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 that is lawfully placed by federal, state, or local authorities. Some examples of “signs, signals, and devices” are stop signs, speed limits, and do not enter signs. Vehicle Code 38280 is the State law that empowers authorities to use signs and signals to warn and guide traffic.
38300 CVC states that “it is unlawful for the driver of any vehicle to disobey any sign, signal, or traffic control device placed or maintained pursuant to Section 38280.” A violation of the law is an infraction that will result in a traffic ticket and a DMV point.
Examples of illegal acts
- driving a motor vehicle through a stop sign or red light.
- making a right turn at an intersection where a sign is posted that prohibits such a turn.
- operating an off-highway vehicle on a section of road when done contrary to proper traffic signage.
A defendant can raise a legal defense to contest a moving violation under this law. Common defenses include the defendant showing that:
- a ticket was the result of police error,
- a sign or signal was not “official,” and/or
- there was an emergency.
A violation of California Vehicle Code 38300 is charged as an infraction.
A conviction results in:
- a fine, and
- the DMV putting one point on the motorist’s driving record.
A problem with points is that if they accumulate to a certain level, within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, the DMV can suspend or revoke the motorist’s driving privileges. The Department can even declare him/her a negligent operator.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is a traffic offense under CVC 38300?
- 2. How can a person fight the citation?
- 3. What happens if I blow off the ticket?
- 4. What happens if a driver ignores a traffic ticket?
- 5. What are the ramifications for a personal injury case?
- 6. Are there statutes related to this California code section?
1. What is a traffic offense under CVC 38300?
According to this statute, it is an offense for any driver to disobey a sign, signal, or traffic control device that is lawfully placed by federal, state, or local authorities.1
Examples of “signs, signals, and devices” include:
- yield signs,
- stop signs,
- pedestrian crossing markings,
- speed limit posts,
- school zone markings,
- traffic control lights,
- railroad crossing signs,
- turn restrictions, and
- do not enter signs.
Note that this statute applies to signs and signals placed pursuant to CVC 38280.2
This code section is the State law that allows federal, state, and local authorities to use signs and signals to warn and guide traffic.3
All of this means that it is a crime for a motorist to disobey any sign, signal, or device that is lawfully placed by the proper authorities for traffic purposes. It is not an offense, then, for a driver to disobey a sign that is posted by some other entity, like a private business.
2. How can a person fight the citation?
Defense lawyers, and law firms, use several legal strategies to challenge accusations under this statute. These include showing that:
- the police made an error in issuing a ticket.
- there was no “official” sign or signal.
- there was an emergency.
2.1. Error in police judgment
Sometimes police make judgmental errors when observing the events leading up to a ticket. For example, it is quite possible that authorities simply “got it wrong” when they say that a motorist disobeyed a traffic sign. This means it is a defense for an accused to show that the police made an error because he/she did, in fact, obey a sign or signal.
2.2. No “official” sign or signal
Recall that a motorist is only guilty under this statute if he/she disobeyed a sign lawfully posted by federal, state, and/or local authorities. It is a defense, then, for an accused to say that:
- he/she failed to obey a sign, but
- that sign was posted by some entity other than the “proper authorities” (e.g., by a private business).
Drivers can always raise the defense that an emergency forced them to disobey a sign or signal. Perhaps, for example, a driver had to disobey a sign to avoid a reckless driver, or, to swerve out of the way of an erratic biker.
3. What are the fines and consequences?
A driver that breaks this law receives:
- a ticket (usually in an amount of $238), and
- one point against his/her valid driver’s license.
If a motorist gets a certain amount of points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, the DMV can:
- declare him/her a negligent operator, and
- suspend, or even revoke, his/her driving privileges.
Note that the $238 amount of a traffic ticket does not reflect the true cost of the ticket. The true cost will be much higher as it will include certain fines and fees.
Note too that a driver can try to complete traffic school after a CVC 38300 ticket. Completion means:
- any DMV points will not appear on a driver’s public driving record, which prevents an insurance company from seeing them, but
- the points will still appear on a motorist’s DMV record for suspension/revocation purposes.
4. What happens if I blow off the ticket?
A driver cannot ignore a traffic ticket. Ignoring a ticket means he/she will not show up in court for it and this is a crime per 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.
A party violates the law if he/she willfully fails to appear as promised.4
A violation of this law is charged as a misdemeanor. The penalties are:
5. What are the ramifications for a personal injury case?
A driver that violates these laws may cause an accident with another motorist (e.g., in a rear-end collision or in a T-bone accident). If the motorist is injured and later files a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the driver may be found “negligent.”
In a personal injury action, the negligent driver has to compensate the plaintiff for any injuries that he/she suffered.
- caused an injury in a car accident, and
- did so while disobeying a traffic sign (in violation of CVC 38300) when the accident occurred.
6. Are there statutes related to this California code section?
There are three laws related to disobeying a traffic sign or signal. These are:
- failure to yield when making a left turn or U-turn – CVC 21801,
- illegal U-turn – CVC 22102, and
- coasting in neutral – CVC 21710.
6.1. Failure to yield when making a left turn or U-turn – CVC 21801
Vehicle Code 21801 CVC is the California statute that applies when a driver is turning left or completing a U-turn to the left and is facing oncoming traffic.
The law says that a motorist in this situation must yield the right-of-way to approaching traffic up until he/she can complete the turn with reasonable safety.
The penalties for breaking this law are the same as with violating CVC 38300.
6.2. 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 or intersection where authorized.
Like with disobeying a traffic sign, a violation of this law results in one point against the offender’s driver’s license.
6.3. Coasting in neutral – CVC 21710
Vehicle Code 21710 CVC makes it an offense for a driver to coast in neutral while going downhill.
As with a disobeying a traffic signal violation, a violation of this statute is charged as an infraction.
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a personal injury or criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
- California Vehicle Code 38300 CVC.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 38280 CVC.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
- California Penal Code 19 PC.