Bigger & Harman,APC - May 2018





DRIVER Attorneys Defending Your Right to the Road

MAY 2018

GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT AB-2655 Will Turn California Traffic Law on Its Head

Most folks find it difficult to follow state politics, and I don’t blame them. There’s a lot of legalese to sort through, and it often feels like the voice of an individual won’t make a difference. But for commercial driver’s license holders in the state of California, there has never been a more important time to start paying attention. There is a bill working its way through the state legislature that would fundamentally change California traffic law to the detriment of commercial drivers. Assembly Bill 2655 aims to redesignate traffic infractions to be tried under civil code rather than criminal code. The bill’s defenders claim this change will expedite and streamline traffic law processes. But this streamlining means California drivers will be losing many of the rights to due process that would otherwise be afforded to them. Under criminal code, when you dispute a ticket, the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have broken the law. If traffic tickets were adjudicated under civil code, the standard for guilt is going to be far, far lower. The prosecutors only have to prove that it is “likely” that you broke the law. Let’s say a police officer is driving down the highway and spots a truck speeding in the other direction. It takes her a few minutes to turn around and catch up to what she thinks is the truck she saw. If AB-2655 goes through, this officer would only have to be 51 percent certain that your truck is the one she saw for you to be deemed guilty. I don’t know about you, but if I were accused of a crime, I’d want the officer who pulled me over to be completely certain she had the right guy.

But that’s just the tip of this iceberg. Civil adjudication means the loss or reduction of many of the rights you would otherwise be afforded. You might not be able to subpoena witnesses in your defense, the formal rules of evidence will no longer apply, and the officer who accused you may not even have to show her training documents to prove she is

This egregious bill is trying to make money off the backs of the hardworking commercial drivers who fuel this state’s economy. “

trained in radar use. Your trial won’t even be guaranteed to be overseen by a real judge! Civil adjudications are often overseen by “hearing officers” with little to no formal legal training, and you may not have recourse to ask for a judge. What this amounts to is a thinly veiled attempt to increase revenue generated from traffic tickets. AB-2655 means that it will be easier for the courts to collect revenue from traffic tickets. Worse still, California drivers will face an uphill battle disputing these tickets because of being stripped of the rights they would have been afforded under criminal evidence code.

This egregious bill is trying to make money off the backs of the hardworking commercial drivers who fuel this state’s economy. California already has the lowest speed limit for trucks west of the Rockies, making lane changes within the speed limit extremely dangerous. To further penalize commercial drivers, for whom a traffic ticket would cost their whole livelihoods, is inconceivable to me. If you agree, I urge you to write or call your California representative. As a lawyer who spent five years as a legislative aide in Oregon, it is clear to me that AB-2655 was not written by folks who bothered to speak with or understand the needs of commercial drivers. Perhaps they thought this could just skate by without our notice. Ask our office if you want to be included in updates on what is happening to this legislation and who to contact.

You have my word that Paul and I will remain committed to defending the rights of drivers in this state — even when the government won’t.

–Mark Bigger

(661) 859-1177 | 1

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