Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, Orange
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County No.
IRM477178, Harbor Justice Center, Joy Markman, Judge.
Richard Allen Baylis for Defendant and Appellant.
Becerra, Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
A. HOFFER Judge.
Tamara Sue Farleigh appeals her conviction of violating
Vehicle Code section 22350, the Basic Speed
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
September 9, 2015, at approximately 4:35 p.m., Officer Cody
Bates noticed defendant was smoking and holding the cigarette
out of the left window while driving. The officer also saw
that she was holding a cellphone in her right hand and
looking down at the screen, which was activated. The
defendant was traveling 45 miles per hour approaching a busy
intersection with numerous restaurants and shops and with no
hands on the steering wheel. The officer initiated a traffic
stop. The defendant told the officer that she was using her
cellphone for GPS navigation.
officer testified that the weather was dry and clear, there
was no water on the roadway, traffic was heavy, and the
posted speed limit was 50 miles per hour. Finally, when asked
whether the defendant's speed was “appropriate for
roadway conditions, ” the officer responded “If
you're speaking of the roadway itself and not the conduct
of the driver, 45 miles per hour would be appropriate for
that roadway.” The officer cited the defendant for
violating the Basic Speed Law. On the citation, the officer
marked “zero” as the safe speed.
trial, the court defined roadway as “everything going
on, on that road, not whether it's dry, not whether
it's heavy or light traffic; everything going on at that
time.” The trial court went on to conclude that the way
someone is driving can form the basis of a violation of the
Basic Speed Law, holding that “I cannot believe that
it's reasonable speed for prevailing conditions, i.e.,
conditions include not just the speed limit, but how a person
is driving. Driving without hands, per se - per se, to me is
unreasonable and unsafe, going 45 miles an hour without
hands.” At the end of the hearing, the trial court
reiterated her conclusion that “prevailing
conditions” are “a very general concept, and I
think it allows an officer to give a ticket based on all the
conditions, including the way a driver drives, the conditions
on the road, other cars.”
defendant timely appealed.
case poses a straightforward question of statutory
interpretation. Under the Basic Speed Law, can an officer
ticket a person who is driving at a speed which is safe for
current road and weather conditions because the speed is
unsafe for the manner in which the person is driving? With no
case law on point, this question is a matter of first
matters of statutory construction our fundamental concern is
with legislative intent. [Citation.] In order to determine
such intent, we begin with the language of the statute
itself. [Citation.] If the language is clear, there is no
need to resort to other indicia of intent; there is no need
for further construction. [Citation.] However, ‘every
statute should be construed with reference to the whole
system of law of which it is a part, so that all may be
harmonized and have effect. [Citation.] Legislative intent
will be determined so far as possible from the language of
the statutes, read as a whole.' [Citation.]”
(People v. Moon (2011) 193 Cal.App.4th 1246,
1249-1250.) Finally, “[a]nother ‘fundamental
rule[ ] of statutory construction is that a law should not be
applied in a manner producing absurd results, because the
Legislature is presumed not to intend such results.'
[Citation.]” (San Jose Unified School Dist. v.
Santa Clara County (2017) 7 Cal.App.5th 967, 982.)
Applying these rules to the present case, leads to the
conclusion that the Basic Speed Law, read as a whole,
regulates speed based on the totality of circumstances,
including the way a person is driving.
22350, the Basic Speed Law, provides: “No person shall
drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is
reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather,
visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the
highway, and in ...