Vehicle Code 21658 CVC – Lane Weaving & Lane Straddling

Vehicle Code 21658 CVC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a motorist to weave inside a traffic lane or to straddle a marked line. Straddling a line means driving over a marked line as opposed to driving in between two marked lines. A violation of this law is an infraction and a driver will receive a ticket and one point on his/her driving record.

21658 CVC states that “whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic in one direction…[a] vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”

Examples:

  • driving a car over a yellow line for an extended period of time without changing lanes.
  • operating a truck on a Los Angeles freeway and straddling the line of a designated lane.
  • constantly zigzagging between the lines of a single lane.

Defenses

Persons accused of violating CVC 21658 can raise a legal defense to challenge any criminal charges. Common defenses include for the accused to show that:

  • he/she only touched a line of a traffic lane, and never crossed it,
  • he/she crossed the line using reasonable safety, and/or
  • he/she acted out of necessity.

Penalties

Weaving and lane straddling are charged as infractions in the State of California. This is opposed to misdemeanors or felonies.

The traffic infraction is punishable by:

  • a ticket and a fine, and
  • one point on the motorist's DMV driving record.

If a driver earns enough points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, then the Department can:

Our criminal defense and personal injury attorneys will discuss the following in this article:

Vehicle straddling the lane as an example of a CVC 21658 violation
21658 CVC makes it illegal for a motorist to weave inside a traffic lane or to straddle a marked line.

1. What is California law as to weaving or lane straddling?

Vehicle Code section 21658 applies to roads that have two or more marked lanes for traffic in one direction.

In this situation, the rules of the road say that the drivers of vehicles must:

  1. keep their cars entirely within the lane, and
  2. not move from the lane until it can be done with reasonable safety.1

The statute prevents:

  • weaving within a lane,
  • lane straddling, and
  • unsafe lane changing.

Note that one court has said that it is not a violation of this law when a vehicle:

  1. touched a marked line,
  2. did so without crossing it, and
  3. touched the line for 10 seconds.2

This means that “weaving” takes more than touching a marked line for a short period of time.

2. Can a person contest a 21658 CVC ticket?

Defense lawyers, and law firms, draw on several legal strategies to challenge traffic violations under this statute. These include showing that:

  1. the defendant did not cross a marked line.
  2. the accused moved from a lane with reasonable safety.
  3. the defendant acted out of necessity.

2.1. No crossing of a line

Recall from above that a court has stated that there is no violation of this law when:

  1. a vehicle touches a marked line (without crossing it), and
  2. does so for a short period of time.

This means it is always a defense for a defendant to say he/she never crossed a marked line. The driver can assert that he/she only briefly touched it.

2.2. Reasonable safety

These laws say it is permissible for a driver to cross a line, and move from a lane, when using reasonable safety. A defense, then, is for the accused to say that he/she:

  1. may have crossed a line, but
  2. exercised reasonable safety when doing so.

2.3. Necessity

Under a necessity defense, a defendant tries to avoid guilt by showing that he/she had a sufficiently good reason to commit the crime.

In the context of weaving, an accused could attempt to show that he/she committed the crime because there was no other choice (e.g., because of an emergency).

police officer issuing a traffic citation
A violation of this statute can result in a fine and/or a point placed on your driving record.

3. How much is the fine?

A violation of this statute results in two penalties. These are:

  1. a California traffic ticket (usually in an amount of $238), and
  2. one point placed on the motorist's Department of Motor Vehicle's driving record.

The DMV can take the following actions if a person earns enough points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period:

  • declare him/her a negligent operator, and
  • suspend, or even revoke, his/her driving privileges.

4. What if the driver just ignores the ticket?

A driver should not ignore a traffic ticket.

A motorist that ignores a ticket is guilty of “failing to appear” in court. This is an offense under Vehicle Code 40508 CVC.

When a person is issued a traffic ticket in California, he/she has to sign a written promise to appear in court.

If the party willfully fails to appear as promised, he/she violates CVC 40508.3 Drivers willfully fail to appear when they are willingly a no-show. It does not matter if they did not intend to break the law.4

The offense of failing to appear is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:

5. Are there laws related to California Vehicle Code 21658?

There are three crimes related to lane weaving or lane straddling. These are:

  1. right hand lane violations – CVC 21650,
  2. illegal U-turns – CVC 22102, and
  3. unsafe passing on the right – CVC 21755

5.1. Right hand lane violations – CVC 21650

Vehicle Code 21650 CVC says that drivers must drive their vehicles on the right side of the road.

The statute does provide a few exceptions (e.g., when passing a car going in the same direction).

Like with CVC 21658, a violation of this law is a traffic infraction.

5.2. Illegal U-turn – CVC 22102

Vehicle Code 22102 CVC makes it illegal for a person to make a U-turn in a business district, except at an opening where authorized.

Like with CVC 21658, a violation of this law results in one point against the offender's driver's license.

5.3. Unsafe passing on the right – CVC 21755

Vehicle Code 21755 CVC says that a driver can only pass a motorist on the right when reasonably safe to do so.

A violation of this law leads to the same penalties as with CVC 21658.

For additional help...

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For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.


Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 21658 CVC.

  2. United States v. Colin, 314 F.3d 439 (2002).

  3. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

  4. CALCRIM 2240: 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.

  5. California Penal Code 19 PC.

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