07-27-2005, 02:22 AM
How To Get Out of a Speeding Ticket
Very interesting and informative read. Worth the time.
This was written by Commissioner Ross Klein of the Los Angeles Superior Court, and published July 2005.
"BASIC SPEED LAW:
California Vehicle Code section 22350 states that no person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property. The court in People v. Ellis (1999) 69 Cal App 4th 1334 said that it is the responsibility of the trial court to define "speeding" for the jury. While "common parlance" would define speeding as going above the speed limit, the legal definition must incorporate the factors in section 22350, specifically, driving at a speed that is not reasonable or prudent or at such a speed that it endangers the safety of persons or property. California Jury Instruction Criminal, section 8.95, further states that a violation of the basic speed law is the commission of an act inherently dangerous to human life and safety. The instruction cautions that the rate of speed of a vehicle is not alone proof of a violation of the basic speed law.
CASE LAW INTERPRETATION:
In Hastings v. Serleto (1943) 61 Cal App 2nd 672 the minor plaintiff sued the minor driver for injuries sustained in a traffic accident. The court defined "wilful misconduct" as intentionally doing something in the operation of a motor vehicle which should not be done or intentionally failing to do something which should be done under circumstances disclosing knowledge, express or implied, that an injury to a guest will be a probable result. "The mere failure to perform a statutory duty is not alone, wilful misconduct. Speed alone, or inattention to the roadway alone, do not constitute wilful misconduct: and colliding with a car at an intersection while driving 60 miles per hour is not wilful misconduct."
People v. Malcom (1954) 124 Cal App 2nd Supp 902 was decided nine years later. The defendant was driving a car at 35 to 40 miles per hour, had run off of the road, and sheered off a tree. His brakes were never applied. The trial judge found the defendant guilty of driving his vehicle at a speed that was greater than what was reasonable. The Appellate Department of the San Bernardino Superiour Court reversed the conviction. One interpretation of the facts is that the accident and subsequent injuries were caused by the defendant's unreasonable speed. It was also equally reasonable to conclude that the accident may have been "the result of inattention, momentary distraction or drowsiness." The court concluded that when there are two or more reasonable interpreations from the evidence presented, one of which pointed to the defendant's guilt and the other to his innocence, the interpretation consistent with innocence must be accepted.
Almost 50 years later, another decision was published from San Bernardino's Appellate Department, People v. Behjat (2000) 84 Cal App 4th Supp 1. The officer in Behjat used a radar gun to obtain a reading on the defendant's car. The defendant was charged with, and was subsequently convicted of, violating Vehicle Code section 22350, California's basic speed law. The trial court's finding was reversed. The evidence showed that the defendant was driving at 59 miles per hour. Required in, and absent from, the record was "substantial evidence" that the defendant drove at a speed that was unreasonable for the driving conditions, or that any person or property was in danger of injury or damage. There was no information that the defendant's speed was unreasonable since "the record did not contain evidence on the weather, visibility, traffic volume or road conditions when the defendant was stopped." (84 Cal App 4th Supp 1, at 4)
The following month San Bernardino Superior Court's Appellate Department decided People v. Huffman (2000) 88 Cal App 4th Supp 1. An officer testified that his laser device showed the defendant driving 66 miles per hour in a maximum 50 miles per hour area. The defendant's conviction was reversed since there was no evidence of a certified traffic and engineering survey justifying the speed limit. Since it was not admitted, "an officer is incompetent to testify as to the defendant's speed." Similar to Behjat, there was not substantial evidence that the defendant drove at a speed that endangered people or property or was unreasonable for the driviing condidtions. If the violation was based on exceeding a posted speed limit and was detected by the use of a radar or laser device, the prosecution must also admit a certified copy of the speed survey. The burden then shifts to the defendant to prove that his speed was safe based on the totality of the road, weather and driving conditions.
When a radar or laser device is used to obtain the defendant's speed, evidence must be presented so that the trial court can make findings that:
1) A traffic and engineering survey has been conducted within the time limits noted in Vehicle Code section 40802, subsections (a)(2) or (c)(2);
2) The defendant drove at a speed that endangered people or property or was unreasonable for the driving conditions, and
3) The speed limit is justified by the facts stated in the survey and is based on sufficient lawful reasons."