I got my first ticket in Pomona on June 23 for disobeying sign R60B (CA) in the California MUTCD and continuing straight through the intersection where the sign was posted. This is my first ticket in 6 years of driving and I am eligible for traffic school if I decide to plead guilty. I think that I have an argument to get my ticket dismissed, but I wanted to get some input on if I am correct or if I should just pay the fine and go to traffic school.
The sign was posted over the middle lane of a three lane freeway exit on Rio Rancho Rd in Pomona. Being in the middle lane and seeing that there was a clear path back to the freeway by going straight, I thought that it would legal to do so since there was no sign or obstacle that would indicate otherwise. Here is how the sign looks:
After crossing the intersection I (along with a few other cars) were all stopped and given tickets for disobeying the sign. There were either 2 or 3 officers present so that they could give everyone their tickets since a lot of people made the same mistake that I did. The first question I have is whether I could ask all of the officers who were involved in ticketing the cars to attend my trial even if I do not know all of their names. I can not remember if it was the same officer that stopped me who gave me the ticket, so I would assume it is a fair request.
I think that I have a valid argument based on what I read in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is directly referenced in the vehicle code the officer wrote. In section 2B.21 standard 09 of the manual the sign I disobeyed is defined as an “optional movement lane control” sign. This is important because standard 04 in the same section states that “The Optional Movement Lane Control sign shall not be used alone to effect a turn prohibition.”, which I interpret as meaning that they should have had some kind of sign prohibiting people from going straight at the intersection. Is this actually correct or am I mistaken?
Bringing up the MUTCD is a great idea for a defense. I don’t know why you wouldn’t FIRST try this argument in a Trial by Written Declaration, where you can quote from the California Vehicle Code and from the MUTCD. I would use some argument based around this:
CVC 21461(a) states: ”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.”
The text of 21461(a) indicates that this code only applies to regulatory signs as defined in the federal MUTCD. For the court to even consider the officer’s claims, he should provide proof that this is a regulatory sign that must be obeyed and not an optional movement lane control.
That argument, along with your photo(s), should make a good declaration.
Furthermore, you could try using the cops’ behavior against them. You can bring up the fact that many many other drivers drove straight through this intersection and that the officers fell on them like dolphins on school of sardines. The officers apparently believe that this is not enough of a safety concern that traffic engineers needed to be notified in order to make the signage more clear, but they also recognized the confusing nature of the sign well enough to take advantage of the constant stream of people who believed that the sign was, in fact, a sign indicating optional movement lane control, and drove as such.
Directions for how to do a Trial by Written Declaration are on the Ticket Assassin site. Access requires basic registration. The guides are free (sort of) but if you want specific examples, then they want a $25 contribution. My two paragraphs came from one of their declarations examples.
I think it’s a GREAT idea to file for discovery to get the name of the officer who actually saw you drive through the intersection and signaled for you to pull over. If you lose at the Trial by Written Declaration stage, in your in-person court trial, if both the arresting officer (the one whose name is on your citation) AND the officer who saw your alleged lawbreaking are not in court, you can ask for a dismissal on those grounds even before you start reading your declaration. Filing for discovery is explained here.