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6/2/2011
California Court: Signal Unnecessary When Nobody is Looking
California Court of Appeal says no turn signal needed if no other car on the road is affected.

Justice Kathleen E. OLearyCalifornia drivers do not need to use their turn signals if no other car is nearby according to a ruling handed down Friday by the state's second-highest court. A three-judge panel of the court of appeal found that La Habra Police Officer Nick Wilson was in the wrong when he stopped Paul David Carmona, Jr. for making a right-hand turn in his Chevy SUV without signaling. Wilson was about 55 feet away traveling in the opposite direction at the time Carmona made his turn. The road was otherwise empty.

Officer Wilson charged Carmona with violating Vehicle Code section 22107, which states a signal must be used when "any other vehicle may be affected by the movement." The prosecutor argued that Carmona actually violated a separate law, section 22108, which states, "Any signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning." The Orange County Superior Court agreed with the prosecutor.

"Because Wilson was approaching from the opposite direction when Carmona's vehicle made a right-hand turn away from Wilson's vehicle, and no other vehicles were present, there was no possible violation of section 22107," Justice Kathleen E. O'Leary wrote for the court. "The attorney general apparently agrees as there is no argument on appeal that Wilson reasonably suspected a violation of section 22107."

The attorney general argued instead that the next statute, section 22108, was a "stand alone" provision requiring a signal within 100 feet of any turn, regardless of whether other motorists might be affected. The appellate court disagreed after making a detailed analysis of the structure of the vehicle code.

"Sections 22107 and 22108 must be read together so that when a motorist is required by section 22107 to give a turn signal, that signal must be given continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning," O'Leary wrote. "Our conclusion is borne out by looking at the entire chapter of which sections 22107 and 22108 are part.... Were section 22108 construed as containing a stand-alone directive that a turn signal be given continuously regardless of the presence of any other vehicle that might be affected, section 22107 would be rendered meaningless."

As a result of the decision, the court ordered evidence of drugs found in the car as a result of the stop should be suppressed. A copy of the decision is available in a 90k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File California v. Carmona (Court of Appeal, State of California, 5/27/2011)



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