Are Speed Traps Legal in CA?

Understanding Police Use of Speed Traps in CA

You may recall a time where you were driving on a road and got pulled over for speeding. As a result, your mind may flood with questions: “Why was I pulled over?” “Where was the officer hiding? I didn’t see them.” “Did the officer use a speed trap?”

Speed traps are not used to catch speeding drivers for safety purposes. Instead, speed traps are employed to make money by issuing traffic tickets. Thus, if you got pulled over for speeding and later arrested for DUI in Fresno, it’s important to establish whether you were pulled over for legal reasons or if you were caught in a speed trap.

First, let’s review what California speed traps are. According to CVC 40802, a “speed trap” is either of the following:

  • A particular section of a highway is measured as to distance and with boundaries marked, designated, or otherwise determined so that the speed of a vehicle may be calculated by securing the time it takes the vehicle to travel the known distance.
  • A particular section of a highway with a prima facie speed limit that is provided by the CVC or local ordinance, if that prima facie speed limit is not justified by an engineering and traffic survey conducted within five years before the date of the alleged violation, and enforcement of the speed limit involves the use of radar or any other electronic device that measures the speed of moving objects.

This statute does not apply to a local street, road, or school zone.

Examples of Speed Traps in CA

Officers may violate California’s speed trap law under the following circumstances:

  • They calculate how long it takes to drive from one point on a road to another to catch speeding drivers. If they use a timer or count aloud to measure the length of time, they broke the law. If your speeding ticket resulted from the use of a radar device, however, then this scenario is legal.
  • If an engineering or traffic survey hasn’t been conducted within five years prior to the date you got ticketed, an officer may hide out in that “outdated” zone because they are knowledgeable that drivers will likely speed.
  • If a posted speed limit sign hasn’t been updated or is poorly displayed, an officer may park along that faulty road to catch “speeding” drivers. For example, if the posted speed limit is 40 mph but the actual speed limit is 45 mph, but the speed limit sign hasn’t been updated yet, an officer may use that fault to issue illegal speeding tickets.
  • If a posted speed sign is inconsistent with and poorly representative of the conditions of the road, an officer may use that to their advantage and “trap” drivers.

These are some of the various examples of California speed traps. It’s difficult to determine when an officer ticketed you because they utilized a speed trap or not. Remember, the police can park in unassuming, hidden spots to catch speeding drivers, but if their intent and actions are revenue-driven and deceiving in certain situations, then it’s illegal.

If you got pulled over for speeding and later arrested for DUI in Fresno, it’s important to retain a lawyer who can challenge every detail of your accusation, such as determining whether a speed trap was used. Please don’t hesitate to get your questions answered by former prosecutor turned attorney, Brian Andritch. Contact (559) 484-2112 for a free consultation!

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