Operating an Unsafe Vehicle in California
(Vehicle Code 24002 VC)

California Vehicle Code 24002 VC prohibits drivers in California from operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle.

There are five important points to know about this section.

  • The final determination as to whether a vehicle is "unsafe" or "unlawfully equipped" will depend on the specific facts of a case.
  • A driver that operates an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle must pay a fine of $238.00.
  • A driver that violates this section will also receive one point on his California State driving record. A driver risks getting a negligent operator license suspension if he gets a certain number of points in a specified amount of time (e.g., 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months).
  • Drivers do not have to automatically plead guilty to tickets for operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle. They can raise certain legal defenses on their behalf. It's in the driver's best interests, though, to consult with an attorney before doing so.
  • Drivers in California must not ignore tickets for violating Vehicle Code 24002. A driver that ignores a traffic ticket in California may get charged with failure to appear, per California Vehicle Code 40508. Failure to appear, under California law, may be charged as a misdemeanor.

Our California personal injury attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

unsafe vehicle california defense attorneys
California Vehicle Code 24002 prohibits drivers from operating unsafe and unlawfully equipped vehicles.

1. Vehicle Code 24002 VC – Unsafe and unlawfully equipped vehicles in California

California Vehicle Code 24002 prohibits drivers from operating unsafe and unlawfully equipped vehicles.

Vehicle Code Sections 24002 (a) and (b) state:

(a) It is unlawful to operate any vehicle or combination of vehicles which is in an unsafe condition, or which is not safely loaded, and which presents an immediate safety hazard.

(b) It is unlawful to operate any vehicle or combination of vehicles which is not equipped as provided in this code.1

Courts determine whether a vehicle is unsafe and unlawfully equipped by examining the specific facts of a case.2

In the past, California courts have considered some of the following factors in deciding whether a vehicle was safe and well equipped:

  • The condition of a vehicle's brakes3;
  • The vehicle's tires4;
  • The instruments in the car and whether they're well maintained5;
  • The age of the vehicle6;
  • Whether a driver had notice of an unsafe condition7; and,
  • The driver's handling of the car.8

1.1 Vehicle Code 24002 VC and commercial motor vehicle drivers

VC 24002 also imposes two requirements on drivers of commercial motor vehicles. These are:

  1. They must have the experience and training to know if any cargo being transported is properly located, distributed, and secured; and,
  2. They must be familiar with the methods and procedures to secure cargo in or on the commercial vehicle.9

California law defines "commercial vehicle" as:

a motor vehicle of a type required to be registered under this code used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.10

man receiving ticket unsafe vehicle california legal defense
There are two penalties if a driver violates Vehicle Code 24002

2. The penalties for operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle

There are two penalties if a driver violates Vehicle Code 24002. These are:

  1. A fine; and,
  2. Points on the driver's DMV driving record.

2.1 Ticket and fine

A driver that violates VC 24002 will receive a ticket for the violation and he must pay a corresponding fine.

The fine for violating Vehicle Code 24002 is approximately $238.00.11

2.2 Points on the motorist's driving record

Drivers that operate an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle will receive one point on their DMV driving record.12 Points assessed are ultimately reported to a driver's insurance carrier. The result is typically an increase in the driver's insurance rates for several years.

A problem occurs with the accumulation of points. If a driver in California accumulates a certain number of points within a 1-,2- or 3-year period, the DMV can declare that person a negligent driver. The result of this action is that a person's driving privileges can either be suspended or revoked.

Please note, however, that either of these actions will require a California DMV hearing.

3. Legal defenses for violators of VC 24002

A driver cited for operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle does not have to automatically plead guilty to the ticket. The driver can attempt to fight the ticket by raising a legal defense. However, if this is done, it's best for the motorist to gain the assistance of an attorney.

3.1 Common defenses for operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle

There are three common defenses for those who violate Vehicle Code 24002. These are:

  1. The driver had to operate the vehicle in question because it was an emergency.
  2. The police made a mistake in issuing the ticket.
  3. The prosecutor cannot make the necessary factual showing under VC 24002.
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it's in the driver's best interests to hire an experienced lawyer to represent him

3.2 Get the help of an attorney

Drivers can represent themselves when fighting traffic tickets in California. However, it's in the driver's best interests to hire an experienced lawyer to represent him.

There are three main reasons why it's advantageous to hire an attorney. These include:

  1. Prosecutors tend to offer better deals to defendants with lawyers.
  2. Defense attorneys are knowledgeable on how to get charge reductions and

dismissals.

3. Defendants with defense lawyers do not have to go to court.

4. Violation of Vehicle Code 24002 VC and traffic school

Drivers cited for operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle do not have to attend traffic school.

Drivers, however, can voluntarily choose to do so if they meet three requirements. These are:

  1. The driver has a valid driver's license;
  2. The offense occurred while the driver was driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
  3. The ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.

If a driver elects to go to traffic school, he must still pay his traffic fine.13 However, the driver generally should not get any points on his driving record if he completes the school.14

5. Driving an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle and criminal charges

A violation of Vehicle Code 24002 VC will not result in criminal charges. This is because it's not a crime if a driver operates an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle in California.

Violations of VC 24002 are infractions under California law and an offender is not subject to incarceration.

6. Ignoring a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 24002 VC

Drivers should not ignore – or forget about – a ticket for violating VC 24002. Two things happen if a driver ignores a ticket in California. These are:

  1. The driver violates a new law, California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
  2. The driver may receive penalties for violating VC 40508.

6.1 Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC

Upon receiving a traffic ticket in California, the offender will have to sign a written promise to appear for the ticket. The driver will have to promise to appear at a certain time and place specified.

If the offending driver willfully fails to appear as promised, he violates Vehicle Code 40508 VC.15 The driver willfully fails to appear when he is willingly a no-show. It doesn't even matter if the driver did not intend to break the law.16

Nor does it matter whether the offending driver is guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.17 He violates 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.18

6.2 Penalties for violating VC 40508

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 $1,000.19
bloody victim on ground - california unsafe vehicle legal defense attorneys
A driver who operates an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle may cause – or get involved in – an accident with another motorist

7. Effect of a VC 24002 violation on a personal injury lawsuit?

A driver who operates an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle may cause – or get involved in – an accident with another motorist. If the motorist later files a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the driver may be found "negligent."

California law defines "negligence" as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others. In the context of an auto accident, the negligent driver is at fault for the accident and may have to pay for any damages caused.

Proving negligence in a personal injury case is sometimes difficult. In California though, a driver is considered "negligent per se" if he violates a statute.

Negligence “per se” is a legal theory in which negligence is presumed based upon a defendant's violation of a statute or ordinance

This means a driver would be negligent per se if operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle since he would be in violation of VC 24002.

Please note, however, that even if a driver is negligent per se, the driver may still be able to recover for any damages he incurs. This is because of California's comparative fault laws.

8. Laws related to VC 24002

There are three laws related to drivers operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle. These are:

  1. Reckless driving in California;
  2. California's unsafe passing laws;
  3. Stopping at stop signs in California

8.1 California's law on reckless driving

California's Reckless Driving law makes it a crime to drive with a wanton disregard for the safety of people or property.20 Please note that reckless driving in California is a crime. It is not a traffic infraction like operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle.

If no one other than the reckless driver is injured, violation of this law is a California misdemeanor. It can be punished at most by:

  • Five to ninety days in jail, and/or
  • A fine of between $145 and $1,000.21

But, the possible jail sentence and fine increase if the reckless driver caused an injury. If an injury results, the reckless driving can also get charged, but doesn't have to, as a felony. This is where California's reckless driving becomes a California "wobbler" offense.

8.2 California's unsafe passing laws

California has a series of laws on improper passing and overtaking vehicles. These are found in Vehicle Code Sections 21750-21759 VC.

Each code section provides specific rules on overtaking vehicles, passing vehicles, or both.

In short:

  • Vehicle Code 21750 VC requires motorists to pass on the left.
  • Vehicle Code 21751 VC mandates that drivers pass to the left of center only when there is sufficient clearance.
  • Vehicle Code 21752 VC prohibits drivers from overtaking and passing on the left in specific circumstances.
  • Vehicle Code 21753 VC requires motorists that are getting passed to yield to the passing vehicle.
  • Vehicle Code 21754 VC allows drivers to overtake and pass on the right in only specific situations.
  • Vehicle Code 21755 VC provides further restrictions on right side passing.
  • Vehicle Code 21756 VC limits when drivers may pas busses and streetcars.
  • Vehicle Code 21757 VC provides further limitations with buses and streetcars and prohibits left side passing in specific situations.
  • Vehicle Code 21758 VC sets forth safety rules when motorists pass slow moving vehicles traveling on grades.
  • Vehicle Code 21759 VC requires all drivers to use caution when passing animals.

Drivers that violate California Vehicle Code Sections 21750-21759 VC will receive:

  1. A fine of $238; and,
  2. One point assessed to the driver's DMV driving record.18

8.3 Stopping at stop signs in California

California Vehicle Code 22450 VC states that motorists cannot run stop signs.

This means that if a California driver is entering an intersection with a stop sign, he must stop.22 There is no exception; and, the driver must stop at the first of the followings:

  • A marked line
  • A crosswalk
  • The approaching street23

Complete stops are required under California law. Rolling stops are not acceptable 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:

  1. A traffic ticket and an approximate fine of $238; and,
  2. One point on the driver's DMV driving record.

Were you accused of operating an unsafe or unlawfully equipped vehicle in California? Call us for help…

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Call us for help

If you or someone you know has been cited for violating VC 24002, or has been injured in an accident in California, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

  1. California Vehicle Code 24002 (a) and (b) VC.

  2. Henshaw v. Belyea (1934) 220 Cal. 458.

  3. Turner v. Standard Oil Co. (1933) 134 Cal. App. 622.

  4. Dunn v. Shamoon (1940) 37 Cal. App. 2d 486.

  5. Maloney v. Rath (1968) 69 Cal. 2d 442.

  6. Whitechat v. Guyette (1942) 19 Cal. 2d 428.

  7. See same.

  8. See same.

  9. California Vehicle Code 24002 (c) and (d) VC.

  10. California Vehicle Code 260 VC.

  11. See DMV.org.

  12. See same.

  13. See California Courts website.

  14. See same.

  15. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

  16. 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.

  17. See same.

  18. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.

  19. 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.

  20. California Vehicle Code 23103 VC.

  21. Vehicle Code 23103(c) VC.

  22. California Vehicle Code 22450 VC.

  23. See same.

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