A lawsuit has been filed against the Los Angeles Police Department alleging its officers issued speeding tickets on streets that did not have valid speed limits. The lawsuit is seeking to prevent the LAPD from ticketing on any street without a valid speed limit, and to expunge the records of ticketed drivers. The lawsuit is also seeking the repayment of all fines, plus interest, for drivers who were wrongfully convicted.
The lawsuit involves the issuance of traffic tickets for violating the state's basic speed law (Vehicle Code Section 22350). The requirements for an officer to issue a citation for this violation are discussed in detail on our Speeding page. One of those requirements is that there is a valid traffic and engineering survey for the street which justifies the posted speed limit. Surveys are required so that cities do not post speed limits that are too low, thereby creating a "speed trap" which is illegal under California law. What appears to have occurred in Los Angeles, and which is the subject of the lawsuit, is that LAPD officers were issuing speeding tickets on streets where the surveys had expired. Those drivers that received tickets were never made aware of this fact. They either paid the fine online or at the traffic clerk's office, which resulted in a conviction, or pled guilty in front of a traffic court judge, with the same result. These drivers never made it to trial where they would not have been convicted: a valid survey is necessary for an officer to prove a person violated the basic speed law.
It appears that the city of Los Angeles allowed many surveys to expire between 2010 and 2017 due to budget cuts following the great recession. City officials have finally reversed this pattern and have begun updating the surveys to put the posted speed limits in compliance with California law.
The lawsuit is correct: these tickets should never have been issued in the first place. The lawsuit is seeking class action status so it is currently unclear how many drivers were affected. Our blog will keep you posted of further developments in this case.