and into the off/on ramp. Having seen this before as well, it is my understanding from past experience this is the indicator that it is OK to proceed, so I and the vehicles to either side of me begin to accelerate intending to continue on our way. Once I've reached a speed of approximately 10 mph, I observe the patrol cruiser jump in behind me and it turns on its lights and siren. I pull immediately into the right median to clear his path thinking he is taking off on a call. Then the patrol car passes me, uses his car to force me all the way to the right and to stop, then makes a large u-turn to the left across the lanes of oncoming traffic and stops with his vehicle across the number 3 and two lanes. The officer driving gets out of the car, and facing the cars on the freeway puts his hand up and yells at them to stop.

    At this point he then walks over to my car and I can see from the expression on his face and his mannerisms he is very emotional and angry. He begins yelling at me, asking me what I am doing. Being confused I tell him I thought his action of pulling off to the right indicated it was safe to proceed. He doesn't let me finish continues to yell at me as I am trying to answer his question, saying I am endangering the lives of everyone on the freeway and asking me didn't I know what he was doing by pulling off the freeway. I apologize and again attempt to tell him I thought his action of pulling off the freeway was an indicator it was safe to proceed as that has been my experience in the past with this sort of action, and he yells no, I was trying to prevent some vehicles from entering the freeway. I don't say anything in response but think to myself how is it possible for me to know that? He is visibly angry and continues to berate me as I once again attempt to explain my actions, and as I am doing so I look at his partner who has exited the vehicle, and he is observing what is going on with a body expression that indicated to me he was not necessarily in agreement, head bowed down slightly, standing relaxed with his shoulders forward.

    The office then asks me for my driver's license, never verbally indicates what alleged infraction I had committed, then walks back to his cruiser and spends about 5 to 8 minutes there. The entire time the officers have the freeway blocked and at some point I hear him ask his partner the number of so and so infraction. He returns, still doesn't tell me what infraction I've allegedly committed, and tells me to sign the notice to appear, and I comply without question as I wish to say nothing further to rile him up any more than he already is.

    He returns to the vehicle and he and his partner enter, he then comes over the loud speaker and tells everyone to stay 300 feet behind his cruiser when they depart if they don't want to get what I got. He then turns off his lights and proceeds down the freeway, and I and the vehicles next to me, all having been given a good scare by this officer, stay in excess of 300 feet behind him. Even though we are no longer required to remain 300 feet behind since his emergency lights are no longer flashing, nobody dares get any closer due to his threat.

    Thank you in advance for your opinion on this matter.

  2. #2
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    Mar 2013
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    Default Re: Validity of Issuance of CVC 21706

    All I can suggest is plead not guilty if you want to and get the officer's report during discovery.

    It's anybody's guess what story he'll tell.

    You might want to put an ad on Craigslist and see if you can drum up witnesses to the event and see if anybody will come to court and testify for you.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Validity of Issuance of CVC 21706

    It's the defendant that usually loses traffic cases, not the plaintiff. I'm assuming what you've written here is all true regarding my other recommendations.

    1. Get in touch with the CHP office near you and file a formal complaint against the officer involved. (Yes, I know, this will make him even more mad, and depending on how stupid he is, more likely to fight the violation.)
    2. Do an Informal Discovery Request for the normal stuff and the name of the other officer who was also present (i.e. assigned to the same unit on the same day) and the MVARS video from the patrol unit. (The appropriate supervisor will probably review the video at that point.) And, the video is likely to support your case.
    3. Request TBD.
    4. Then go to Trial de Novo and subpoena the other officer as a witness.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Validity of Issuance of CVC 21706

    Quote Quoting donzoh1
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    1. Get in touch with the CHP office near you and file a formal complaint against the officer involved. (Yes, I know, this will make him even more mad, and depending on how stupid he is, more likely to fight the violation.)
    A complaint ... for what? Giving him a cite? The manner in which he crossed the lanes? I'm not too clear on what you think he should complain about.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Validity of Issuance of CVC 21706

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
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    A complaint ... for what? Giving him a cite? The manner in which he crossed the lanes? I'm not too clear on what you think he should complain about.
    Well, assuming what the OP says it true, the officer obviously was unprofessional in his conduct. (Perhaps forgetting who pays his salary?) As a person who works for the government (federal in this case) I'm always mindful of the fact that the person I'm talking to pays my salary. If you don't understand this, then maybe you shouldn't be doing the same.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Validity of Issuance of CVC 21706

    Quote Quoting donzoh1
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    Well, assuming what the OP says it true, the officer obviously was unprofessional in his conduct. (Perhaps forgetting who pays his salary?) As a person who works for the government (federal in this case) I'm always mindful of the fact that the person I'm talking to pays my salary. If you don't understand this, then maybe you shouldn't be doing the same.
    Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm not sure what you're seeing. The OP said the officer was "emotional" and "angry" and even yelled at him. Okay, MAYBE there's a complaint there ... maybe. But, I'm probably a tad short when I'm running a traffic break on a freeway, too ...

    Yeah, he can complain, but I wouldn't expect much from it unless there is more to this or the officer has a history of angry outbursts of some kind.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Validity of Issuance of CVC 21706

    CHP will take a verbal discourtesy complaint. However, citation validity complaints are declined as they believe the courts are the best arbiters of such issues.

    The outcome of a verbal discourtesy complaint will have no bearing on the disposition of a citation. Usually the MVARS recording or the officer's own personal recording quickly resolves who was or was not discourteous.

  8. #8
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    Sep 2014
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    Default Re: Validity of Issuance of CVC 21706

    I thank everyone who has replied to this thread and yes I meant defendant not plaintiff, oops! :-)

    The bottom line is this officer wrote me a bogus ticket because the situation really required two patrol cruisers in order to be effective and he was frustrated by the fact it had failed. He was upset that the four cars got around the traffic break he was implementing by using the exit lanes that re-entered the freeway in front of the traffic break and speeding around it instead of complying with the traffic break action. Then he was more upset at the fact I and the other people in the surrounding vehicles could not read his mind and understand that when the patrol cruiser completely left the freeway, that was not actually an indication the traffic break was completed.

    So he singled me out and wrote me a ticket for an alleged infraction that if it had happened, would have happened many minutes prior and would have also included 3 other vehicles, two to the left of me and one to the right.

    I understand officers becoming upset, their jobs are stressful and they often have to deal with the dregs of society. However I wish law enforcement agencies would provide continual training to remind officers that not every member of the public they deal with is a scofflaw. Many, like me, are upstanding citizens with impeccable records who wholly support law enforcement and who may have, like me, participated in law enforcement in the past, but chose to move on to other occupations.

    I did not deserve to be issued a citation, but the officer was not thinking rationally due to his state of anger, so instead of simply listening to my explanation and understanding that yes, it was quite easy to misinterpret his actions and warning me, he chose instead to unfairly take out his morning frustrations on me.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Validity of Issuance of CVC 21706

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
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    Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm not sure what you're seeing. The OP said the officer was "emotional" and "angry" and even yelled at him. Okay, MAYBE there's a complaint there ... maybe. But, I'm probably a tad short when I'm running a traffic break on a freeway, too ...

    Yeah, he can complain, but I wouldn't expect much from it unless there is more to this or the officer has a history of angry outbursts of some kind.
    Well, the problem is that if nobody files any complaints, then the misconduct continues. And, yes, it is misconduct. My regular job is air traffic control and some of the pilots I talk to are dumber than the drivers you talk to. (Even some of the CHP pilots I talk to aren't all that smart, although most of them are above average.) I've said stupid stuff on the frequency a few times and on a rare occasion, I may even generate a complaint or one of my co-workers generates one. The thing this officer needs to understand is that at least from what the OP said, nothing was done to offend or upset the officer. And, even if there was, a certain level of professionalism is expected. Those that don't understand that shouldn't be in the business of regular contact with the general public that pays their salaries.

    There are a certain number of drivers that don't even know what a traffic break is or what it's for. Getting upset with them probably won't help the situation. If the officer pulls to the side, it's not unreasonable for drivers to think the problem is resolved and the traffic break is over.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Validity of Issuance of CVC 21706

    Savory,

    I'm not sure what your issue is with the officer. If its citation validity, the appropriate venue for resolution is the courts and bot CHP.

    If your concern is verbal discourtesy, the by all means feel free to file a complaint. You can start here http://www.chp.ca.gov/publications/ccp.html or simply by calling the CHP office the officer works out of. However, prior to doing so I would strongly suggest you make an informal discovery request in connection with your citation and ask for a copy of the officer's copy of your citation including the back side containing any notes he may have made, a copy of the MVARS recording made by the patrol car's recording system and a copy of any recording made by the officer's personal recording device if he had one.

    These are important for several reasons. First with regard to your complaint. People often recall matters differently from how they actually happened. Once you review the recordings of your contact, you may form a different opinion as to whether the officer was rude and yelling, or providing a corrective lecture, or providing a simple explanation that you just didn't like. You may find that your verbal conduct was less than exemplary as well. All this will be considered in evaluating the credibility of your complaint.

    Next, drivers do some amazingly dumb things when stopped, like admit their guilt and say they are sorry. When they go into court, plead not guilty and swear to the heavens they are innocent, the officer whips out the recording of them admitting their guilt and their credibility goes out the window. If the recording shows them copping an attitude as well, any hope for lenience with the judge is pretty well shot.

    So with this in mind, get your ducks in a row before you do anything that causes you to shoot yourself in the foot.

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