Fremont man fights Napa speeding ticket - and wins

2011-03-27T00:00:00Z Fremont man fights Napa speeding ticket - and wins Napa Valley Register
March 27, 2011 12:00 am

I am a traffic engineer for a local government in California. I got a speeding ticket on northbound Highway 29 at Butler Bridge on Sept. 27, 2010. Because of what I do for a living, I first requested for public records from Caltrans District 4 and asked for the engineering and traffic survey. 

The survey was done in Oct. 15, 2001, and past due about seven years, assuming the CHP officers were trained for the radar gun use. According to California Vehicle Code 40801, 40802, 40803 and 40805, this section of Highway 29 is defined as a “speed trap” therefore all speeding tickets issued after Oct. 15, 2008, were illegal.

I requested for a trial by written declaration but Napa Court found me guilty. I then requested a trial in person dated Feb. 9, 2011, but the CHP officer did not show up, so I won the case and the fine was refunded to me. 

I tried to plead my case, hoping all other illegally issued tickets would be refunded to the public, but the judge told me to go back in March 2011, when the CHP officer is available. 

I declined it because I wouldn’t be able to take another day off from work and travel from Fremont to Napa to fight for other people. 

I hope the Napa Valley Register can help. Since Caltrans did not perform the required engineering and traffic survey on Highway 29, I have the right to doubt that many other Caltrans owned Napa County state routes do not have the survey performed required by CVC. 

The CHP in the region may have issued a very large number of tickets that are illegal. 

These tickets generated some good amount of state and local income but should be going back to the public. 

I also think that the CHP officer who issued my ticket did not show up in the court for a reason — so my ticket can be easily dismissed because of his absence.

Allen Chen / Fremont

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(38) Comments

  1. napa1957
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    napa1957 - March 27, 2011 1:02 am
    Wow...you fought authority and actually won!
  2. NapaWino
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    NapaWino - March 27, 2011 10:07 am
    What do traffic surveys have to do with the fact that this driver was SPEEDING????
  3. Sandra
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    Sandra - March 27, 2011 11:28 am
    I guess if you are speeding in a "speed trap" it is not illegal. I guess it is only illegal to speed when they do not try to trap you. Welcome to the new logic of "I am the victim".
  4. sunny
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    sunny - March 27, 2011 11:59 am
    Mr. Chen says he was cited n/b 29 at the Butler Bridge. I'm wondering if that was on the n/b down slope side. That is where I see cars being pulled over by the CHP. What comes to mind then is would this, engineering and traffic survey, also apply and be required for the Maxwell Bridge on Imola? Hwy. 121 goes through that stretch of Imola and is maintained by Caltrans also. I've read complaints from persons who have received tickets on the down slope there. Things should be done right.
  5. John Richards
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    John Richards - March 27, 2011 1:27 pm
    NapaWino said: "What do traffic surveys have to do with the fact that this driver was SPEEDING???? "

    Had you paid attention in drivers education class you would know that in order for a highway speed limit to be legal, a traffic survey must be done periodically. Otherwise municipalities have a vested interest in setting the speed limit too low, in order to collect ticket revenue.
  6. John Richards
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    John Richards - March 27, 2011 1:29 pm
    sunny said: "would this, engineering and traffic survey, also apply and be required for the Maxwell Bridge on Imola? Hwy. 121 goes through that stretch of Imola and is maintained by Caltrans also. I've read complaints from persons who have received tickets on the down slope there. Things should be done right. "

    I agree. I doubt that a traffic survey has been done for that stretch of road since the speed limit is obviously set much lower that what the average driver would consider safe.

  7. John Richards
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    John Richards - March 27, 2011 1:32 pm
    Sandra said: "I guess if you are speeding in a "speed trap" it is not illegal. I guess it is only illegal to speed when they do not try to trap you. Welcome to the new logic of "I am the victim". "

    I guess your logic makes sense if you believe that the authorities can do no wrong, such as when setting the speed limit artificially low in order to collect more ticket revenue.
  8. Raven
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    Raven - March 27, 2011 1:47 pm
    so the reason you won was because the chp officer didnt show.....and when you had the opportunity to face him, you declined.....this proves what exactly?

    And I notice you have nothing saying you were not traveling above the posted speed limit or faster than was safe for road conditions when you received the ticket.
  9. kck
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    kck - March 27, 2011 2:39 pm
    GOOD JOB Mr. Chen. You're my new hero. I love it, use the laws to your advantage. That's how it should be. If everyone did their homework, prior to going to court, they would find that because it cost money to update and survey, these road survey's tend to be overlooked. And to Raven, so what? Only Mr. Chan knows how fast he was going;and the radar. AGAIN MR. Chan good Job
  10. Old Time Napkin
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    Old Time Napkin - March 27, 2011 7:55 pm
    Raven, just for information speed suveys need to be done on streets where radar is used every 5 years.The survey is based on the 85th percentile. The survey sets the speed limit based on the speeds of 85% of the vehicles that are checked on a certain road or highway. The survey sets the speed based on the theory that 85% of the vehicles are driving at or below the maximum safe speed. As I recall the survey requirement is in vehicle code sections 40801 and 40802.Once the surveys are completed they are supposed to be made available to the public. If a road or highway where radar is used has not been surveyed in the last 5 years then technically any ticket that is written on that roadway is invalid.
    That stretch of road(Hwy 29) is set at 60 MPH. If a survey had been done and found that 85% of the vehicles can travel safely at 65 MPH then they would be required to raise the limit.Mr.Chen did his homework and found that the state was not in compliance.Chen-1, the State-0.
  11. John Richards
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    John Richards - March 27, 2011 8:34 pm
    Raven said: "so the reason you won was because the chp officer didnt show.....and when you had the opportunity to face him, you declined.....this proves what exactly?"

    That is silly. If I lived in Fremont, I also would not go to the trouble of taking another day off work for the privilege of confronting the policeman.
  12. Raven
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    Raven - March 27, 2011 8:46 pm
    so no one has answered the question...his action proved what? The reason his case was tossed was not because he proved anything, but rather because the officer didn't show and when he had to chance top prove his case, he declined.....sounds like he didn't have a lot of faith in his evidence after all (and where does he say he was not speeding when given the ticket?)
  13. megapixel
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    megapixel - March 27, 2011 9:27 pm
    Sandra said: "I guess if you are speeding in a "speed trap" it is not illegal."


    No Sandra, it just means the officer needs to take other measures, such as pacing the car, in order to legally write the ticket. Relying on lazy measures such as pointing a radar gun into his mirror on a stretch of highway with an expired survey is sloppy police work.

    Mr. Chen did the right thing to challenge this ticket.

  14. memasterac
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    memasterac - March 27, 2011 11:20 pm
    Raven said: "so no one has answered the question...his action proved what? The reason his case was tossed was not because he proved anything, but rather because the officer didn't show and when he had to chance top prove his case, he declined.....sounds like he didn't have a lot of faith in his evidence after all (and where does he say he was not speeding when given the ticket?)"

    Mr. Chen did not try to prove anything here… no doubt he won the ticket because the CHP officer did not show up but he has doubt about the officer’s absence. He is afraid the next time he comes back to fight and the officer won’t show up again. I won’t drive from Fremont to Napa if the court can’t guarantee for the officer’s presence. He asked the Napa Valley Register to help n hoping the media pressure can do more justice.

    If the Engineering and Traffic Survey is indeed expired, Mr. Chen’s evidence should be concrete solid because he is a traffic engineer for the government.


  15. post-it
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    post-it - March 28, 2011 11:34 am
    Raven, the point he proved was that municipalities have to follow statutes. He implied the officer did not show in order for the municiplaity to continue writting tickets under false premises.
  16. John Richards
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    John Richards - March 28, 2011 12:34 pm
    Raven said: "so no one has answered the question...his action proved what? The reason his case was tossed was not because he proved anything, but rather because the officer didn't show and when he had to chance top prove his case, he declined.....sounds like he didn't have a lot of faith in his evidence after all (and where does he say he was not speeding when given the ticket?) "

    Chen didn't set out to prove anything. He merely told us the story of what happened to him. I for one am grateful for him pointing out obscure but useful aspects of traffic law that I had forgotten about.
  17. Raven
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    Raven - March 28, 2011 5:29 pm
    " He implied the officer did not show in order for the municiplaity to continue writting tickets under false premises."

    and his facts for that implication where? didn't see any in his post...
  18. kevin
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    kevin - March 28, 2011 7:14 pm
    Obviously they haven't done said study on Hwy 80 lately, or else the speed limit would have already been adjusted to the average speed of 85...
  19. Sandra
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    Sandra - March 29, 2011 10:41 am
    John, the speed limit is I believe, 60 mph. on this stretch of road. Are you saying you are incapable of driving that speed? Seriously? Come on now... There is a traffic signal at the bottom of both ends of the bridge, and heading south it comes fairly quick. A faster speed limit would be dangerous, in my humble opinion. Do I hit faster speeds, yes, sometimes. If I got a ticket, I would pay it. My car does have a brake, and I know how to use it. If I choose not to use it, then I am NOT THE VICTIM, I am the perpetrator.
  20. Raven
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    Raven - March 29, 2011 11:39 am
    are people forgetting the basic speed law of the state..."22350. No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property."

    So if the study showed that 85 percent of the people are going a speed that is unsafe for the conditions, you don't change the limit to that 85th percentile.

    "Chen didn't set out to prove anything" sounds like he set out to prove he shouldn't have to pay a fine for speeding.
  21. Coffebeat
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    Coffebeat - March 29, 2011 1:58 pm
    Rave said "So if the study showed that 85 percent of the people are going a speed that is unsafe for the conditions, you don't change the limit to that 85th percentile."
    Um, well yeah. But Mr Chen said that is WHY the surveys are supposed to be done... to set what IS the safest speed for the area.
    I guess I really don't know what you are trying to argue. It sounds like you need Mr Chen to 'prove' something to you. Why not accept the article for what it is? What are YOU trying to get out of this?
    To Mr Chen if you are reading, I appreciate you sharing your experience/findings.

  22. Raven
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    Raven - March 29, 2011 7:02 pm
    why I do not accept is his rationalization for why he shouldn't be fined for exceeding the speed limit...something his letter doesn't address. He implies the officer didn't show up in court because the officer was some how afraid of being disproved, He cites the studies but when given the opportunity to prove his case, to confront the officer, he opts out? He has wrapped himself in a cloak of self-righteousness why avoiding the fact he was speeding... something his supporters seem to have also forgotten in the zeal to somehow validate ignoring our traffic laws.
  23. glenroy
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    glenroy - March 30, 2011 7:43 am
    An honest government employee....not nearly as many of them as there use to be...


  24. glenroy
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    glenroy - March 30, 2011 7:54 am
    I think it goes a little further than that Sandra…. Speed traps, as I understood from my hunting pal who writes a lot of tickets, are anomalies, a short area of reduced speed, not well posted or posted before the trap, radar location….a few things combined equate to a speed trap. Don’t bet the farm on that we had a few beers when we were solving societies problems, speed traps near the top.

    He readily admits he’s expected to write X amount of speeding tickers per shift.
  25. John Richards
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    John Richards - March 31, 2011 10:43 pm
    Sandra said: "the speed limit is I believe, 60 mph. on this stretch of road. Are you saying you are incapable of driving that speed? Seriously? Come on now... There is a traffic signal at the bottom of both ends of the bridge, and heading south it comes fairly quick."

    On the downhill portions it seems natural to go 65-70, and in my opinion, quite safe, especially in the northerly direction where most of the speed trap enforcement is.
  26. post-it
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    post-it - April 01, 2011 8:08 am
    Raven,

    If drivers are supposed to follow law by obeying the speed limit, shouldn't the municipality also follow the law in setting them? If the municipality is not following the law, shouldn't an individual fight that injustice?
  27. Raven
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    Raven - April 03, 2011 1:56 pm
    post it...even the grand jury report doesn't assert the city has broken the law..
  28. Raven
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    Raven - April 03, 2011 1:57 pm
    go 65-70, and in my opinion, quite safe,

    and if in my opinion, it is safe for me to 80 or 85, should I be able to do so?
  29. John Richards
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    John Richards - April 03, 2011 4:44 pm
    Raven said: "if in my opinion, it is safe for me to 80 or 85, should I be able to do so? "

    No, because that's not within the 85th percentile range for that stretch of highway. Unlike you, I have faith that the vast majority of drivers will drive at a speed that is safe for prevailing conditions. Very few of us have a death wish.
  30. John Richards
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    John Richards - April 03, 2011 4:48 pm
    Raven said: "post it...even the grand jury report doesn't assert the city has broken the law.. "

    What are you talking about? The grand jury report was about red light cameras, which is not the topic of this thread.
    The CHP has indeed broken the law by doing radar enforcement of speed limits which have no current engineering survey.
  31. Raven
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    Raven - April 03, 2011 10:23 pm
    and how many CHP officers would say that, JR...and where does it say we can drive as fats as 85 percent drive....that figure is to used in establishing a speed limit, which is still governed by what is safe for the conditions, not how many drive at a particular speed.

    now as for breaking the law, again, where in the grand jury report does it say the city has broken the law?
  32. Raven
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    Raven - April 03, 2011 10:25 pm
    one more thing...why is it okay for you to use your judgement and determine it is safe to violate a traffic law, but not okay for me to do the same?
  33. John Richards
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    John Richards - April 04, 2011 10:45 am
    Raven said: "why is it okay for you to use your judgement and determine it is safe to violate a traffic law, but not okay for me to do the same? "

    I already explained that. Your mention of a speed of 80-85 means driving above the 85th percentile range, which in turn is determined by what the average driver considers safe for that stretch of road. I just want to drive at a speed that the majority of other drivers want. The collective wisdom of most drivers is the gold standard.
  34. John Richards
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    John Richards - April 04, 2011 10:49 am
    Raven said: "where does it say we can drive as fats as 85 percent drive....that figure is to used in establishing a speed limit, which is still governed by what is safe for the conditions, not how many drive at a particular speed."

    In other words, you mistrust your fellow human beings, and you feel that most drivers drive at a speed that is unsafe?

  35. memasterac
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    memasterac - April 04, 2011 11:55 am
    What people don’t usually understand is how the government takes the advantage of the general public for its lousy work. Worse, people often overlook this because of the unfamiliarity of the related laws. I think this is what Mr. Chen tried to point it out in his article.

    A most common case is the red light cameras, local government installed the automated red light camera system all over but often forget to follow all the requirements such as sufficient yellow time and appropriate signs. The result? Tampered profit generated by the government and cases dismissed by the court. Union city, San Carlos, and many other Ca cities did this and you can easily google it.
  36. memasterac
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    memasterac - April 04, 2011 11:56 am
    Per CVC 40801~40805, the government (State-Caltrans, county, and city) is responsible to get the speed survey renewed within the appropriate time period. If the government failed to perform the required work by CVC then the law is no longer valid therefore the general public shall not be charged for violating a broken law.

    Raven replied about the CVC 22350 – Basic Speed Law. This code is still valid however within a speed trap, a law enforcement officer can ONLY pace your speed to determine whether or not you are speeding. If you read the CVC clearly, CVC 40801 & 40803 prohibits the use of any electronic device to measure the speed within a speed trap.
  37. memasterac
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    memasterac - April 04, 2011 1:28 pm
    Raven said: "and how many CHP officers would say that, JR...and where does it say we can drive as fats as 85 percent drive....that figure is to used in establishing a speed limit, which is still governed by what is safe for the conditions, not how many drive at a particular speed.now as for breaking the law, again, where in the grand jury report does it say the city has broken the law? "

    In an event if you are trying to defend for the City of Napa, Mr. Chen’s case has nothing to do with City of Napa. The state highway in Mr. Chen’s article is Caltrans (CA Dept. of Transportation) jurisdiction. Caltrans District 4 is the local agency responsible for the speed survey and CHP is the local enforcement, also a state agency.

  38. Raven
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    Raven - April 04, 2011 2:19 pm
    "The collective wisdom of most drivers is the gold standard."

    the collective wisdom of most drivers is one should obey the traffic laws and not set themselves above those laws. and you didnt answer the question JR why is it okay for you to set yourself above the law and decide what speed is safe and proper, and I cannot come to my own determination?

    I trust most people to obey the posted traffic laws, JR, and if they are caught violating the laws, I expect them to deal with the consequences of their actions.

    moved far beyond Chen a while ago, megapixel, but is there a body of thought that says since the surveys are out of date, one don't have to obey the posted limits and regulatory signs


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