VC 21453 (a) – Failure to Stop at a Red Light

VC 21453 (a), failure to stop at a red light, is one of the most common traffic ticket infractions charged in Orange County. Only speeding tickets are more common.

Not only are thousands of failure to stop tickets automatically issued every year by red light traffic ticket cameras, they are just as commonly issued by traffic officers. To the surprise of many, the definition of the law, and the fine is the same. VC 21453 (a) ‘Failure to Stop’ os one of the most expensive one-point violations in the California Vehicle Code, with a mandatory minimum base fine of $100. After penalty assessments and fees are added, the failure to stop ticket – VC 21453 (a) – comes out to at least $490. The fine can be higher if a person has prior moving violations. The court also charges a $54 fee for the privilege to attend traffic school if you want to keep the point off your record. Finally, you also must pay to attend the traffic school itself, although fortunately that can be as little as $20 if you can take the traffic school class online.

The VC 21453 (a) law defines running a red light as failing to stop at the limit line when you are facing a red signal. This means that you must be entirely behind the limit line or cross walk when the light is red. It is not illegal to be in the intersection when it changes to red. In fact, if just one inch of your bumper is past the first white line of the crosswalk when the light turns from yellow to red, you are not guilty. With camera tickets, this can be challenged at trial, because there is a video that can be reviewed. Unfortunately, when the ticket is given by an officer it usually comes down to your word against the word of the officer. This can be a difficult battle to win.

A person will often be charged with VC 21453 (a) ‘running a red light’ when they make a right turn and fail to come to a complete stop. Making a “California stop” on a right turn can be charged by the officer in several different ways. The officer can charge it as VC 21461(a), failure to obey a sign, which is a general catch-all that can be used for many illegal maneuvers. The officer can also write the ticket for a violation of VC 21453(b), which deals specifically with right hand turns on a red. Or, of course they can charge it as a VC 21453(a). The difference is that the first two charges carry a $35 base fine and result in a ticket almost half the cost of the VC 21453(a).

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