California Vehicle Code § 21453 CVC requires drivers to stop at a red traffic signal before entering the intersection or crosswalk, or at the marked line. If there is no sign prohibiting a turn, the driver must come to a complete stop before turning right on a red light or left from a one-way street onto a one-way street.
In this article, we will quote the full language of the code section, and then provide further analysis. The code section reads as follows:
21453. (a) A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown, except as provided in subdivision (b).
(b) Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver, after stopping as required by subdivision (a), facing a steady circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way street. A driver making that turn shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the driver, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle until the driver can proceed with reasonable safety.
(c) A driver facing a steady red arrow signal shall not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow and, unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by another signal, shall stop at a clearly marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication permitting movement is shown.
(d) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in Section 21456, a pedestrian facing a steady circular red or red arrow signal shall not enter the roadway.
(e) (1) A peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, shall not stop a pedestrian for a violation of subdivision (d) unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power.
(2) This subdivision does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for their safety.
(3) This subdivision does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within the roadway.
There are four important points to know about running red lights and making illegal turns at red lights in California.
- Legal defenses exist if you are accused of violating this section, and you can hire an attorney to fight any charge(s).
- The fine for a violation can range from $35.00 to more than $100.00, plus court costs, fees and assessments.
- Running a red light or making an illegal turn adds one point on your DMV record. You risk getting a negligent operator license suspension if you get 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months.
- You cannot ignore a California ticket for violating VC 21453. This act will likely result in a charge of failure to appear, per Vehicle Code 40508 VC, which can be charged as a misdemeanor.
In the article below, our California auto accident attorneys will address:
- 1. What is considered running a red light in California?
- 2. How can I challenge a Vehicle Code 21453 CVC ticket?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Does a violation require traffic school?
- 5. Is it a crime to run a red light?
- 6. What happens if I ignore a ticket?
- 7. What is the effect of a red light violation on a personal injury lawsuit?
- 8. Are there laws related to CVC 21453?
1. What is considered running a red light in California?
California CVC 21453 says that you:
- Must stop at red lights
- Can turn right on circular red lights
- Can turn left on circular red lights, but only from a one-way street onto a one-way street
- Must stop at a steady red arrow signal
1.1 Do I have to stop at red lights in California?
The statute states that you must come to a complete stop at red lights.1
You must stop before reaching the nearest of:
- A marked limit line;
- A crosswalk; or,
- The approaching intersection.2
1.2 Can I turn right on red lights in California?
CVC 21453 (b) states that you can make a right turn after stopping at a circular red light, unless there is a sign indicating the turn is prohibited.3
When making a right turn on red, you must
- use caution and
- yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.4
Please note that the law permits right turns at circular red lights. Red arrow signals are treated differently – as discussed below.
1.3 Can I turn left on red lights in California?
The law allows you to turn left after stopping at a circular red light, but only from a one-way street onto another one-way street.5
In turning left, you must
- use caution and
- yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
1.4 Can I turn right on a red arrow signal in California?
CVC 21453 (c) states that you cannot turn right at a steady red arrow signal.6
You must make a complete stop at these signals before reaching the nearest of:
- A marked line;
- A crosswalk; or,
- The near side of the intersection.7
2. How can I challenge a Vehicle Code 21453 CVC ticket?
There are legal defenses if you are accused of a red light violation. You can even challenge a ticket for running a red light if a red light camera was used.
It is in your best interests, though, to consult with an attorney before raising a defense or challenging a ticket.
2.1 What are the most common defenses?
There are three common defenses if you are accused of running a red light or making an illegal turn at a red light. These include:
- The red light was hidden or blocked from your sight.
- The officer was wrong in believing that there was no stop, or an illegal turn was made.
- You failed to stop or made an illegal turn because of an emergency or to avoid a crash.
2.2 What if the ticket involves a red light camera?
California law permits the use of automated cameras at intersections to catch red light violations.
However, you can still challenge a ticket for violating this code section if a camera was used. The most common defense is for you to prove that someone else was operating their vehicle when the violation happened.
2.3 Do I need an attorney?
You can represent yourself when fighting a ticket for running a red light or making an illegal turn. Though it is recommended that you hire an experienced lawyer to represent you.
It is advantageous to hire an attorney for three main reasons. These are:
- Prosecutors tend to offer better deals if you have a lawyer,
- Defense attorneys are knowledgeable on how to get charge reductions and dismissals.
- If you hire a defense lawyer, you do not have to go to court.
3. What are the penalties?
The possible consequences include:
- Receiving a speeding ticket and paying the fine amount; and,
- Getting DMV points assessed to your DMV driving record.
3.1 How much is the fine?
The base fines for CVC 21453 violations are:
- $100 for running a red light; and,
- $35 for making an illegal turn at a red light,8
Please note that these are the base traffic fines. You will have to pay a considerable amount more due to fees and surcharges.9
3.2 How many points are put on my driving record?
You will receive one point on your DMV driving record.10 Points assessed on your record are reported to that your insurance carrier. The result is typically an increase in your insurance rates for several years.
If you accumulate a certain number of points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period in California, the DMV can declare you a negligent operator. If this is done, the DMV can suspend or even revoke your driving privileges. Either action requires a California DMV hearing.
4. Does a violation require traffic school?
If you receive a citation, you do not have to attend traffic school.
However, you can voluntarily choose to do so. Generally, you can go to traffic school if:
- You have a valid driver’s license;
- The offense occurred while driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
- Your ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.
If you elect to go to traffic school, you must still pay your traffic ticket fine.11 However, you generally should not get any points on your driving record if you complete the school.12
5. Is it a crime to run a red light?
It is not a crime if you violate Vehicle Code 21453 CVC.
If you run a red light and cause an accident, you could also be charged with
- vehicular manslaughter and
- even murder.
6. What happens if I ignore a ticket?
Two things happen if you ignore a ticket under this code section. These are:
- You violate a new law, Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in California on a traffic citation; and,
- You may receive penalties for violating VC 40508.
6.1 What is the violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC?
When you get issued a traffic ticket in California, the officer will have you sign a written promise to appear at the time and place specified.
If you willfully fail to appear as promised, you violate Vehicle Code 40508 VC.13 You willfully fail to appear when you are willingly a no-show. It does not matter if you did not intend to break the law.14
Nor does it matter whether you are guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.15 You violate Vehicle Code 40508 just by breaking a promise to:
- Appear in court,
- Appear to pay bail,
- Pay bail in installments,
- Pay a fine within the time authorized, or
- Comply with any condition of the court.16
6.2 What are the penalties for Violating Vehicle Code 40508 VC?
Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:
- Up to six months in county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.17
7. What is the effect of a red light violation on a personal injury lawsuit?
- run a red light or make an illegal turn at a red light in California, and
- thereby cause an accident,
you are likely to be found negligent in a personal injury lawsuit.
California law defines “negligence” as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm
- to oneself or
- to others.
As a negligent driver, you may have to pay for any damages caused.
Negligence “per se” is a legal theory in which negligence is presumed based upon your violation of a statute or ordinance
This means you would be negligent per se if you are in violation of CVC 21453.
Please note, however, that even if you are negligent per se, you may still be able to recover for any damages you incur. This is because of California’s comparative fault laws.
8. Are there laws related to VC 21453?
There are three laws related to running a red light and making an illegal stop. These are:
- Failing to stop at a stop sign;
- Reckless driving; and,
- Driving under the influence.
8.1 Must I stop at stop signs?
California Vehicle Code 22450 VC states that you cannot run stop signs.
This means that if you are entering an intersection with a stop sign, you must stop.18 You must stop at the first of the followings:
- A marked line
- A crosswalk
- The approaching street19
Complete stops are required. Rolling stops are not permissible under VC 22450. A rolling stop is when a vehicle is still in motion, even at the slightest of speeds.
The penalties for running a stop sign in California include:
- A traffic ticket and an approximate fine of $238; and,
- One point on your DMV driving record.
8.2 What is reckless driving under California law?
It is not uncommon to
- run a red light or
- make an illegal turn at a red light
while driving recklessly. Reckless driving is treated as a separate offense.
Vehicle Code 23103 is the State’s law on reckless driving. It makes it a crime to drive with wanton disregard for the safety of
- people or
If no one else is injured in a reckless driving incident, VC 23101 is a California misdemeanor. It can be punished at most by:
- Five to 90 days in county jail, and/or,
- A fine of between $145 and $1,000.21
Though the possible jail sentence and fine increase if the reckless driving causes an injury.22
Any reckless driving conviction will add two points to your California DMV record.
8.3 What about driving under the influence (DUI)?
It is common to run a red light or make an illegal turn at a red light while driving under the influence. If so, the DUI is treated as a separate offense.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is against the law in California. It’s against the law to:
Legal defenses to a California DUI charge do exist, but a California DUI lawyer is necessary to assert the right one on your behalf.
Contact us for help…
If you or someone you know has been cited for a violation of VC 21453 or other traffic laws, or has been injured in an accident in California, our traffic ticket attorneys invite you to contact us for a consultation. We have offices in Los Angeles County, San Francisco, and throughout the state.
For tickets in Nevada, please visit our page on NRS 484B.300 – fighting red light tickets in Las Vegas Nevada.
- Vehicle Code 21453
- See same.
- Vehicle Code 21453 (b) CVC.
- See same.
- See same.
- Vehicle Code 21453 (c).
- See same.
- See same.
- See same.
- See same.
- See California Courts website.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
- CALCRIM 2240, endnote 1:
Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.
- California Penal Code 19 PC.
Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.
- California Vehicle Code 22450 VC.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 23103 VC:
(a): A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.(b) A person who drives a vehicle in an off-street parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
- Vehicle Code 23103(c):
Except as otherwise provided in Section 40008, persons convicted of the offense of reckless driving shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days nor more than 90 days or by a fine of not less than one hundred forty-five dollars ($145) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, except as provided in Section 23104 or 23105 VC.
- California Vehicle Code 23104 (a)