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Fighting a ticket

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Junior Member
What is the name of your state? California

I was driving in San Francisco. I was making a legal left hand turn on a green light. There was 1 car in front of me, and we were both waiting for the oncoming traffic to clear before turning. The light turned yellow, and the car in front of me quickly made his turn. However, the car to my right, seeing the light is going to turn green for him, jumped the gun, and completely cut me off before I could even turn. And everyone behind him just kept flying past me, making it impossible for me to move out of the intersection. A Motorcycle Cop approaches from my left side, and hits me with his flashing lights. I still had to wait until the traffic cleared before I could make the turn. I tried to explain to him what had happened, and he told me that if he was an actual traffic cop, then I would probably be able to talk my way out of it. But, his job was just to issue citations. (What sense does that make?!?) So, I asked him what it was that I should have done differently. He said that I should have backed up through the intersection, back to where I was before I started making the turn. Of course, this would have been totally impossible, because the traffic going from my left side was going around me from behind. Anyway, I went online to the traffic court website. And it said that if I want to plead guilty, I have to pay $195 first. If I want to plead not-guilty, I have to pay $195 first. If I want to have a jury trial, I have to pay $195 first. If I want to have my case heard by a judge, I have to pay $195 first. If I want to go to driving school, I have to pay $195 first. If I want to just submit my statement by mail, and have the Commissioner look it over, I have to pay $195 first!!!!!!!!! I don't have $195!!!!! I know that this ticket isn't fair. The cop even admitted to me that he didn't see what started the entire incident, but he said for me to just work it out in court. Don't I have any rights as a tax-paying citizen? How can the courts take away my license because I don't have $195 to give them for something I didn't even do?!? They said that not only will my license be suspended, but they'll add an additional $300 to the fine if I don't pay it before the due date. What can I do?!?


Senior Member
You may not have read the site correctly as jury trials are not offered for traffic infractions. Unless you were cited for a misdemanor offense (and what you describe is not a misdemeanor) you would be elgible only for a court trial.

The reason they may ask for the fine (or bail) up front is because if they do not, if you go to trial and lose then they have to go to the expense of trying to get it in collections. So, apparently they are making you pay the bail up front. There may be additional fines imposed if you lose ... I'm not sure. San Francisco is a different world compared to the rest of CA.

In general, you should never enter an intersection to begin a left hand turn until you are able to make the movement safely and in one motion. If a car to one side proceeded in to the intersection and started the traffic that blocked you in, I would presume that you were still in the intersection when his light turned green. In that case, you are guilty of obstructing the intersection.

What specific offense were you cited for?

- Carl


If you had the first 1" (or more) of your car over the limit line (the first line of the crosswalk) before the light turned red, you were legal. You had the right of way so you had the right to be in the intersection and complete your turn, even though the opposing traffic's light may have turned green. The ticket should have gone to the guy who violated your right of way - even if he entered without jumping the green, he had no right to proceed and interfere with you.

I believe that CDW's reference to "obstructing an intersection" is about one rare situation where you would NOT have the right to proceed. That is when the intersection is gridlocked and you are just going to add to the pile up, then you are not good to go and you would indeed be guilty of obstructing an intersection.

I am going to go beyond just saying that it is "legal" for drivers to complete their turn in that situation. It is IMPORTANT to proceed. If everyone in a congested city didn't complete those last minute turns, the capacity of the left turn lanes would go down by one car per signal cycle. Since only 2-5 cars are able to make a left during a cycle, subtracting one car from that would reduce flow by 20 - 50 %.

Along the same line, on those occasions when you are the doofus in front, it is important for you to pull into the intersection sufficiently so that the guy in back of you can get his nose over that line. That courtesy from you will make him a lot less angry at the world, and maybe he will be courteous back at you someday.

Just call me Miss (car) Manners.

I would contest the ticket. The officer is not likely to show up, in which case the ticket gets dismissed. But you will want to prepare, anyway, and for that I recommend that you go to the library and ask for the books on how to fight your ticket.


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