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Old 09-30-2008, 09:30 AM
 
5 posts, read 23,181 times
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Hello everyone!

After spending most of my life so far in Europe, I moved to the US a few years ago. As you may know, traffic laws, customs, and traditions are a bit different in Europe than here. And there is one thing has been puzzling me about speed limits in the US, specifically in Virginia. Actually, it's more than a puzzle now, as I got a speeding ticket which I may want to contest in court :-).

I was travelling on a highway with posted speed limit of 45 mph. On an interchange, I turned into another highway. It was a pretty big one, with two lanes in each directions, separated by a wide grassy median. If there was no posted limit, the speed limit would be 55 mph by law. Now, there was no posted speed limit on or near the entrance ramp. There was a 45 mph speed limit sign half a mile from the ramp entrance, on a curve, a bit obscured with bushes and trees. There was no way I could see it before I was really close to it. And I was given a ticket for speeding over the 45 limit before I reached the point I could see the sign.

So my question is: what is the speed limit for a driver who just entered a highway and has not encountered such posted speed limit yet? I'd appreciate your opinion, if possible, accompanied by a legal source...

Again, I grew and learned to drive in a different driving culture, so maybe the question looks very silly and answer is obvious to you. But not to me. And I read VA driver's manual (again) and checked Virginia code, and could not find anything directly relevant.
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Old 09-30-2008, 01:28 PM
 
Location: Fredericksburg, Va
5,289 posts, read 14,200,793 times
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I don't know what the law says, but I would contest the ticket in court. As long as you have a clean driving record, they should dismiss it!
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Old 10-02-2008, 10:51 PM
 
Location: va
13 posts, read 153,456 times
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not to be rude but it would be under not knowing would be no excuse, thats a pretty raw deal but thats the code of va. however not seeing a sign in a timely manner near that exit ramp would be something to tell the judge if it wasnt posted for some distance then that could possibly be favorable to you in court, a call to the va dept of transportation about the area also wouldnt hurt, let the judge know your findings on this and your case could be dismissed. beware of saying or implying that the road was designed for a speed or would"normally be" a certian speed, that assertion probably would not go over well in court
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Old 10-03-2008, 10:09 AM
 
5 posts, read 23,181 times
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Thanks for your input!
Quote:
Originally Posted by daniel roberts View Post
not to be rude but it would be under not knowing would be no excuse, thats a pretty raw deal but thats the code of va.
The defense would not be “I did not know the speed limit” but “there was no way I could know the speed limit, because it was not properly posted”. I think that it does make sense, unless the VA code requires drivers to know all speed limits in advance, before they get on the road. Like they should get a map of speed limits from VDOT? Not likely for me…

Quote:
Originally Posted by daniel roberts View Post
however not seeing a sign in a timely manner near that exit ramp would be something to tell the judge if it wasnt posted for some distance then that could possibly be favorable to you in court,
That’s what I would like to do. I was charged with Va code 46.2-878 (broken link). This section says (among other things)
“It shall be unlawful to operate any motor vehicle in excess of speed limits established and posted as provided in this section”.
So the speed limit has to be posted, which I understand that a sign must be displayed. And I am charged with disobeying such sign. Now, in VA code 46.2-830 (broken link) I read:
“All drivers of vehicles shall obey lawfully erected signs.
No provision of this section relating to the prohibition of disobeying signs or violating local traffic signals, markings, and lights shall be enforced against an alleged violator if, at the time and place of the alleged violation, any such sign, signal, marking, or light is not in proper position and sufficiently legible to be seen by an ordinarily observant person.”
So my line of defense would be that I cannot be charged with exceeding speed limit, because it was not in proper position and sufficiently legible to be seen by an ordinarily observant person. Is this too far-reaching?
Quote:
Originally Posted by daniel roberts View Post
a call to the va dept of transportation about the area also wouldnt hurt
I am not sure what would I ask them about? To send me a list of signs on that stretch of highway?
Quote:
Originally Posted by daniel roberts View Post
beware of saying or implying that the road was designed for a speed or would"normally be" a certian speed, that assertion probably would not go over well in court
I was not referring to the design of the road.46.2-870 (broken link): “Except as otherwise provided in this article, the maximum speed limit shall be 55 miles per hour on interstate highways or other limited access highways with divided roadways, nonlimited access highways having four or more lanes, and all state primary highways. The maximum speed limit on all other highways shall be 55 miles per hour if the vehicle is a passenger motor vehicle …]”. So if there was no properly posted speed limit, then 55 mph speed limit applies – that’s what I think about it. Please correct me if I am wrong. The only thing I am not sure about here is what they exactly mean by “this article”. There are titles, chapters and sections in the VA code, but I have not seen articles.
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Old 10-03-2008, 12:39 PM
 
Location: Louisiana
1,756 posts, read 3,113,275 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daniel roberts View Post
not to be rude but it would be under not knowing would be no excuse, thats a pretty raw deal but thats the code of va. however not seeing a sign in a timely manner near that exit ramp would be something to tell the judge if it wasnt posted for some distance then that could possibly be favorable to you in court, a call to the va dept of transportation about the area also wouldnt hurt, let the judge know your findings on this and your case could be dismissed. beware of saying or implying that the road was designed for a speed or would"normally be" a certian speed, that assertion probably would not go over well in court
This is excellent advice. Depending on what part of Virginia, you may want to hire legal counsel to represent you in this case. I was issued a similar citation a few years ago. Because I was an out-of-state driver, in rural Virginia I was taken to a Justice of the Peace and made to post bond before I could leave. I was given the opportunity to call an attorney, but I did not want to return to the state — almost 1000 miles. If nothing else, an attorney may be able to get you into traffic school. The advantage of this is that your citation will not appear on your record (unless you get another ticket within 3 years).
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Old 10-03-2008, 12:49 PM
 
5 posts, read 23,181 times
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Thanks to you too. I should probably have been more specific about the jurisdiction. This happened in Fairfax County (Nothern VA), on a part of the Fairfax County Parkway that runs through a military reservation called Fort Belvoir. The ticked has been issued by a military officer, and it's a federal ticket. Does it change anything?
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Old 10-03-2008, 02:29 PM
 
Location: Louisiana
1,756 posts, read 3,113,275 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bwv1004 View Post
Thanks to you too. I should probably have been more specific about the jurisdiction. This happened in Fairfax County (Nothern VA), on a part of the Fairfax County Parkway that runs through a military reservation called Fort Belvoir. The ticked has been issued by a military officer, and it's a federal ticket. Does it change anything?
Yes indeed! I grew up there. I think you may as well accept the fact that you are going to be found guilty. I would definitely find an attorney who's willing to help you. As strict as the driving laws in VA are, a single moving violation will keep you in jeopardy for an entire year, and it will effect your insurance rates. You may want an attorney to reduce this to a non-moving violation, and just be more careful the next time. (My own 84 year-old mother got a ticket on the Beulah Road segment inside Ft. Belvoir.)
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Old 10-06-2008, 08:24 AM
 
53 posts, read 186,741 times
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It wouldn't hurt to mention the positioning of the sign and the fact that it was obscured by trees and bushes, and thus not visible from the location where you were caught speeding. I once saw a woman make a similar argument as you did, except her case involved speeding in a school zone. She hired a lawyer, and her case was ultimately dismissed. If what you've observed could be a hazard to other drivers, or if your particular incident is fairly common, then the state may consider the case and do a better job maintaining the highway signage.
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:04 AM
 
1 posts, read 5,985 times
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The following may help your case, read the last paragraph:


46.2-830. Uniform marking and signing of highways; drivers to obey signs; enforcement of section.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board may classify, designate, and mark state highways and provide a uniform system of marking and signing such highways under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Such system of marking and signing shall correlate with and, so far as possible, conform to the system adopted in other states.

All drivers of vehicles shall obey lawfully erected signs.

No provision of this section relating to the prohibition of disobeying signs or violating local traffic signals, markings, and lights shall be enforced against an alleged violator if, at the time and place of the alleged violation, any such sign, signal, marking, or light is not in proper position and sufficiently legible to be seen by an ordinarily observant person.

Code 1950, § 46-184; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-173; 1970, c. 163; 1976, c. 184; 1979, c. 604; 1981, c. 585; 1989, c. 727; 1994, c. 280; 1997, c. 881.)

Last edited by rhi42; 06-03-2009 at 02:06 AM.. Reason: html coding was was accidentally imbedded and distracting
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Old 06-03-2009, 06:16 AM
 
Location: Atlanta
606 posts, read 1,564,073 times
Reputation: 448
I think you've got a pretty good case. If the sign was not visible yet, how would you be expected to obey it? The law says you can't disobey speed limits that are "established and posted", but the limit was not effectively "posted" at the point when you were driving in excess of 45 mph.

In a court of law, you are innocent until proven guilty, so it would be incumbent on the "prosecution" (not sure if that term applies to traffic court) to prove your guilt. Without credible evidence demonstrating that the limit was effectively posted, I would not think they would prevail. Then again, this is Virginia and if you were on a military base, that's a double whammy --- both tend to be ridiculously harsh on speeding for whatever reason.


Not sure why people are recommending you get an attorney. You'll pay 10 times more for the attorney than you would the ticket. That doesn't make any sense to me.
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