A pair of Wisconsin rulings hurt motorists' ability to defend themselves
in court in the great white north. Fortunately, in sunny California these
cases are not binding.
In the first case,
Wisconsin v. Camden, Tammy Camden received a ticket for travelling 92 mph in a 55 mph zone.
Ms. Camden claimed that she was speeding to avoid a stalker. Wisconsin
does recognize a necessity defense in speeding ticket cases, and Ms. Camden
did win at the trial court level. However, the court of appeals reversed,
saying that the necessity defense only applies when a police officer makes
the person speed.
In a related case,
Dane County v. Crossfield, Jeffrey Crossfield received a ticket for travelling 50 mph in a 35 mph
zone. At trial, Mr. Crossfield presented an array of engineering and technical
data that challenged the city's finding that a 35 mph speed limit
was appropriate in that area. The trial court and appeals court were both
unimpressed; the appeals court stated that even if Mr. Crossfield's
data was correct, the city had given proper notice of the 35 mph speed limit.
Out-of-state cases are not binding authority on California courts, but
these opinions can carry persuasive authority, meaning that a California
judge may reach a similar finding in a similar case.
Fortunately, there are some favorable rules for California drivers including
that a traffic infraction must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. There
are also many rules codifying that engineering studies must be done pursuant
to certain standards to support a speed limit set under Vehicle Code 22350.
If those rules are not followed, then the radar or lidar cannot be used
to enforce the speed limit and the case would have to be thrown out.
As cities become increasingly dependent on the revenue generated by traffic
tickets, there could be more such decisions in the future as courts attempt
to limit the legal defenses to traffic tickets in Kern County. If you
receive a speeding ticket in the Central Valley, your best option is to
partner with an attorney that understands all the nuances of traffic ticket
law in California.