Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Orange Superior Court Appellate Division Declares:
Basic Speed Law Can Apply to Driving Unsafely
Police Officer Cited Woman Whose Hands Weren’t on Wheel, Concluding That Driving at Any Speed Over 0 m.p.h. Was Unsafe
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A woman who was driving five miles per hour under the speed limit, but was holding a cigarette out the left window and holding a cellphone in her right hand, looking at the screen, was properly cited for violating the Basic Speed Law based on the officer’s observation that the only safe speed, under the circumstances, was 0 m.p.h., the Orange Superior Court’s Appellate Div. has held.
Its June 1 ruling was made public yesterday after the Fourth District Court of Appeal determined that transfer to itself was unnecessary.
In a case of first impression, the Appellate Division decided that the Basic Speed Law—Vehicle Code §22350—is not restricted to a question of whether the speed is safe under road and weather conditions, but includes the matter of the driver’s conduct while driving.
The statute provides:
“No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.”
Writing for the appeals panel, Judge David A. Hoffer zeroed in on the second portion of the statute, pertaining to speed “which endangers the safety of persons and property,” and observed:
“By its terms, this portion of the statute prohibits excessive speed in general without any limitation. This portion of the statute places the focus not on a set of express factors, but on ‘the safety of persons and property.’
“Limiting the factors the police and courts could consider to factors external to the driver’s behavior, as the defense would have us do, would write the second portion of the statute out of the Basic Speed Law and write in a limitation which the Legislature did not see fit to include. The first portion of the statute prohibits driving over the speed appropriate for external conditions, and the second portion of the statute prohibits driving at any excessive speed. Read together, both portions of the statute have effect and protect the public from any sort of dangerous speed.”
Irvine Police Officer Cody Bates testified that motorist Tamara Sue Farleigh’s manner of driving—which included approaching an intersection with no hands on the wheel—rendered movement of the vehicle unsafe.
“Because the Basic Speed Law is not limited to regulating speed with reference to conditions external to the driver herself,” Hoffer said, “this evidence is sufficient to support a conviction….”
The case is People v. Farleigh, 30-2016-00843760.
Farleigh’s appellate counsel, Hntington Beach attorney R. Allen Baylis, commented:
“We will be requesting that the Supreme Court order that the case not be published. It essentially interprets Vehicle Code 22350 in such a way that it becomes unconstitutionally vague, among other things.”
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