Monday, March 30, 2020
Appellate Division Says Motorist Who Passes School Bus With ‘Stop’ Arm Up Cannot Be Charged With Going Through Stop Sign, Which Applies to Not Halting at Intersection
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The action of a kind-hearted deputy sheriff in citing a motorist for going through a stop sign, rather passing a school bus with a stop signal arm ejected—which carries a heftier fine—has resulted in the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court sparing the motorist from any penalty because the wrong offense was charged.
Judge Patti Jo McKay wrote the opinion, filed Feb. 21 and made public Thursday. It reverses a decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Susan K. Weiss adjudging Sharon Kruschen in violation of Vehicle Code §22450(a) which says:
“The driver of any vehicle approaching a stop sign at the entrance to, or within, an intersection shall stop at a limit line, if marked, otherwise before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection.
“If there is no limit line or crosswalk, the driver shall stop at the entrance to the intersecting roadway.”
“The People did not present any evidence upon which the court could find that defendant’s failure to stop occurred while facing a crosswalk or entering an intersection. The stop sign affixed to the school bus does not fall within the parameters of section 22450….”
The applicable statute, McKay said, is Vehicle Code §22454(a) which requires stopping behind a school bus that’s loading or dropping off passengers “until the flashing red light signal and stop signal arm, if equipped with a stop signal arm, cease operation.”
Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Paul A. Ferreira cited Kruschen in the City of Agoura Hills for a violation of §22450(a), rather than §22454(a), because the latter offense carries a stiffer fine—$695, including penalty assessments. He explained in court that he “considered the arm extending from the bus with the word ‘stop’ on it and flashing red lights to be a stop sign” and that he thought Kruschen violated both sections.
Specific Statute Prevails
McKay recited the rule that when conduct violates a general statute and a specific one, prosecution is to take place only under the specific statute.
She said Kruschen cannot now be tried for violating the specific statute, pointing to the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy.
The case is People v. Kruschen, JAD20-01.
Kruschen, who is not an attorney, represented herself.
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