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23 Jul2011

Insufficient Turn Violation: What If My Signal Is Broken?

I am representing a motorist who was pulled over for a two point insufficient turn signal violation.  He came to me with a receipt for repair of a broken turn signal and wanted to argue that this wasn’t a failure to signal (two points) but a mere broken light equipment violation (zero points).

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as bringing a receipt for a small lightbulb to show a TVB judge.  If an officer issues a ticket for an insufficient turn signal, his testimony in court must address how he determined this was not an equipment failure but an actual failure to signal by the motorist.  An experienced officer should testify that he/she checked the driver’s signals at the time of the stop and found them to be working properly and that the driver simply failed to use their signal prior to executing their turn or lane change.  If such testimony is offered, it can be much more difficult to convince the judge that your equipment failure was legitimate.

This particular case took an unexpected twist altogether.  My client never mentioned anything about his hazard lights, yet the officer actually testified that he knew the signal lights were working because he observed that my client’s hazard lights were on as he executed the turn in question.  We then successfully argued that hazard lights are inherently a sign to other motorists on the road to take care and keep their distance and thus superseded a turning signal here. The ticket was dismissed.

Two lessons here.  One, don’t expect to merely claim an equipment failure if your are charged with failing to use the equipment (your signal) in question.  The officer might have something else to say.  Two, you or your attorney should be ready to change course during the hearing if you hear or see something unexpected.  If an opportunity presents itself, such as the hazard light testimony here, know the law and be prepared to take advantage of the situation.

Andrea Casellas, Esq.