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LA police ticketed drivers on streets with expired speed limits, lawsuit says

Laura J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Police officers in Los Angeles wrongly ticketed motorists on streets with expired speed limits, violating a law that bans the use of speed traps in California cities, according to a lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, says the Los Angeles Police Department used electronic devices to write speeding tickets on city streets without valid speed limits, and that city officials did not take "timely steps" to stop officers from citing motorists there.

The lawsuit is the latest twist in L.A.'s yearslong struggle to comply with California speed trap laws, which require that cities post speed limits that reflect the natural flow of traffic.

If a speed limit is too low, or is years out of date, police officers are barred from using laser or radar guns to write tickets there. If they do, the street is considered a speed trap, and the ticket can be thrown out in court.

During the Great Recession, Los Angeles let speed limits expire on hundreds of miles of streets, and speed enforcement plummeted. The number of speeding tickets written by the LAPD fell 77% from 2010 to 2017, according to department data.

Transportation officials have worked for more than three years to update surveys of driver speeds so speed enforcement can resume. More than 97% of city streets are now in compliance, including nearly 200 miles of streets, mostly in the San Fernando Valley, that saw their speed limits rise.

 

The lawsuit is seeking to prevent the LAPD from ticketing on any street without a valid speed limit, and expunge the records of ticketed drivers. The lawsuit is also seeking the repayment of all fines, plus interest.

The lawsuit cites three people who received speeding tickets in the Valley in 2017 and 2018 that were later overturned in court because the speed limits were invalid.

A fourth driver did not contest his ticket, and paid a $436 fine, a fee to attend traffic school and a credit-card processing fee, the complaint said.

Two of the speeding tickets cited in the lawsuit were written on a stretch of Canoga Avenue in Canoga Park last April. The street had a 35-mph limit that expired in 2010, according to city records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. The speed limit was renewed last year.

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