Friday, November 9, 2012

W&OD STOP sign ticket dismissed

Falls Church police writing a ticket
at Great Falls St.
The cyclist who was cited by Falls Church police for failure to stop at one of the STOP signs along the W&OD Trail at Great Falls St. contested his ticket in court. The ticket was dismissed on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Attorney. Here is an account of what transpired:
Just wanted to let you know that I had my day in court today. While I was ready to plead my case to the judge, I was told by the officer that I can speak with the Commonwealth Attorney present before the hearing begins. Was I glad that I did.

There was a long line so it took a bit before it was my turn. I told her that I was ticketed for rolling through a stop sign on the bike trail on my bike, she paused for a bit, and asked was I aware that there was a stop sign. I told her yes, and not stopping was a bad judgement on my part. But I also explained to her that my past experiences with these intersections and the confusing predicament that I often found myself in can make it difficult to obey the posted sign when it comes to my own safety. She then asked for the ticketing officer to explain what he saw, and his stance was simply that I failed to obey posted sign.

It was what she asked next that I found to be quite interesting. She asked the officer whether or not this intersection was a city street crossing another city street or a crosswalk crossing a city street. At first, the officer didn't seem to understand her, and was trying to say that it was a busy intersection. She repeated the same question again, and he just seemed to be unwilling to acknowledge the fact that the intersection was a crosswalk to street rather than street to street. I ended up chiming in and stated that the intersection was a pedestrian/cyclist crosswalk crossing a city street.

At that point, she made a comment along the line of "I think I see what's going on here", told me that she felt that I know what I did was wrong, and will be more cautious in the future. In the end, she gave me the "benefit of the doubt" and will recommend to the judge that the charge be dropped. That is precisely what the judge did!

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At that point, she made a comment along the line of "I think I see what's going on here"

What the CA (well, probably Asst. CA) saw was an opportunity to tell the cop not to do that again, to get the case moved along fast, and an opportunity to not litigate whether or not trail signs are legal. The result is no judgment and no precedent for anybody else to use in getting future cases dismissed.

Yip - no precedent. But at the same time Cops really dont like writing tickets that are not enforced in court (See DC illegal U Turns on Penn Ave situation).

This is a good lesson on pushing back against idiot enforcement.
Under VA law, an "intersection" is where two "highways" cross. VA law prohibits running a stop sign at an "intersection." Where the W&OD crosses a road (highway) is not an intersection. I represented myself in court and had a similar charge dismissed by the judge.
According to the MUTCD, "All regulatory traffic control devices shall be supported by laws, ordinances, or regulations." Doesn't this mean that the stop signs on the trail must be removed?

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