A tale of two cities

The out basket: The Road Warrior has been able to help two of my readers who were incorrectly ticketed by city police for infractions where the officer didn’t know the law. 

Both men had read in this column that they could legally do what they did, only to have officers unaware of the applicable law cite them. 

First came Nicholas Sveslosky, who was ticketed last spring by an officer in Lynnwood in Snohomish County for driving past a school bus that was facing in the opposite direction with its sign out and red lights flashing, with a turn lane between his car and the bus. 

Though even the state public instruction office issues literature saying no stop is required in that situation, he not only was stopped and cited, but convicted in municipal court. He e-mailed to ask me what I thought. 

Then Doug Lemon relied on my description of an odd law that permits a left turn against a red light if turning onto a one-way street, providing a full stop is made and no other traffic is imperiled. 

A Port Orchard officer ticketed him for running a red light after he did just that at the Sedgwick Road on-ramp to northbound Highway 16  on Oct. 22. 

Like Nicholas, Doug asked me where he’d gone wrong.

The out basket: I advised Nicholas to appeal to superior court, as the municipal judge’s ruling, that the middle turning lane was not a traffic lane because it is not a regular driving lane where cars move in a single file, was clearly in error.

“The prosecuting attorney for the city called me the week of the case to let me know that I was right, and that they were dropping their case,” Nicholas wrote me on Oct. 3.

‘The judge at the superior court court looked surprised that the city dropped the case,” he said. “Great vindication! I did not pay any of the $400 fine, and I received a full refund of my $240 appeal filing fee.”

It didn’t take Doug nearly as long. Port Orchard Police Commander Geoff Marti, when I asked him about the case, invited Doug to call him, and he personally arranged for dismissal of the ticket. 

Still, Doug said, “I’m not sure if I have the confidence to practice this left turn on red again.” Which may be the sad lesson from these two cases. Even when a person is right and the officer is wrong, it can be quite a hassle and take months to prevail. 

Having a copy in one’s car of RCW 46.61.055, the red light law, and RCW 46.61.370, the school bus law, probably would be a good idea for those willing to do it.


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