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54 40 or Fight

If you have read the Basic Speed Law Defense, it might not surprise you when I say that, "Probably the easiest ticket in California to beat is a ticket for 54 mph on radar in a posted 40 mph zone."

I will not cite a particlar case here. I have lost count of the number of times I have used this defense. I will just make the following observations:

  • The officer only has the following conditions upon which to base his case:
    • weather - almost guaranteed to be clear and dry if the officer is using radar.
    • visibility - at least good enough for the officer to determine that your car triggered the radar, therefore probably not an unsafe condition.
    • surface and width of the road - almost certainly not a problem at 54 mph, or the speed limit would not be posted at 40.
    • traffic on the road - if there was a car between you and the radar, the officer clocked them, not you. If there wasn't, then where's the problem?
    • endangering persons or property - I have yet to hear an officer testify as to a specific person or property endangered in a Basic Speed Law case involving radar.
  • If the officer cannot make his case using one of the points above, you can use his/her testimony to establish that you are not guilty as charged (see the Basic Speed Law Defense and 22351(b) below).
  • IMHO, most officers using radar rely so much on the technology that they don't bother to have have a fundamentally sound case to begin with.

Two recent court rulings [People v. Huffman (88 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1 , 106 Cal.Rptr.2d 820) and People v. Behjat (84 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1)] have held that:

No conviction can be sustained unless the record contains substantial evidence supporting each element of the charged offense.

These cases can seriously cut down the number of convictions based on over-reliance on technology, especially if we cite them as part of our defense.


22350. 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.

22351. (a) The speed of any vehicle upon a highway not in excess of the limits specified in Section 22352 or established as authorized in this code is lawful unless clearly proved to be in violation of the basic speed law.
(b) The speed of any vehicle upon a highway in excess of the prima facie speed limits in Section 22352 or established as authorized in this code is prima facie unlawful unless the defendant establishes by competent evidence that the speed in excess of said limits did not constitute a violation of the basic speed law at the time, place and under the conditions then existing.

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