The Little Known Three Strikes Rule in Traffic Cases

Ordinarily, a speeding ticket or other traffic violation is an infraction which means it carries no possibility of jail time.  However, what many do not know is that in some instances an infraction can be elevated to a misdemeanor.  Here’s how: An offense that would otherwise be an infraction may be charged as a misdemeanor if:

• The defendant has been convicted of three or more Vehicle Code violations within one year immediately preceding the commission of the offense, and

• The prior convictions are alleged in an accusatory pleading or admitted by the defendant(Vehicle Code§40000.28)

For this purpose, a bail forfeiture is deemed a conviction of the charged offense. Veh C §40000.28. The one-year period referred to in the statute relates to the date of the conviction, not of the offense. According to one Bakersfield Speeding Ticket Attorney, If charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant has a right to a jury trial and, if unable to afford an attorney, to court-appointed counsel. Given the current budget crisis in California many prosecutors will try to modify the charge to take away the defendant’s right to a jury trial which would be very costly and time consuming.  With this in mind however, it is reversible error for the court to deny a defendant’s offer to admit three prior infractions within a one-year period in order to transform the current charge into a misdemeanor and secure the right to a jury trial. In one recent CA appellate court case the justices ruled that a court may not grant prosecutor’s motion to strike the prior convictions over defendant’s objection. It is not error, however, for a court to deny a defendant’s motion to strike the three prior infractions without affirmatively advising the defendant of his or her constitutional rights and obtaining a waiver of those rights

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty five years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV regarding license suspension hearings stemming from drunk driving arrests.
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