Believe it or not, it's a crime to drive on the wrong side of the road in California. What could seem like an honest mistake to you may not seem that way to the law. To clarify, this law is found in California Vehicle Code 21651(b) VC, and it states that a person must drive in their designated lane indicated by painted barriers of the road. If a person is trying to fight this charge, then they do not need to show up in court if they hire a lawyer. However, they cannot simply ignore this charge because that would lead to misdemeanor charges. Whether this charge results in a misdemeanor or felony also depends on if there was an injury or death as a result of this violation. At the very least, someone charged with driving on the wrong side of the road will receive two points on their DMV record.
California Vehicle Code 21651(b) VC describes driving on the wrong side of the road as the following:
"It is unlawful to drive any vehicle upon a highway, except to the right of an intermittent barrier or a dividing section which separates two or more opposing lanes of traffic. This language is clear. All vehicles on California's highways must drive to the right of a barrier or dividing section. This means they must drive on the right side of the road. Driving to the left of a barrier or dividing section is driving on the left side of the road. A motorist is driving on the wrong side of the road if he (or she) does this."
Yes, there are legal defenses that a person can pursue if charged with driving on the wrong side of the road. If you find yourself in this position, it's best to consult a legal defense attorney before anything else.
The driver in question can choose to represent themselves in court, but we recommend that they get a defense lawyer for several reasons: the driver does not need to appear in court if they have an attorney, a defense attorney can effectively get reductions or dismissals on their behalf, or prosecutors can often offer better deals to those with defense attorneys.
A driver can assert that they simply could not distinguish the lines on the road. A common defense is to state that the highway was not clearly marked. In this case, it's best for the driver in question to take pictures of the road in question.
Under California Vehicle Code 21651(b) VC, driving on the wrong side of the road is considered a "wobbler" and can be punished as a misdemeanor or felony. This driving on the wrong side of the road is considered a misdemeanor if done willfully. A misdemeanor in this manner can be punishable by up to a year of jail time or a fine of up to $1000.Driving on the wrong side of the road can result in a felony if the incident caused the injury or death of another person. A felony in this instance can result in jail time of up to three years.
A person charged with driving on the wrong side of the road does not have to attend traffic school but can choose to do so and avoid points being added to their DMV record.
Ignoring a ticket of this nature would be in violation of a new law in California, Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for a failure to appear in court for a traffic violation. A person breaks Vehicle Code 40508 VC by failing to appear in court, appear to pay bail, pay bail in installments, pay a fine within the time limit that's provided, or comply with any condition of the court. Violating Vehicle Code 40508 VC can result in a misdemeanor and a penalty of up to six months in jail or a fine of no more than $1000.
If a person is driving on the wrong side of the road, and that incident results in someone's injury, then there will most likely be a personal injury lawsuit. If so, then the driver in question will often be found negligent in that lawsuit.
"Negligence" is defined in California as the lack of reasonable care to prevent the harm of other people or yourself. When it comes to vehicular accidents, the negligent driver is the one who is found to have been the cause of the accident. The driver who's at fault for an accident may also have to pay for damages. In a personal injury lawsuit, negligence can be proven if someone violates a statute. For our purposes, that means that someone can be found negligent if they violate VC 21651 (b) by driving on the wrong side of the road, thus causing the injury of another person.
Depending on the situation of any given case, the driver in question can be charged with multiple crimes related to reckless driving. So, a person can be charged with driving on the wrong side of the road and a DUI if they were under the influence. Another crime will not abrogate a violation of VC 21651 (b). There are three laws relating to driving on the wrong side of the road: reckless driving, felony reckless evading, and driving on the wrong side of the road
Reckless driving, under California Vehicle Code 23103, makes it a crime to drive with disregard for the safety of property or people.
It can be punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine of up to $1000 if nobody was injured.
Felony reckless evading is defined as evading a police officer in a motor vehicle and can be found in Vehicle Code 2800. This shows that a person is driving with disregard for others' safety or safety of property.
As a misdemeanor, this violation is punishable by at least six months in jail, but no more than a year, or a fine of up to $1000. As a felony, this violation is punishable by up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
If You find yourself or a loved one facing these charges, do not hesitate to reach out to our qualified attorneys at the H Law Group.