California speedtrap - on private property?

Let’s start by telling you this happened in San Diego,CA last week…

So my friend comes up one morning to go to work and finds a motorcycle cop sitting in her driveway, hiding part way behind her hedge shooting people with his radar gun. Well, she didn’t say anything to him, though she did give him THAT LOOK. And when she opened her garage indicating she was leaving, he took off.

My question are:

  1. Can a cop just use your private property as a speedtrap without your permission?

  2. If not, could people who got tickets from this moto-pig get out of them because of his ‘trespassing’?

  3. Though my friend didn’t take any action (i.e. she didn’t call the police to complain, because like me, she believes you end up on some police ‘black list’ and get screwed later on in life because of it) could she have taken some kind of legal action? If someone is trespassing, can you sue them, and if so, how does one prove damages?

Another question in my area of expertise. California police radar enforcement. My unit designation was 53T2 and I was a traffic (specifically radar) training officer at one time. Our unofficial department policy (and I agree with it) was not to answer questions from individuals who refer to traffic enforcement officers as ‘moto-pigs’.

I suggest that your friend call the San Diego Police Department and ask for the official departmental policy on traffic enforcement.

Personally, what’s the big deal? Especially in California, having a cop sit in your driveway seems like a good thing. I’ll even bring 'em coffee.

Yarster wrote:

No more than you can get out of a speeding ticket from a Highway Patrol officer that paces your car on the freeway, on the grounds that the Highway Patrol officer would have been “speeding too.”

Just because somebody is doing something illegal while (s)he is gathering evidence that somebody else committed a crime does not automatically make that evidence inadmissible.

Depends on what state, county, and town you are in.

Almost certainly not, which is a shame IF he was actually trespassing. However, what is trespassing? As explained to me by a cop when a person called them on me (I was delivering a pizza, and chose the wrong house. The person was insane, and got so upset they called the cops), since there was no fence, no “no trespassing” notice, and there was an obvious lack of criminal intent, there would be no way to charge trespassing. But, depends on where you live also.

Your friend should just let it go. First, some departments do have “unofficial” police ‘black lists’, in that a real troublemaker does get remembered. At least my county does. Second, it’s obvious the guy was just trying to do his job, and I’m sure didn’t mean to cause offense. Third, as far as I know you can’t sue for trespassing if no damage occurs, the only thing you can do is call the police, which would be pretty silly overall.

Alright…I apologize for the ‘moto-pig’ comment, and yes, I suppose having a cop in your driveway does virtually guarantee your house has the world’s greatest burglar deterrent in place. But still, I would hate to have my house become the favorite place for speedtraps to be set up. After all, I’d have to think that every teenager who got busted by that cop would come by later that night to egg/ t.p. the house to ‘get even’ with you.

I don’t know what the law is in San Diego regarding this, but it seems to me that the cop should have had the courtesy to ASK my friend before he set up shop in her driveway, WHATEVER THE LAW SAYS.

In fact, I think I just figured out how you could (hypothetically) sue for damages…You could charge the cop ‘rent’ as a percentage of all the tickets he writes. :slight_smile:

After all, if he didn’t feel the need to tell you he was doing business on your property, perhaps you don’t need to tell him about the standing contract you have of getting 10% of all proceeds any third party business generates using your property.

Is your friend sure the property line goes all the way down to the street? In some localities there is a 10 to 20 foot wide public right-of-way alongside the road?

Yes, almost every place in a city or by a road, or with utility access has a right of way. However, the legal definition of a right-of-way does NOT mean it it public property that anyone can enter as they please. Someone who trespasses on a right-of-way on private property, who is duly warned to get off and has no claim to or business on the right of way, can be arrested. The right of way ensures access to the entitiy to which the right of way is legally granted.

The situation in Kansas:
Someone who has a right of way can do pretty much whatever they want on the right of way without your permission or even informing you. You yourself can plant trees, put up fences, etc. on the right of way, however these may be knocked down with no notice, and with no compensation offered. In fact, the right-of-way owner can demand that you remove the fence or trees yourself, though in practice this almost never happens. The only time I know of it happening was when a guy had two dead cars parked on an electric right of way, and KCPL ordered him to remove them so they could do line maintenance.

BUT, since I’m not a lawyer, just a person who had a right of way dispute once, don’t take my advice as gospel.

Do you really think he is “making money” from the tickets he writes? Also, you could not just sue womeone for sitting on the edge of your driveway, cop or not. If you do not tell them to leave, they are not trespassing. Unless of course they hopped your fence or ignored your “No Tresspassing” sign.
If you want the cop to leave, just ask him nicely. Tell him you dont want the kids egging your house later.

tcburnett: Don’t take it so personally. Some people got beef with cops. Hell, some people got beef with retail. Doesn’t bother me any.

Anyways, I’m pretty sure that any ticket issued from a radar position on private property, sans permission in the written form, is null and void. If they don’t have the right to be there, they don’t have the right to ticket you from there. It’s no different from them sitting on your front porch. It’s just not legal. A policeman is a policeman, yes, but still has to follow the same rules and regulations you do, except under dire or extenuating circumstances.

Second, most states allow natural cover for police radar units, but not man-made, which is probably why said friend’s house was chosen.

His just ‘taking off’ even further shows his guilt. If he’d had any right to be there in the first place, he would have approached the homeowner and explained himself, and/or asked permission. The only reason I can determine that he didn’t when he first arrived is that it was early and he didn’t wish to wake her, OR that he had no right to be there, which is more likely.

It’s not a big deal. But dammit, if you consistently allow your rights to be violated, one day they’re going to take them away from you. But hey, what do you care? Not like you used them anyway.

Call me crazy, but I seem to remember that pacing tickets are illegal in most, if not all, states. I’ll have to look that up to verify.

Uh… riiiight. I’m surprised no one’s called you on this yet. So you support ‘no knock’ warrants? What about the lack of a warrant altogether. If they’ve got ‘probable cause’, what’s the problem with them just barging in and havin’ a look see? Well, hell, they just found pot. Ooops. Sucks to be you. Good thing they violated the law in collecting that evidence. Seems one of those pesky ‘rights’ just saved your ass again.

Also, on the right of way thing, the way I’m familiar with Cass County, Missouri law is that a homeowner owns the property from the center of the road outward, yet the utilities and government have the right of way 15 feet from the center of the road in both directions, on a regular width two lane bidirectional county road.

Please, if you have any questions about traffic laws, check out or


In some areas you can buy a radar gun, about $800.00

TC: Ever hear the phrase “The fruit of the poisoned tree”? If a law enforcement officer breaks a law in the collection of evidence, then that evidence is null and void, and cannot be used against the suspect. Even the movie Dirty Harry got this part right.

I don’t think that’s right, Diceman. Evidence is routinely excluded when collected in violation of the rights of the accused, but I don’t think that applies when someone else’s rights are infringed. And it certainly would not apply to something as trivial as “he hid behind Mrs. Baxter’s rose trellis.”

All this is moot since the cop wasn’t actually trespassing.

See, trespassing law only applies if the tresspasser is warned and then refuses to leave. Since the cop left after getting a dirty look, I’d say that this falls under the “no harm, no foul” defense, which is probably what a judge would say as well.


I’m too lazy to look up the Vehicle Code citation, but it’s illegal for cops in California to hide behind billboards, hedges, etc. while doing traffic enforcement. That includes shooting radar at night. Of course, that won’t stop them from doing it, and it won’t stop you from having to pay the fine…unless you choose to fight it and know what statutes to cite.

I think you should go look it up before you go making such string accusations about your police department. So you’re saying they are always breaking the law and the courts are always letting them??? I have serious doubts about laws forbidding the cops from hiding or shooting radar at night. Maybe it is true, but if you have no quote from a decent resource, I will never believe that! There are freaks here that say the same crap. They just swear it is ilegal for a cop to hide. I hear people say things like, “Cops have to have their parking lights on when they run radar or it’s intrapment”. That is such nonsense. There are no such rules here, and I doubt there are any such rules there! I do not know where people get this from. The fact that the cops DO run radar at night there leads me to believe you do not have your facts straight!! What would such a law accomplish? Why would any lawmaker prevent officers from using radar at night? It’s ridiculous.

I don’t care if you believe me or not. It may well be legal in some places for the cops to hide, but not in California. Somewhere around here I have the CVC citation, and more importantly, my lawyer has it, too. He’s beat the local PD on this very issue, and if I ever get written up for such an infraction, he is the first person I’m calling.

OK, this is Texas, but the right of way in front of our house extends fifteen feet past the curb. This is city property, so sayeth the plat map. Our property (which has an additional easement) starts behind this.

Regardless of whether the motor cop was on the property, if your friend sues, how much can they ask for in damages? How much did having the policeman at the end of their drive cost them? Will the police continue to use the driveway cut if punitive damages are not assessed?

Suggest that your friend call the motorcycle division, thank them for the work that they do and ask that they not use their driveway for radar enforcement. After this, the kids can dodge speeding cars while playing in the street.

Do not take it personaly ricepad, I would not take your word for it if you were the Mesiah. Even Cecil backs up columns with sources. I hope you do not think I was calling you a liar.
Anyway, if you do have that book somewhere around there, I would love to read how that law is written.

You mean I’m NOT the messiah?? shit…

I’ll see if I can find it in the next few days…frankly, I didn’t believe it myself when I learned it, so I don’t blame you for your skepticism.