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If you have ever made a left on Civic Center Way from Malibu Canyon Road before 9:00 am, you know that it is one of the biggest ticket traps in Malibu. Every day from the early morning until 9:00 am, at least one giddy police officer sits patiently waiting for drivers to violate the “No Left Turn 6:00 AM – 9:00 AM” sign at the nearby intersection. Being a victim of this sign myself, I often furiously honk and point to warn vehicles sitting in the left turn lane as I drive by most mornings.
From the city’s perspective, this racket is a goldmine and likely generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines per year. In fact, my simple citation for turning eight minutes too early was in excess of $400.00. No wonder the city has been ignoring a glaring fact that I discovered when defending myself from this bogus ticket.
Being an attorney, I generally don’t take things like this lying down. I am a litigator and a portion of my practice is criminal defense. As is habit, the first thing I did when I received the citation is do what any attorney would do, investigate.
What bothered me the most was that I could not, for the life of me, recall seeing any police just prior to being pulled over. This was particularly strange since I, because of my line of work, am hypersensitive to police presence. For about a week, something just seemed off to me. So, to satisfy my curiosity, I went back to the scene of the citation to investigate further.
That’s when the most incredible thing happened. I parked my car on Civic Center Way, exactly where the police were when they pulled me over, and looked up the hill to Malibu Canyon Road. To my surprise, not only could I not see the left turn lane, but I couldn’t see the intersection at all. Just to verify, I then drove my car onto Malibu Canyon and made a lawful left turn during the appropriate hours. Once again, I could not see the spot where the officers stopped me.
So what does this mean? From the officer’s perspective I still could have made a left turn, right? Well, I could have. But I also could have come straight, or made a right turn as well. There was no way for the officer to tell from where he was parked. As an extension of that, if the officer couldn’t tell if I made a left turn, then how could he ethically write me a ticket for making the left turn?
Luckily, California allows drivers to fight tickets by something called trial by declaration. Instead of coming in and fighting the ticket in person, you are allowed to write your arguments into a petition and submit them to the court. Once your petition is submitted, the officer then has a period of time to respond in writing.
Using my digital camera, and investigatory prowess, I took several photographs of the area and printed out a google earth map showing where the officers were standing. I sent these along with an explanation of the facts to the court and entered a plea of not guilty (mind you, I never denied making the turn). Several months after, and not surprisingly, I received a dismissal of my citation.
Since then, I have represented several clients, including half of my office (we work on Civic Center Way), in trial by declarations for citations at this intersection. And like clockwork, in every single one of them, we have prevailed. Moreover, most of these tickets are written by the same officer.
As of this article, the police are still set up on Civic Center Way writing the same ticket they wrote me a year ago. It is my hope that the readers of this story will reach out to their local government officials and let them know about this unethical cash cow. We are a society of laws, and the police are subject to the rules just as much as the average citizen.
About Harrison Barnes, A Professional Law Corporation
Harrison Barnes, A Professional Law Corporation is a Malibu-based law firm that focuses on providing top quality representation to the Malibu community, winning millions of dollars for its clients. To learn more about Harrison Barnes, A Professional Law Corporation or for a consultation, call 310.598.1719 or visit http://www.harrisonbarnes.com.Unethical Malibu Speed Trap Exposed by michael
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