A moving violation is a violation of the law that occurs in any moving vehicle. The most common violation is speeding. However, others topping the list include:
- Careless driving
- Reckless driving
- Illegal turns
- Following a vehicle too close by tailgating
- Improper lane changes or improperly passing another vehicle
- Failure to stop at a crosswalk to allow pedestrians to cross
- Failing to stop for a school bus while children are boarding or exiting the bus
- Failure to yield to another vehicle that has the right-of-way
- Failing to stop for a red traffic light or stop sign
- Driving too slowly, especially if you are driving in the far left-hand lane
- Driving in a high occupancy vehicle lane or carpool lane with a single occupant
- Driving under the influence
- Hit and run
Some violations may result in a fine, yet the more serious offenses can include loss of your driver’s license, an order to complete community service, or a rehabilitation program, and in extreme cases jail time may be ordered.
There are as many arguments that can be used as defense in court as there are moving violations, if not more. Below are some common defenses that, if argued effectively, can be used to get a ticket reduced or dismissed.
Not Stopping at Stop Signs or Red Lights
All states have traffic laws that require drivers to obey all traffic signals and stops signs when operating a vehicle. Drivers may make a right turn at an intersection on a red light if there is no sign prohibiting “right on red” and if it is safe to do so under the circumstances. Some states allow a left turn on a red light when the driver is turning left from a one-way street onto another one-way street and the conditions are safe.
Most traffic stop sign laws state that the driver must make a complete stop at the stop line. If there is no stop line, they must stop before entering the crosswalk to heed pedestrian right of way. If there is no crosswalk visible, they should stop before entering the intersection. A motorist is required to yield at the right-of-way line to pedestrians and approaching traffic. If it is a four-way stop sign, the driver must wait their turn. If the stop sign is a hand-held right of way sign, they are to stop until an authorized person, such as a school guard or construction zone flagger signals that it is safe to proceed.
In the vehicle code of most states, a driver cannot be issued a citation for running a red light if the light was yellow and the front of the vehicle entered the intersection before the light turned red.
Stop Sign Defense Arguments
The rules of the road stipulate that the driver must come to a complete stop, and look carefully in both directions before proceeding. Once it is safe from pedestrians and other traffic, the motorist can continue on his or her way.
Stopped Further Back
A driver approaching an intersection marked with a stop sign must bring his or her vehicle to a complete stop within five feet of the nearest crosswalk or stop line. However, some drivers stop farther back from the white marker line or crosswalk. An officer down a side street may not be able to see whether the driver stopped or not and issue a citation to the driver for not stopping.
The only time an officer has a good view is when he is sitting directly to the side of and close to the intersection. Cross-examine the officer as to exactly where he was. Ask whether other cars obscured his view.
If the officer was sitting at a street intersecting the street you were traveling on, you could make a valid defense that you came to a complete stop a couple of feet before the white marker line on the road. As a result, the officer did not see you stop exactly at the white marker line, which made it appear as if you didn’t stop.
Stop Sign Obscured From View
If a stop sign is obstructed by storm-blown branches, or twisted the wrong way by kids, or obscured for any reason, mount a defense through photographic evidence. Go back to the location of the violation and start taking pictures. Photos taken from different angles or distances are more convincing than oral testimony. If a stop sign is hidden from view by overhanging branches, take pictures from inside your vehicle. With another person at the wheel, take pictures as the car approaches the sign. Take several shots from a variety of distances. These pictures may reveal that the sign was obscured and the judge may dismiss your case.
Newly Installed Sign
If you receive a ticket for running a newly installed stop sign, you may use the “mistake of fact” defense. Even if you technically violated a statute, you can base your defense on the argument that your conduct was based on a legitimate mistake. If you fail to stop at an intersection that has a newly installed stop sign where there was not one before, the court will understand that you made an honest mistake in not stopping.
If you can show that you made an honest and reasonable error, a judge might find that you made a mistake of fact.
The Line Was Faded Beyond Visibility
Crosswalks and limit lines fade over time. If you are ticketed at a stop sign for stopping a little too far into an intersection, you may get your case dismissed if you can prove that these lines were too faded to see clearly. The best way to do this is by taking pictures of the intersection where the violation occurred. A wet road can also obscure the limit lines, so be sure to take pictures in the same weather conditions as those when your violation occurred.
Red Light Defense Arguments
Officer’s View Was Obstructed
Was the arresting officer in a position to accurately see the traffic signal change? Go back to the scene where the violation occurred and see if the traffic light was visible from the officer’s perspective. If not, take pictures and bring them to court. If the officer was behind you, it’s possible that from his angle he couldn’t see exactly where the front of your vehicle was at the time the signal turned red.
Another defense may be that a large vehicle in front of you blocked your view of the signal. Tell the judge that it was too late to stop since your car had already entered the intersection and you had no choice but to proceed cautiously through the intersection. This often happens a lot with individuals in smaller cars.
Red Light Cameras
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers running red lights cause 22 percent of all traffic accidents in the United States. Each year, these accidents kill several hundred people and cost nearly $7 billion in property damage, medical bills, higher insurance premiums and lost productivity. In an effort to curb this trend, more cities are installing red-light cameras. If a camera catches you speeding through the intersection, you can expect to receive a speeding ticket amount along with a photograph of the violation to arrive in your mail.
There are two types of evidence obtained by the red light cameras. First, a series of still speeding ticket photo are taken. This shows the license plate of the car and the occupants of the vehicle. Second, a 12-second video is taken. This is taken approximately 6 seconds before and 6 seconds after running the red light. To fully document the violation, the computer also captures the date, the time, the intersection location, the speed of the car, and the elapsed time between then the light turned red and the car entered the intersection.
In a typical system, cameras are positioned at the corners of an intersection mounted on poles, several yards high. They can photograph cars going in different directions and obtain pictures from a variety of angles.
Tickets issued by red light cameras can be fought by asserting your rights. Every defendant has a constitutional right to questions their accuser. The court will rarely go through the trouble of bringing the video or picture to court. Even if they do, there is no human subject to question other than the officer who viewed it. Any testimony given by the office can be construed as “hearsay” which is not admissible in court. Most people won’t go to the trouble of fighting their violation and that is the exact reason most cities are making millions of dollars on revenues using red light cameras. As cameras are becoming more commonly used, their legality is being debated in courtrooms.
Most traffic citations can be overcome by taking the time to do a little research. It’s well worth the effort in order to keep a moving violation off your record and keep your insurance rates from increasing.
In many cases, it’s possible to challenge the police officer’s view of the events. This often happens when the officer issues the citation based on a subjective judgment. If you get a ticket for making an unsafe left turn, you may argue that your actions were safe and responsible, considering the prevailing traffic conditions. To do this successfully, you should point to facts that will show that the officer was not in a good location to accurately view what happened. You may need to draw a diagram detailing the scene and where your vehicle was and the officer’s vehicle at the time of the event.
1. Turns Prohibited by Signs and Lanes
The traffic laws generally forbid prohibited turns when special notice is given by a sign or a clearly marked traffic lane, in addition to a traffic signal. There must be a clearly visible sign absolutely prohibiting the turn, otherwise you cannot be cited for such an offense
2. Illegal U-Turns
Most states have the same traffic code regarding U-turns. They basically state that no person shall make a U-turn when any other vehicle is approaching from either direction within 200 feet, except at an intersection when the approaching vehicle is controlled by an official traffic control device.
First off, did you really make a U-turn? Pulling into a parking lot or driveway and then going in the opposite direction is not a U-turn. Most traffic statutes say that a U-turn may be made on any road where the turn can be made with safety, unless an official traffic control device indicates that a U-turn is prohibited by law.
Right of Way Violation
A driver approaching an intersection must yield the right of way to traffic already in the intersection. If drivers approaching from opposite directions reach an intersection at about the same time, a driver turning left must yield to approaching traffic going straight or turning right.
At intersections not controlled by signs or signals, or where two or more drivers stop at stop signs at the same time and they are at right angles to one another, the driver on the left must yield the right of way to the driver on the right.
A vehicle entering a roadway from a driveway, alley, private road or any other place that is not a roadway, must stop and yield the right of way to traffic on the roadway, and to pedestrians.
A driver entering a traffic circle, or rotary, must yield the right of way to drivers already in the circle.
Special considerations for the right of way should be given to emergency vehicles. When approached (from the front or rear) by an emergency whose lights and siren are activated, the driver of every other vehicle must yield the right of way. Yu must drive immediately to the right hand edge or curb of the roadway, parallel to the roadway, and clear of any intersection. You must stop and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle or vehicles have passed, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
Drivers should use the “two second rule”. This entails choosing an object near or above the road ahead. As the vehicle ahead passed it, count slowly, “one thousand one, one thousand two”. If you reach the object before you finish counting, you are following too closely. In bad weather, increase the count to three or four seconds.
Improper Passing and Lane Changes
The rules of the road are to pass on the left until safely clean of the vehicle being passed. The driver being passed must stay to the right and not increase their speed. When passing on a two-way road, in an area, which is a designated as a passing area, you must be able to return to the driving lane before coming within 200 feet of an approaching vehicle. If you can’t do this, then you don’t have enough room to pass safely. You should not change lanes until you have made sure you can do so safely.
Driving Too Slowly
If you are driving on a multi-lane road and find that many cars are passing you on the right, you should move into the right lane and allow traffic to pass you on the left. The law states that any vehicle which is going slower than the normal speed of traffic must be driven in the right-hand lane or at the right hand side of the road, unless it is passing traffic moving in the same direction or preparing for a left turn.
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