My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.
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1. California law treats all intersections the same. When a person sees a stop sign, the law requires that he stop at the designated line if there is one, or before the intersection if there is not, then look to see if it is clear before proceeding. Cal. Veh. Code, Section 22450. If there is anything obstructing the intersection, even another car, which means that the driver cannot see whether it's safe to go, he's expected to sit and wait until he can see, or inch forward carefully. The Driver's Handbook gives an indication of that when discussing how to proceed through an intersection.http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/right_of_way.htm
2. Unfortunately, it is well established that ignorance of the law is not a defense to a ticket. Traffic offenses are strict liability - that means that it doesn't matter whether someone saw the stop sign or not, or intended to stop, or anything like that. So, in court, that defense won't make a difference. Even if it were allowed, a judge would tell you that, in a situation where you don't know what to do, the thing to do is to slow down as much as possible to ensure that you can proceed safely.
3. The only real defense here is that you stopped at the stop sign, looked, and that it appeared to be safe to proceed. That might help you with the insurance company, because they're assigning fault based on who they believe caused the accident. If there was no possible way to see the oncoming vehicle, and you did everything you possibly good before completing the turn, you might be able to get them to find that you were only partially liable (especially if the other car was speeding
or wasn't there when you started to make the turn). As far as a ticket goes, though, the problem is that the fact of the accident can be used as evidence. If a person is in a collision going through the turn, that shows that it wasn't safe to proceed. It's a bit of a Catch-22. That's one reason that it's so very difficult to beat most traffic tickets.
4. I apologize, but I really don't see any defenses in the facts that you've presented. Again, this is a strict liability offense. Either you saw the stop sign, stopped, and waited to proceed until the intersection was clear, or you didn't. These are minor offenses. A conviction doesn't mean that someone is a bad person, or even a bad driver. Mistakes happen. That sometimes means that there are consequences. There's a common perception out in the world that it's really easy to have traffic tickets thrown out. Everyone has a story, or knows someone who has a story. That's simply not the case. The reality is that most people who are issued traffic tickets are found guilty, because most of them broke the law, and any reason or excuse is irrelevant. During the time that I worked in traffic court, I saw less than 1% of all tickets dismissed once it got to the judge. Usually, in California, the judge will allow you to take traffic school in order to have the ticket removed from your record (if you ask for it before trial and haven't done it within the past 18 months), and that is the best option for most people who qualify. You can do traffic school online now, and you don't have to do it all in one sitting. So, keep that in mind.
There are two things you can do to try to get the ticket dismissed - 1. Hope that the police officer does not appear in court. If he's not there, the state can't prove their case, and you can request dismissal. Just be aware that this is far more rare than the internet would have you believe. The other is to question the officer to try to establish that things did not happen the way he says they did. Object to him testifying as to anything that someone else told him (that's hearsay), or demand that they produce an eyewitness. He'll testify that he looked at the intersection, and the damage to the vehicle, and used that to determine what happened. You can question him about his training and experience in accident reconstruction. You will also have the option of testifying yourself as to what happened, although you're not required to do so.
You certainly do have a right to hire an attorney to defend a ticket for you. But you should be prepared for the possibility that the lawyer will cost more than the ticket - and there's a chance that you'll have to pay the lawyer and the ticket.
The ratings you're seeing are not to rate the information being provided, which I cannot control, but the manner in which the professional responded to you. Please do not "shoot the messenger" if you do not like the information itself, because I unfortunately cannot change it. I can only tell you what the law is - I cannot make it give you the outcome you would like in all situations. I apologize that this was probably not the Answer you were hoping to receive. However, it would be unfair to you and unprofessional of me were I to provide you with anything less than truthful and honest information. I hope you understand.