Articles Posted in Traffic Violations

If you are driving along San Diego’s highways, you are familiar with the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. These lanes are commonly referred to as carpool lanes or diamond lanes. The purpose of these lanes is to minimize traffic congestion and encourage ridesharing to reduce the rider capacity on San Diego roads.  With the benefit of these lanes, comes rules and regulations. The misuse of these lanes results in traffic violations, meaning punishments such as tickets, fines, and court fees. 

According to a recent NBC News San Diego report, HOV lane violations have tripled over the last three years. For example, in San Diego County alone, there were 4,547 HOV traffic violations in 2017.  

California Law on HOV Lanes

A portion of California Vehicle Code Section 21655.5 (b) states:

A person shall not drive a vehicle upon those lanes except in conformity with the instructions imparted by the official traffic control devices. A motorcycle, a mass transit vehicle, a blood transport vehicle that is clearly and identifiably marked as such on all sides of the vehicle, or a paratransit vehicle that is clearly and identifiably marked on all sides of the vehicle with the name of the paratransit provider may be operated upon those exclusive or preferential use lanes unless specifically prohibited by a traffic control device.

Can Everyone Use the HOV Lane in San Diego?

Unfortunately, no. According to Caltrans, San Diego reserves HOV lanes during operational hours for the following:

  • Motorcycles
  • Mass Transits (buses)
  • Vehicles with two or more occupants
  • Certain plug-in hybrid, alternative fuel and clean air vehicles (must have red decal issued by DMV)

In San Diego, I-5 San Ysidro requires three or more persons per vehicle.

Who is an Occupant?

Please keep in mind that Caltrans identifies an occupant as any person who occupies a safety restraint device such as a seatbelt. This means that if a dog rides in your vehicle, you will not be able to use the HOV lane.

Other situations where drivers cannot use the HOV lane include the recent ABC News article where a Nevada hearse driver was pulled over for traveling in the HOV lane carrying a body. The driver believed that the body would count as two people. And, a report where Brea Police caught a driver using a mannequin to drive in the HOV lane a few years ago.

HOV Traffic Violation Punishments

If you violate the California Vehicle Code by driving illegally in the HOV or carpool lane, the violation can be costly. You may receive a traffic ticket and face the following punishments:

  • Fines – minimum of $490
  • Points on your driver’s license
  • Increase in car insurance premiums

If you are a repeat offender, the fines could be much higher.

Let a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Help with Your HOV Traffic Ticket

While there is no obligation to hire a criminal defense attorney to help with your ticket, if you receive a ticket for an HOV violation, you should discuss your case with an attorney and discover your options. An attorney may be able to help get your ticket dismissed, get the fines reduced, or make it possible for you to do community service or traffic school in order as an alternative. Continue reading

According to California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the over four million traffic tickets handed out to the state’s drivers each year should no longer be criminal charges. If other lawmakers agree with her, California drivers would spend less time in court and would no longer face fines of up to $300 and possible license suspensions for failing to show up for a hearing.

A panel called the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System has recommended this traffic ticket proposal in an attempt to improve Californian’s interactions with the judicial system. Ms. Cantil-Sakauye wants the Judicial Council to study and report on the proposals by September in the Fall.

The traffic proposals are the latest response to the slew of driver suspensions brought on indirectly by the court system’s financial deficits. California courts have been padding their budgets by adding surcharges to traffic tickets — $490 to the standard $100 fine for a minor violation. When drivers miss payment deadlines, they face additional penalties and license suspensions. A statewide report in 2015 found that 4.2 million Californians had their licenses suspended between 2006 and 2013 for failing to pay traffic fines and penalties. Poor people were hit the hardest.

Under this proposal, traffic infractions would be moved to the civil court system. If a driver fails to show up in court, the judge can decide whether the law had been violated, but he or she could no longer impose a fine of up to $300 for nonappearance or suspend the driver’s license.  However, the proposal would not eliminate license suspensions for failing to pay fines and penalties for the original offense. The proposal would need to be approved by the state legislature and the governor.

State senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) has a new bill, SB185, that would prevent the state from automatically suspending licenses of drivers unable to pay fines for minor traffic tickets and would require courts to base fines on drivers’ ability to pay

Legal Implications

By switching out of the criminal law system into a civil one, it is now easier for the state to prove a violation. For criminal cases, prosecutors have to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  The switch to a civil system means prosecutors only need to prove guilt by a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning that over 50% of the evidence points to the defendant’s guilt. Continue reading