California Vehicle Code 21453: Offenses Relating to Traffic Devices is a law centered around intersection lights and how these lights regulate traffic. Violations of this law can lead to serious accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians.
While the financial penalties for a violation may not be too steep, other consequences of an infraction, like receiving a point on your driving record, can certainly make your life more difficult. A criminal traffic defense attorney can help you if you’ve been charged with violating this code.
What Does Vehicle Code 21453 Regulate?
The specific regulations of California VC 21453 refer to when you are required to stop at traffic lights. Under this law, a driver:
- Must stop at any circular red light or red arrow.
- May turn right on a circular red light after coming to a complete stop if no other signage prohibits it.
- May turn left on a circular red light after coming to a complete stop if no other signage prohibits it as long as they are turning from a one-way road onto another one-way road.
- Must not enter the intersection if a red arrow light prohibits a turn unless they are not turning in that direction and another light allows them to proceed.
This law also states that at intersections without specific pedestrian crossing symbols, pedestrians must not enter the roadway when faced with a red circular light or red arrow.
VC 21453 goes into further detail about where a driver is required to stop when faced with a red traffic light. In these instances, the law states that the driver must stop before the marked limit line. If there is no such line, the driver must stop before entering the crosswalk. If no crosswalk is indicated, they must stop before entering the intersection.
Finally, the law details that when making a turn at a red circular light, drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the street and any vehicles approaching the intersection from a street not stopped by a red light. Drivers can never make a turn when a red arrow light prohibits it.
Potential Penalties for a Violation of VC 21453
California Vehicle Code Section 21453 is an infraction. That means that unlike with the more serious charges of misdemeanors and felonies, a violation of this law is not punishable by incarceration. Instead, the punishments for an infraction are primarily monetary. In California, there are two separate tickets you could receive for a violation.
The first ticket is for running a red light. The fine for this infraction is $100. The second ticket is for making an illegal turn at a red light. The fine for this infraction is $35. While these fines may not seem too significant, it is important to keep in mind that these are just the base fines. You will likely have to pay more to cover court costs, fees, and assessments.
A perhaps more significant penalty associated with an infraction is that you will receive a point on your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) record. One point on its own won’t affect your driver status. However, if you receive four points in 12 months, six points in 24 months, or 8 points in 36 months, your license could be suspended.
This type of suspension is known as a negligent operator suspension.
A secondary consequence of having points on your license is that the DMV reports these points to your insurance carrier. Having points on your driving record will likely result in an increase in your insurance rates.
While a violation of VC 21453 is always an infraction, you can still face more serious charges for running a red light under other laws. For instance, you could be charged with a misdemeanor offense of reckless driving under VC 23103. If someone was killed or seriously injured because of your action, you could even face felony charges.
Ignoring a Ticket
The worst thing you can do if you receive a ticket for this type of infraction is to ignore it. While a violation of VC 21453 is a simple infraction, failure to appear in court for a traffic citation is a misdemeanor under VC 40508.
The penalties for a violation of VC 40508 can be quite steep, including:
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to six months in jail
- Summary probation
Attending Traffic School After a Ticket
Drivers who get a ticket for a violation of VC 21453 are not required to attend traffic school. However, voluntarily doing so can be a very good idea. By attending traffic school, you will not negate your ticket and must still pay the fine. However, by successfully completing the course, you can erase the point that would otherwise be added to your license.
Eliminating points can be particularly important if you are nearing accumulation of enough to result in the suspension of your license.
Fighting a Ticket Under VC 21453
Many potential arguments can be made against a ticket for a violation of VC Section 21453. Some of the most commonly used defenses are:
- The light was hidden from view
- Avoiding a crash
- Full stop before a turn on red
The Light Was Hidden From View
If the traffic light was not visible to the driver, they should not be ticketed for failing to stop. A hidden light is most common with lights on the side of the road rather than hanging out over the intersection and often involves large trucks or buses in the right-hand lane.
Avoiding a Crash
If a driver pulls out into an intersection to avoid a crash, they can use this as a defense for running a red light. For instance, if the road is icy and a car behind the driver has clearly failed to slow down due to the weather conditions, a driver stopped at a light might cross the intersection to avoid a collision.
In some emergency situations, it is permissible to run a red light, as long as you do so in the safest way possible. You can run a red light if you have someone who needs emergency medical attention.
Full Stop Before a Turn on Red
One of the most commonly contested tickets has to do with drivers coming to a full stop before legally turning at a circular red light. Video footage is typically the best evidence to support your claim against this type of ticket.
Beating Red Light Camera Charges
California uses red-light cameras to ticket drivers who commit driving infractions. However, the use of these cameras is highly questionable. Beating a red light camera charge can be as simple as stating that you were not driving the vehicle at the time of the incident.
Even if the picture that was taken of the driver clearly looks like you, since your license was not checked by an officer, it is often easy to beat this charge. Generally, people are allowed to face their accuser when charged with a crime. Since the accuser is a camera in this situation, there is nothing further it can add, beyond the pictures taken during the incident.
Getting Legal Representation to Fight a VC 21453 Charge
In many cases, simply paying a ticket may be the easiest solution for you. However, if you are facing possible suspension of your license due to an accumulation of points on your driving record, or more serious charges for VC 21453 related offenses, you need professional representation.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we have plenty of experience fighting both simple and complex traffic violations. Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation today. A member of our legal team will review your case and advise you of all your options.