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  1. #1
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    Reducing stop sign violation bail in San Francisco?

    After commuting for 2 years with no problem, I got two stop sign violation tickets in the last two weeks. Normally I'd pay the tickets, but in this case it's just too painful to pay two of them in two weeks.

    The cops were quite nice and both of them highlighted the possibility of reduced fines if I schedule a trial date. Does anyone have any experience with reduced fines for cyclists in SF? I find conflicting stories, so something from first hand would be great.

    On the side note, in the first case they caught me in a classic police trap that was set up for cyclists during commute hours. They even said that they were sent out to give tickets to cyclist with zero tolerance.
    While I agree that everyone should respect traffic laws, I find it sad that SFPD targets cyclist commuters. In a city where there is no parking, public transportation sucks and traffic jams are all over the place they shouldn't specifically target cyclists. Also I'd love to see reduced fines for cyclists in the case of some minor violations (along with numerous infrastructure changes).

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    Some of the penalties I've heard of for bicycle stop sign violations don't seem to fit the crime. Esp. considering that many, many stop signs are placed for purpose of speed control than any other valid reason (I think at least 75% of the four way stops in my area could be reduced to two way stops except for the fact that would probably at this point confuse people so much that there'd be in increase in accidents).

    Anyway if it was up to me and I was a traffic cop, I would issue tickets depending on factors like whether the cyclist slowed enough to have stopped if he had to and if he generally seemed to be situationally aware. Much as I think many stop signs shouldn't exist, blowing through one at speed is provocative and I'd ticket for it.

    Giving police no discretion and ticketing someone an auto type fine for riding 5 mph though a sign will simply make some people give up riding and take to their cars. I don't see how that's a better solution for anyone. I'd advocate small penalties--maybe $40-50 (w/o added court fees) as a way to adjust people's behavior w/o making them feel like martyrs for infractions.

    Sorry I have no advice on getting a fine reduced. Getting two in two weeks probably isn't going to help you here...

  3. #3
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    In Palo Alto, you can have the fee reduced to $75 if you show up in court for pre-trial. For a motor vehicle offense, this is where you get to decide to get a trial date, go to traffic school or just pay the fine. For a bike violation, you can either have it reduced to $75 or go to trial. At least that's how it was couple years ago.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by SClaraPokeman View Post
    Some of the penalties I've heard of for bicycle stop sign violations don't seem to fit the crime. Esp. considering that many, many stop signs are placed for purpose of speed control than any other valid reason (I think at least 75% of the four way stops in my area could be reduced to two way stops except for the fact that would probably at this point confuse people so much that there'd be in increase in accidents).

    Anyway if it was up to me and I was a traffic cop, I would issue tickets depending on factors like whether the cyclist slowed enough to have stopped if he had to and if he generally seemed to be situationally aware. Much as I think many stop signs shouldn't exist, blowing through one at speed is provocative and I'd ticket for it.

    Giving police no discretion and ticketing someone an auto type fine for riding 5 mph though a sign will simply make some people give up riding and take to their cars. I don't see how that's a better solution for anyone. I'd advocate small penalties--maybe $40-50 (w/o added court fees) as a way to adjust people's behavior w/o making them feel like martyrs for infractions.

    Sorry I have no advice on getting a fine reduced. Getting two in two weeks probably isn't going to help you here...
    I agree with you in 100%. Well as far as I know the fine right now is somewhere around $240 in SF, so I'm looking at around $500 now. The "vehicle" I violated the law with is a single speed steel bianchi worth $200-300. I think it's so sad that they can hand out tickets costs more than the vehicle you violate the actual law with.


    Quote Originally Posted by MetinUz View Post
    In Palo Alto, you can have the fee reduced to $75 if you show up in court for pre-trial. For a motor vehicle offense, this is where you get to decide to get a trial date, go to traffic school or just pay the fine. For a bike violation, you can either have it reduced to $75 or go to trial. At least that's how it was couple years ago.
    This would be the best thing ever. So basically I have to go to the court listed on the ticket until the deadline they gave me and ask them to reduce the bail with pleading guilty?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by nemeseri View Post
    This would be the best thing ever. So basically I have to go to the court listed on the ticket until the deadline they gave me and ask them to reduce the bail with pleading guilty?
    Sort of. It worked like that couple years ago when I was ticketed by a Santa Clara Sheriff deputy for rolling a stop sign. I had to go to court twice, once to get a date, and second to plead no contest and get the fee reduced. YMMV.

    BTW, other non-auto violations were treated the same. There was a triathlete cited for swimming where it was posted "no swimming".

  6. #6
    It's MY mountain DiabloScott's Avatar
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    Not bicycle related but twice I've had traffic tickets (FRAMED- BOGUS!!!) and I contested by written declaration, writing an exculpatory description of the events and describing myself as a safe and courteous driver... both times the fee was cut in half with no moving violation on my record. Then the response was that if I didn't agree with the verdict I could still have a court date.
    http://diabloscott.blogspot.com/

  7. #7
    Senior Member curbtender's Avatar
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    The ticket may be dismissed if the issuing officer doesn't show. If he does show, that would be the time to dispute or reason with the court. Worth a try, the fine won't go any higher unless you refuse to pay it.
    “At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.”
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MetinUz View Post
    Sort of. It worked like that couple years ago when I was ticketed by a Santa Clara Sheriff deputy for rolling a stop sign. I had to go to court twice, once to get a date, and second to plead no contest and get the fee reduced. YMMV.

    BTW, other non-auto violations were treated the same. There was a triathlete cited for swimming where it was posted "no swimming".
    This is very helpful thank you! Was the second time in the court room with a jury? Anyway thank you! Tomorrow I'm going to get a date.

  9. #9
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    Not for your specific situation, but I've twice done trial by written declaration. On one, the judge didn't buy it, I requested trial de novo, and the cop didn't show up on the court date. On the other the judge reduced it. Either way it took months and months, and you have to pay the ticket up front as bail and get the money back later if you win.
    Genesis 49:17

  10. #10
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    Short update: I went to the court clerk and they said that the fine is $197 because I was biking. The clerk highlighted that if I had been in a car it would have been $239. I find it really weird because as far as I know, by the book it should be the same for every vehicle. Anyway, if they found a way to lower the fine for bicycle riders thats a good step in the right direction, so I'm not complaining.

    The clerk recommended to schedule an appointment with a judge for possible reduction, so I will update the thread how it goes. Thanks for the tips and responses!

  11. #11
    Senior Member curbtender's Avatar
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    I used to visit traffic court to burn time waiting for my wife (I know, weirdo) and watched a guy who had argued his way out of a no-helmet citation try to get his second no-helmet thrown out by court precedent. The judge sent him home with his tail between his legs...
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    nemeseri,

    Can you describe what you were doing to be issued the citations? Did you slow at all? If you did a rolling stop $197 (are there additional court costs as with a motorized vehicle citation?) still seems very high to me. I know SF is a very different environment than say running a stop sign in the flatlands of Mtn. View, but how egregious was your offense?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by SClaraPokeman View Post
    nemeseri,

    Can you describe what you were doing to be issued the citations? Did you slow at all? If you did a rolling stop $197 (are there additional court costs as with a motorized vehicle citation?) still seems very high to me. I know SF is a very different environment than say running a stop sign in the flatlands of Mtn. View, but how egregious was your offense?
    The first time was a classic rolling stop. Slowed down, looked around carefully (that's why I didn't even notice the policeman standing 40 ft in front of me), advanced into intersection without stopping with no incoming traffic. It's not a super busy intersection (17th & Capp St). I was really sad because I thought the officer would give me a warning. That was the point when he said that their boss sent them out to ticket bicycle riders with zero tolerance.

    The second was with a little bit more speed, but still not dangerous or outrageous (slowed down, looked around, but from outside it might have looked I wasn't carefully enough). Because it wasn't a bicycle specific trap I feel like it was perfectly alright from the policeman to give a ticket in that situation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nemeseri View Post
    Slowed down, looked around carefully (that's why I didn't even notice the policeman standing 40 ft in front of me),
    Not to be an a-hole, but I have to ask the question -- if you didn't see a cop how carefully were you really looking? Was he hidden in some way or wearing plainclothes?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by gpburdell View Post
    Not to be an a-hole, but I have to ask the question -- if you didn't see a cop how carefully were you really looking? Was he hidden in some way or wearing plainclothes?
    It was a 4-way stop. When I approach a 4-way stop I make sure there is no incoming traffic from left and right. From the opposite direction, on the other side of the intersection, usually I already know if there is something coming. The cop was standing in my lane 40 ft from the intersection and behind a parking car. He wasn't hiding, but if I pay attention to the traffic I usually don't check the road right in front of me.
    Last edited by nemeseri; 06-15-15 at 12:28 PM.

  16. #16
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    Update: Today I went to court hearing and I got my ticket reduced to $115 from $197. I found the process quite straightforward. I had to wait about 35 minutes. The judge was nice and I didn't have to say anything, he instantly presented my options. They even gave me the option to choose the deadline for the payment if I needed more time.

    So based on what I saw in the court room today, I'd advice everyone to go to the court hearing for a possible reduction. Obviously it takes some time, but it wasn't a bad experience.

    Thanks for the advice!

  17. #17
    Senior Member curbtender's Avatar
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    Good deal
    “At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.”
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    Quote Originally Posted by nemeseri View Post
    Update: Today I went to court hearing and I got my ticket reduced to $115 from $197. I found the process quite straightforward. I had to wait about 35 minutes. The judge was nice and I didn't have to say anything, he instantly presented my options. They even gave me the option to choose the deadline for the payment if I needed more time.

    So based on what I saw in the court room today, I'd advice everyone to go to the court hearing for a possible reduction. Obviously it takes some time, but it wasn't a bad experience.

    Thanks for the advice!
    Nemeseri,

    Were there add-on fees in addition to the $115?. Traffic school also?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by SClaraPokeman View Post
    Nemeseri,

    Were there add-on fees in addition to the $115?. Traffic school also?
    There is no traffic school available for bicycle violations in SF (also you don't get points on your driver's license). According to the judge, currently $115 is the lowest fine possible by law for traffic violations.

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