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When Are Unmarked Cars Legal In California?

Two major STEP campaigns in two months is ample evidence that officers in Delano and Ridgecrest are getting more aggressive. But how far is too far?

VC 40800(a) says that an officer who issues a citation for a Division 10 or 11 infraction (where nearly all the moving violations are located) must “wear a full distinctive uniform” and must be driving a vehicle that is “painted a distinctive color specified by the commissioner.” So, if the CHP officer was in an unmarked car, the judge will throw out the ticket, right?

Maybe and maybe not. The first part of the statute states that, for the unmarked car provision to apply, the officer must be “on duty for the exclusive or main purpose of enforcing” traffic laws. So, if the issuing officer was a detective who happened to see a speeding vehicle, the ticket is probably valid.

Defenses to Speeding Tickets

The so-called “duck defense” may come into play here. If it quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, it’s a duck. If the officer’s main purpose at that time was to look for speeders or cell phone violators or whatever, the statute applies and, under a provision of the speed trap law, the traffic ticket must be thrown out.

The speed trap law is another defense. Assume Officer A radios ahead to Officer B and tells B to “keep an eye out” for a Ferrari sports car. If A writes the Ferrari driver a speeding ticket based solely on the amount of time it took the sports car to cover the distance between A and B, the ticket is invalid under VC 40804.

Getting Legal Help

The aggressive attorneys at Bigger & Harman, APC, are committed to giving individuals a voice when dealing with speeding and traffic tickets. Call today at 661-349-9300 or email attorney@markbigger.com to receive the personal professional attention you deserve. En español, llame al 661-349-9755.