Legal MeFi, What exactly constitutes a crosswalk?
April 1, 2014 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I am arguing with the city of Oakland about a parking ticket. The city thinks where I was parked constitutes a crosswalk. After going to an in-person hearing, it is clear that they are buffoons. The hearing officer had a complete misunderstanding of the law. So now I have to take them to small claims court.

Thing is, there is still one argument I'm unsure about (and it's not what the hearing officer argued). Here's the definition of a crosswalk:
"Crosswalk" is either:

(a) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersection where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street.

(b) Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.
As nothing is marked to indicate a crosswalk, only section (a) applies. The issue is with the emphasized portion. My claim is that the intersection is not an "approximate right angle". In fact it is a 60deg angle (or 120deg). To me this is obvious, but I want something a little more definitive to bring with me.

What can I show or say to prove my point that 60deg is not even approximately 90deg?
posted by cman to Law & Government (12 answers total)
is there any case law defining what an approximate right angle is? have you looked at the digest of cases after the statute? have you plugged the code section into the shepards? is small claims the right choice, instead of an appeal or writ? have you hugged your law librarian today?
posted by bruce at 10:08 AM on April 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

If you plug "approximately right angles" into google scholar, you will find a bunch of California cases applying the intersection definition. If you really want to spend your time on this, you might comb through all of them and see what they say.

I'm not your lawyer, but I did find this case, which you'll like:
The accident occurred where Marengo Road, which is an east-west highway, and Charter Road meet. Charter Road joins the highway at about a sixty degree angle but does not bisect it. ...

We think it is clear from the evidence and from the map that the accident did not happen within an unmarked crosswalk. The intersecting streets in the instant case do not meet at approximately right angles, and the intersection does not fall within the provisions of Section 85(a) of the Vehicle Code.
Ward v. Sun Garden Packing Co., 165 Cal. App. 2d 652, 656 (3d Dist. 1958).
posted by willbaude at 10:14 AM on April 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

I got a parking ticket one time in Oakland, PA and tried to fight it. It stated that I had parked in the crosswalk. My rear bumper overlapped ever so slightly with where the crosswalk would be. There were no painted lines on the pavement indicating a crosswalk. I took a picture of the intersection with me when I went to fight the ticket. The magistrate told me that every intersection is considered a crosswalk and that was too bad.

I didn't know any better so when he offered to reduce the three points I was to receive on my license down to zero, I agreed to just pay the fine.

Sounded like bullshit to me. Fight the good fight, brother.
posted by GrapeApiary at 10:24 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think I am going to have to make a few assumptions here.

I am assuming there was an intersection and a sidewalk and they say you parked in a place that would infringe on the path of a pedestrian crossing the street from one sidewalk to the other in a straight line. It is not marked, there are no lines painted or signs indicating pedestrian crossing.

If that's the case, you can try but in my jurisdiction no one ever really has a slam dunk going in to Small Claims. Generally a self-represented layman probably gets a bit of sympathy and slack up here in the frosty North, not sure if this is also true in California.

You might want to look into the "why" of the "approximate right angle" inclusion in the regulations. It seems like an odd inclusion to me and the reasoning behind it not immediately obvious. I'm not sure why an intersection at 60 degrees vs 90 degrees makes a crossing from one sidewalk to another directly lined up with it at the other side of the road is not legally a "crosswalk".
posted by Hoopo at 11:02 AM on April 1, 2014

I am also going to assume you did not park "In front of or upon that portion of a curb that has been cut down, lowered, or constructed to provide wheelchair accessibility to the sidewalk." If your car was in the path of a curb letdown, it sounds like the same section (22500) would apply even though it sounds like the City applied the wrong specific part of it.
posted by Hoopo at 11:18 AM on April 1, 2014

Is your argument that if the roadway doesn't intersect at a 90 degree angle, and there are no painted lines, that a crosswalk doesn't exist? There's going to be another definition in the codebook, or in the ADA guidelines, that requires the provision for a crosswalk at all intersections regardless of the angle between the streets, and that's where they'll get you.
posted by hwyengr at 11:39 AM on April 1, 2014

I don't know, Claremont Ave. in Oakland has plenty of non-90-degree intersections, not all are marked (off the top of my head, Chabot/Claremont, Vicente/Claremont) but it'd be pretty dense to argue that there aren't implied crosswalks at those intersections.
posted by gyusan at 11:59 AM on April 1, 2014

Response by poster: The definition I found is in the California Vehicle Code and is quoted in the DMV website. Oakland does not, from what I can tell, have an amended definition.

Thanks for the answers so far! I'm usually good with Google but I've never had to dig into case law, so I appreciate the recommendations!
posted by cman at 12:45 PM on April 1, 2014

Take a screenshot of the intersection as shown on google maps, then superimpose lines showing an actual 90° angle over the 60° angle of the streets (lightly outlined in a different color). Print this out at poster size. Maybe hand out protractors to the court participants.
posted by mikepop at 1:17 PM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Be prepared to have them say you have to pay it first and they'll refund your ticket fee if you're successful. An old ex girlfriend had this happen in another city. She was ticketed for having her bumper "over a crosswalk" even though there was a metal barrier with a "Use other crosswalk" sign blocking the very crosswalk she supposedly had her bumper over.

Fought and fought. Dug up the same definition. City essentially said "We don't care, pay the now or it's going to get worse." Then they said her court date could be in about 6 months. Court date came, she plead her case, they said "Sorry, since it still counts as a crosswalk."

Fighting the city is often times a losing battle, even if you're right. I got a parking ticket once for parking in front of a hydrant. The address written on the ticket was incorrect, there was no hydrant within 500' of that address. Took me about 9 months before I got my money back.
posted by drstein at 1:32 PM on April 1, 2014

The phrase "you can't fight city hall" comes to mind.

Consider that no matter how 'right' you are, no matter how much 'proof' you have, there is the possibility that your fine will not be rescinded.

Just about everyone gets unjustly screwed by the long dong of the law sometimes. My best advice is to save yourself the trouble, pay the fine and move on with life.
posted by gnutron at 6:16 PM on April 1, 2014

This happened in Michigan, not California, so YMMV but many years ago Mr. Adams was pulled over and ticketed for turning right on a red light where it was marked "No Turn on Red." He showed the officer that there was no sign there, and the cop simply said "It must've gotten knocked over." Mr. Adams went to his court appearance (with photos of the non-marked intersection) and the judge dismissed the ticket. HOWEVER, Mr. Adams was instead charged with $200 in court costs!
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:40 AM on April 2, 2014

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