Vehicle Code 35400 VC is the California statute that regulates the lengths of vehicles. The code section states that a motor vehicle cannot exceed an overall length of 40 feet. The law then provides several exceptions that allow for “over-sized” vehicles (e.g., buses and trolley coaches) provided certain conditions are met. A violation of the statute is charged as an infraction and results in a traffic ticket.
35400 VC states that “a vehicle may not exceed a length of 40 feet…[but] this section does not apply to any of the following: (1) A vehicle used in a combination of vehicles…(2) A vehicle, when the excess length is caused by any parts necessary to comply with the fender and mudguard regulations of this code…[and] (3) An articulated bus or articulated trolley coach that does not exceed a length of 60 feet…”
- driving a makeshift camper in Los Angeles that is 42 feet long.
- a city using an articulated bus that is over 60 feet.
- operating a tow truck of excessive length where the excess is not for purposes of complying with mudguard regulations.
A person accused of violating this law can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. Common defenses include:
- the vehicle is exempted under the law,
- the police made a mistake in charging a driver under the law, and/or
- the defendant possessed a modified vehicle of excessive length but it was not drivable.
Violations of California Vehicle Code 35400 are charged as infractions. While infractions are crimes under California law, they are less serious than misdemeanors and felonies.
Violations also result in a ticket and a fine of approximately $200.
While many traffic offenses result in the DMV placing a point against the motorist’s driving record, an excessive length ticket will not have this effect. This is positive news as the accumulation of points can cause:
- license suspension,
- revocation of driving privileges, or
- the Department declaring the driver a negligent operator.
Our California auto accident attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is an excessive length violation in California?
- 2. Can a person challenge a 35400 CVC citation?
- 3. What are the fines?
- 4. What happens if a driver fails to appear in court for a traffic ticket?
- 5. How does breaking this law impact a personal injury lawsuit in California?
- 6. Are there laws related to this California code section?
1. What is an excessive length violation in California?
The code section states that a vehicle may not exceed a length of 40 feet. This means a person driving a motor vehicle in excess of this overall length violates the law.1
There are several exceptions though within the statute that apply to certain:
- buses (including school buses and transit buses),
- vehicles complying with mudguard regulations,
- truck tractors,
- house cars, and
- motor carriers and motor trucks.2
These exceptions mean that the above vehicles can surpass 40 feet in truck size if certain conditions and/or requirements are met.3
Note that VC 35400 is a California law enforced by State and local authorities (including the California Highway Patrol). There are similar federal laws and government codes that apply to all states within the United States. These laws are enforced by federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, (DOT).
2. Can a person challenge a 35400 VC citation?
Criminal defense attorneys use several legal strategies to contest charges under these laws. Strategies include showing that:
- a vehicle is exempted from the law.
- the police made an error.
- an accused modified a vehicle of excessive length, but it was not operable.
2.1. Exception under the law
Recall that this statute has many exceptions. It states that certain vehicles may exceed 40 feet under some conditions. A few of these exceptions are technical, in so far as they refer to specific vehicle parts, like:
- front axles and front tires, and
- rear axles.
Nevertheless, an accused can always use the defense that he did not violate the law because his/her vehicle was exempted from it.
2.2. Police error
Again, many of the exceptions within this law are technical and involve specific requirements as to vehicle parts. This means there is the opportunity for police to simply “get it wrong” when they say a person violated the statute. A defense, then, is for an accused to say that he/she was wrongly accused because of:
- an error in police judgement, or
- an error in police calculations.
2.3. Vehicle not drivable
A person is only guilty of this offense if he/she is actually caught driving a vehicle of excessive length. It is a defense then, for purposes of this section, for a defendant to say that he/she was not operating a large vehicle.
A defense is also that an over-sized vehicle was not capable of being driven. Some businesses, for example, use non-operable over-sized vehicles for promotions or advertisement purposes.
3. What are the fines?
A violation of these laws is charged as an infraction.
The motorist will also receive a traffic ticket and must pay a fine of $25.
Twenty-five dollars is the base amount of the fine. The actual cost of the ticket will be much more (approximately $200) as it will include various fees and assessments.
A violation of CVC 35400 will not result in a DMV point.
4. What happens if a driver fails to appear in court for a traffic ticket?
A driver that fails to appear in court for a traffic ticket is guilty of a crime (“failure to appear”) per Vehicle Code 40508 CVC.
A person has to sign a written promise to appear in court if he/she is issued a traffic ticket in California.
A party commits an offense if he/she willfully breaks this promise and fails to show in court.4
The “failure to appear in court” is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:
- custody for six months in county jail (as opposed to state prison), and/or
- a fine of up to $1,000.5
5. How does breaking this law impact a personal injury lawsuit in California?
A driver in violation of these laws runs the risk of causing a traffic accident with another motorist (e.g., in a rear-end collision). If the motorist suffers injuries in the accident, he/she can later file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver.
In this suit, the driver may be found “negligent.” Negligence means that the driver:
- is liable for the injuries, and
- must compensate the plaintiff for any injuries that he/she suffered.
California law says that a driver is “negligent per se” if he/she violates a statute. In the context of CVC 35400, this means a driver would be negligent per se in an accident if he/she:
- caused the accident and injured another party, and
- was driving a vehicle of excessive length in violation of the statue.
6. Are there laws related to this California code section?
There are three offenses related to vehicles of excessive length. These are:
- bald tire violations – CVC 27465b,
- coasting in neutral – CVC 21710, and
- disobeying a sign, signal, or traffic control device – CVC 38300.
6.1. Bald tire violations – CVC 27465b
Vehicle Code 27465b CVC is California’s “bald tire” statute. It makes it an offense for a driver to operate a vehicle with tires having worn tread.
Like with CVC 35400, a violation of this statute results in a fine of $25.
6.2. Coasting in neutral – CVC 21710
Vehicle Code 21710 CVC makes it a traffic offense for a driver to coast in neutral while going downhill.
As with operating a vehicle of an excessive length, a violation of this statute is charged as an infraction.
6.3. Disobeying a sign, signal, or traffic control device – CVC 38300
Vehicle Code 38300 CVC is the California statute that makes it an offense for a driver to disobey any:
- traffic sign,
- signal, or
- traffic control device.
Some examples of “signs, signals, and devices” are:
- stop signs,
- speed limits (e.g., trucks speeding over 55 miles per hour), and
- do not enter signs.
Unlike an excessive length ticket, a ticket under this statute will result in one DMV point.
- California Vehicle Code 35400 CVC.
- See same.
- See same. As an example, the statute allows trolley coaches to reach a length of 60 feet.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
- California Penal Code 19 PC.