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Speed Trap Defense
Unjustified Limit

A Seal Beach radar cop clocked me at 60 mph coming over the Anaheim Bay Bridge on Pacific Coast Highway. Of course he wrote me a ticket, and he cited me with violation of CVC 22349, exceeding the (at that time) maximum limit of 55 mph.

I knew I had a problem, but a friend's husband suggested that I check the survey. When I found out that he sat as a Pro Tem in the very court I had to go to for my ticket, I decided to follow up on his hint.

The city had a survey conducted by CalTrans, and done within the time frame allowed (five years prior to the date of the alleged offense). I doubted that my friend's husband had sent me on a wild goose chase, so I did a little more looking.

Researching the Speed Trap section (40802(b) at that time, now 40802(a)(2) see below), I found that in a recent ruling (People v. Goulet, 13 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1), the court had held that in order to use radar without creating a speed trap, speed limits must be set in compliance with the CalTrans Traffic Manual, section 8-03.3, subdivision B.2.b. This says that speed limits should normally be set at the first five mile per hour increment below the 85th percentile speed, with a further five mile per hour reduction only if there are unusual conditions not readily apparent to drivers, and if those conditions do exist, they should be documented on the speed zone survey or the engineering report.

Armed with this information, I reread the survey and discovered that the section of highway in question had a critical speed (i.e., 85th percentile) of 59 mph, with nothing to justify the lowering of the speed limit to 50.

When I presented this as my defense, Judge Pro Tem Kenneth Slimmer ruled that the speed trap law did not apply since I was contesting a charge of 22349, not 22350.

The Superior court held (on Appeal) that the speed trap laws did apply because the limit posted was a prima face limit and not the maximum limit. They further held that the survey did not justify the 50 mph limit, and reversed the lower court.


40802. (a) A "speed trap" is either of the following:
(1) A particular section of a highway measured as to distance and with boundaries marked, designated, or otherwise determined in order that the speed of a vehicle may be calculated by securing the time it takes the vehicle to travel the known distance.
(2) A particular section of a highway with a prima facie speed limit that is provided by this code or by local ordinance under subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 22352, or established under Section 22354, 22357, 22358, or 22358.3, if that prima facie speed limit is not justified by an engineering and traffic survey conducted within five years prior to the date of the alleged violation, and enforcement of the speed limit involves the use of radar or any other electronic device that measures the speed of moving objects. This paragraph does not apply to a local street, road, or school zone.

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