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I was pulled over last night at 1231am by a police officer.

He cited me for a...
I was pulled over last night at 1231am by a police officer. He cited me for a stop sign violation 22450 (?) VC & a VC 23111 for having a lit cigarette in my car. He asked why I was ashing out my car window. He also stated that I was littering by doing so.I was driving in my neighborhood when this happened. He followed me for 3 stop lights. The road was clear. I did notice a lot of patrol cars were out because of St. Patrick’s Day. I felt like he was one of the many officers trying to bust someone for a DUI.I don’t drink, so this is a bummer that this all happened.I felt like I didn’t do anything wrong. This was the first time of hearing about VC 23111 too.
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Answered in 6 hours by:
3/19/2018
Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Traffic Law
Satisfied Customers: 32,264
Experience: Lawyer. Former judicial law clerk. Worked for District Attorney's Office in Traffic Court.
Verified

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

There is no particular law that prevents a police officer from driving behind someone and then pulling them over if you see a violation. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove that he was intentionally following you and not simply traveling in the same direction as you or patrolling the area. And even if you could prove it, it wouldn't make a difference. They're allowed to drive behind people. So the first question is whether you actually did come to a complete stop at the stop sign. If you did, you have a right to plead not guilty, request a trial, and dispute the citation. To win at trial, you'll have to create reasonable doubt as to whether you came to a complete stop at the stop sign.

The cigarette ticket is more serious. Because of California's long-time droughts, police want to strongly discourage people from throwing lit cigarettes out of their car. It's also a safety hazard, because the cigarette could fly into the open window of another vehicle. (I know that sounds ridiculous, but I have personally seen it happen.) Not being aware of the statute unfortunately isn't a defense to violating any law. I mention this because the penalties are actually pretty severe. You could be looking at a fine of over $1,000 including the court assessments, which tend to be high in areas near Los Angeles. They'll also sentence you to 8 hours of trash pickup by the side of the road. The courts don't allow any other type of community service to be substituted in this scenario, and those penalties tend to be non-negotiable when someone is found guilty.

Here is the language of the statute:

"No person in any vehicle and no pedestrian shall throw or discharge from or upon any road or highway or adjoining area, public or private, any lighted or non-lighted cigarette, cigar, match, or any flaming or glowing substance. This section shall be known as the Paul Buzzo Act."

The best defense here may be that ash is not a "flaming or glowing substance." Ash is also not a cigarette, cigar, or match. It's ash. You can try to persuade them to drop the ticket based on that. Or you could see if they would drop the charge to a basic littering infraction to get a lower penalty. Or you could ask if they would drop the charge outright as long as you plead to the stop sign violation (again, if you really didn't come to a complete stop - I don't know if that's what happened).

Another option for the stop sign ticket may be traffic school. If you haven't been to traffic school in the last 18 months, you could pay the ticket in full and take a class to avoid the points in your record. The state has courses that may be completed online, in your own time, which tends to make it easier for some people. Courts also typically let people make payments in installments, if that's easier. Alternatively, you could see if they would be willing to simply reduce the fine for the stop sign ticket, but you'll still get points on your record that way.

It's possible that a local attorney might be able to help. Just be aware that traffic attorneys get paid upfront, and they can't guarantee results. Meaning that if you hire someone to help with the ticket, and you're still found guilty, you'd be paying for the lawyer on top of the fines and assessments. It still might help to make some calls to see what lawyers in your area would charge for something like this.

Have I answered your question? If any part of my response is unclear, please reply WITHOUT rating so I can clarify. My goal is to provide excellent service, so if I've done that, please give me a 5-star rating before signing out. Thank you for using JustAnswer.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Thank you for your answer Lucy.I remember not stopping behind the stop sign line. I made a quick stop over the line.I was just ashing my cigarette out of my car. When I was pulled over, I still had the lit cigarette in hand. I put it out in a water filled water bottle, as I normally do, due to lack of an ash tray, and w/ the recent events of the Thomas Fire in Ventura County.What would you suggest on me doing? I definitely want to try & drop the VC 23111 fine since I didn’t throw any of the said things in that statute.Also, I am unemployed, so money is a problem..

The only way to avoid the fine and penalty on the 23111 charge is to plead not guilty and request a trial. Prosecutors typically aren't willing to negotiate for lower fines, and that's not a charge where traffic school would be available. You can still ask if they'll drop it once you explain the situation - that you didn't drop anything flaming. They may be more agreeable if you're willing to plead guilty to the stop sign charge.

The courts will usually allow a person to do community service in lieu of the fine if they can't afford it. For that, you're not limited to trash pickup. When you go to court, it could be worth asking how many hours they'd want you to do.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Okay, thank you so much for your help. I think I’m going to plead guilt for the stop sign violation, in hopes they can hear me out on pleading not guilty for the VC 23111 charge.Again, thank you. You helped ease my mind through this frustration.Have a nice day. Giving you a good rating for the excellent help.

You're very welcome, and thank you. Good luck.

Note that you'll want to talk to the district attorney about both charges before pleading guilty to the one. That gives you more negotiating power.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Would it cost me anything to consult w/ a district attorney? I’m just trying to not to spend more on top of potential financial loss from these citations.Also, what do you mean by saying that I would get more negotiating power by doing so?

No, it doesn't cost anything. When you go to enter a plea, they're at the courthouse. The DA is paid by the state, not by the people being charged with traffic violations.

You're trying to reach an agreement with them to reduce the consequences of the ticket. If you've already plead guilty to one ticket, then you can only talk about the other one. They've already gotten a conviction on the stop sign ticket, which gives you less to offer them.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Oh. Sorry, for some reason I confused DA for a traffic attorney. Thanks for the clarification.I’ve never been to court for a citation before. I don’t really know what to expect.You’re saying that I shouldn’t plea guilty right away to the stop sign charge, correct? In my mind, I think they would first ask how I would plead on these charges.How do hearings usually go? Again, I’m not too familiar with the process.

Usually, when they ask how you want to plead, you can request to speak privately with the DA. That's very common. Some people also say "guilty with an explanation," at which point the judge will direct you and the DA to step out. If for any reason the judge won't allow it, then you have the ability to plead not guilty in order to buy more time to reach an agreement. Then, the plea would be changed if you're able to agree.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Now, if I were to ask to speak to the DA privately before stating my plead, and was able to. Would I just tell the DA that I’m plan on pleading guilty for the stop sign charge, and pleading not guilty for the Vc 23111 charge?I’m guessing the DA will ask for an explanation on why I’m not pleading guilty for both. & that will open up room for an agreement?
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
that part/process was just a little unclear for me.

Usually, you'd start by explaining why you don't think the cigarette ticket is valid and go from there. But the DA will ask you questions. You don't need to script the conversation in advance.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Okay, that makes sense. I think this finalized my questions to you
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Thank you, Lucy

You're welcome. Good luck!

Please rate my service positively, as this is the only way that I get paid for the time spent answering your questions. Thank you.

Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Traffic Law
Satisfied Customers: 32,264
Experience: Lawyer. Former judicial law clerk. Worked for District Attorney's Office in Traffic Court.
Verified
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Experience: Lawyer. Former judicial law clerk. Worked for District Attorney's Office in Traffic Court.

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