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Breaking Down a Stop Sign Ticket

One of the most common traffic offenses is failing to stop at a stop sign, red light or anywhere else a stop is required. California Vehicle Code Section 22450 requires a motorist to stop at the stop line before proceeding through the intersection.

Penalty

Simply running a stop sign carries a $35 fine and a total cost (when including court costs and penalty assessments) of $234. If the motorist did not stop at a railroad crossing or at railroad tracks, the penalty is $100/$480. If the motorist did not stop for a school bus, the penalty is $150/$680.

What the prosecutor must prove

Simply stated, the state must prove that you did not stop when you were supposed to stop. It is difficult to refute the latter element, unless the stop sign was completely concealed behind a tree, had been knocked over in an accident, or there was another mistake of fact. The first element, making a complete stop, is a very different matter.

Defenses

The law says that the car must stop, but the law does not say how long the car must stop. It is a myth that a vehicle must stop for a half-second or one second or whatever. If the wheels stop turning, even for an instant, the vehicle has made a legal stop.

Recently, a physics professor beat a Section 22450 ticket by showing the judge a four-page paper. His point was that the officer did not see the vehicle stop, due to the officer's angle of observation and the very brief stop. That defense is available in many other situations.

The prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and an attorney practicing in Bakersfield can often create reasonable doubt by questioning the officer's testimony.

If nothing else, many Kern County courts are willing to reduce the fine and/or the points in order to avoid a trial or if a good arguments exist to reduce the penalty.