Running stop sign @ railroad crossing

Would like to know if I can get out of ticket for not stopping @ stop sign at railroad crossing. The issue is that trains no longer use this railroad (bushes and trees are growing all over). Officer quoted violation as Iowa code 321.342 which has wording “across which traffic is regulated”(see link below). But there is no traffic that is regulated…and hasn’t been for years. Any chance to get out of $330 fine?

Probably not much of one. I got one for running a stop sign on a closed down bike trail, nothing helped. In fact I found out the cop sat there a couple of nights a week just reeling them in.

I just read that city is removing tracks by end of the year :)…and btw nobody else is stopping there…they can make killing sitting there…

I got ticketed once for not stopping and looking to my left at a place where the traffic from the left was coming from a park whose gate had been closed and chained shut for the winter.

There’s a chance you might get out of it, but you might have to play it right. The rules might differ from state to state.

Traffic control devices (lights, stop signs, etc.) are supposed to be justified. That is, for example, speed limits are supposed to reflect accurately the traffic load and conditions of the road, as determined by some kind of proper traffic engineering study. They can’t just post a 25 MPH limit on a 4-lane thoroughfare that ought to have a 40 MPH limit, for example. In CA (to the best of my knowledge), you might be able to challenge a ticket on grounds like that. This is supposed to prevent “speed traps.” For you and all the other above posters, if cops are just sitting on those crossings handing out the tickets, you might have a speed trap type of argument.

You might be able to challenge the ticket on grounds like that – that they’ve maintained a stop sign where there’s no valid justification for one. It might turn on just how “officially” abandoned those tracks are. If they’re going to tear out the tracks sometime soon, you might inquire just when that decision was officially made. Maybe the tracks are already officially decommissioned.

But I have no idea if that sort of rule exists in all states, or if there is some federal law like that to prevent states from running speed traps. And you’d almost certainly need a lawyer to decide if there’s a possible defense here for you in this case, and to advise you if speed trap defenses will fly in your area, and you’d have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the cost of a lawyer. ETA: And to advise you of the best procedure for a speed trap type of defense.

ETA: BTW, I suspect this thread probably belongs in IMHO.

IANAL but I would definitely plead not guilty, get a court date, and explain all this to the judge. That’s kinda what they’re for, making a judgement. You’ve got nothing to lose, you won’t get a bigger fine if you try to fight it and lose! Here in NY State they put an ‘EXEMPT’ sign below the railroad X cross sign to signify that it’s abandoned.

I’m kind of confused as to why there’s a STOP sign at a railroad crossing, abandoned or not. I was always of the belief that if the crossing didn’t have at least the flashing red lights, if it’s just the wooden X railroad crossing sign, it was kind of like, “You don’t have to stop, but don’t blame us if you get killed by a train!” :smiley:

So that’s what EXEMPT means at RR crossings. I see them at a lot of crossings too (in CA), and I’ve always wondered what that meant.

Ignorance fought!

I’ve seen a few crossings with poor visibility that have stop signs.

ETA: The Federal Railroad Administration “strongly endorses” stop signs at railroad crossings:

You are forgetting that this is Iowa…all sorts of weird things happening :slight_smile:

I doubt that you can get anywhere by just “explaining all this to the judge”. Judges hear “explanations” all day long, most of them lame.

I think the speed trap type of argument is the best bet, but you have to play it right. You CAN’T just 'splain it to the judge. The burden of proof will be on you to show that the traffic control isn’t justified. You may have to do some research to find if there’s been an official traffic engineering study or some such determination. You may have to research to find if the tracks, or bike trail or whatever was officially abandoned as of the day of the ticket. You’ll probably have to hack your way through all kind of bureaucratic stonewalling to get that kind of information.

And on top of all that, in some jurisdictions that whole class of arguments may simply be considered bullshit. The judge may just tell you to STFU, guilty, case closed, next case. Or maybe it has a chance to fly.

That’s why you would certainly need a lawyer. I’m sure you could never get out of that ticket, in any jurisdiction anywhere, by just going to court and splaining it to the judge. Especially if cops are sitting on that crossing handing out tickets all day long, every other defendant is going to try 'splaining it to the judge, and all the judges have heard it all before. Only a professional lawyer would know how to do a proper speed trap defense, and even then it’s still a big maybe.

There was a stop sign there. You went through it. It doesn’t matter if it needs to be there or not. You had no business running a stop sign. You won’t get anywhere with a judge. You can get a lawyer and appeal the initial decision but it will cost you more than the ticket. Your best bet is to go to court and hope the ticketing officer doesn’t show up.

Until the tracks are actually gone, the RR can change their minds and start service again. Although they could advertise the change, there’s no way that anyone in charge could ensure that everyone who had gotten into the habit of not stopping had been notified. And even if everyone was personally notified, once the habit of running the sign is in place, there will be a pool of people who will forget and fall back on habit when they’re not paying strict attention. Safer to do what’s necessary to keep everyone in the habit of stopping at stop signs.

Which is not to say that a judge won’t dismiss the ticket. Just that it’s understandable that the ticket was issued.

i believe that the ‘EXEMPT’ sign below the railroad X cross sign shows the crossing to be active, thought it is such through low use (e.g. a siding) and high visibility that vehicles required to stop before all railroad crossing (e.g. buses) do not have to stop at that one.

1. The driver of any vehicle approaching a railroad grade
crossing across which traffic is regulated by a stop sign, a railroad
sign directing traffic to stop or an official traffic control signal
displaying a flashing red or steady circular red colored light shall
stop prior to crossing the railroad at the first opportunity at
either the clearly marked stop line or at a point near the crossing
where the driver has a clear view of the approaching railroad

IMO, your legal reasoning is without merit. Traffic IS regulated. You were there wanting to cross, that IS traffic. It does not mean railroad traffic.

Of course you can proffer any defense, but don’t count on the court agreeing with you.

lawbuff, I think you are right (unfortunately!). The way I read the statue I assumed the traffic to be from trains. I guess the only defense left for me is to prove that there is no necessity to that stop sign since there is no longer train traffic. Thanks!

Yes, this seems to agree with my IANAL ideas. I don’t know that it’s much of a defense, but I’d guess it’s your only chance (if any). It depends on, first of all, whether that’s even an allowed defense in your state; second, that YOU have to do the research and legwork to prove that, since the burden of proof will be on you (and you’ll certainly need a lawyer’s help); and third, that the prevailing attitude among the judges (or at least your judge) will be even to countenance such a defense. OTOH, the judge may take it with all the seriousness and gravitas as if you claimed to be a Sovereign Citizen.

As you noted above, This is Iowa. I suppose that’s to mean, you think there may be a backwoods hanging-judge style of jurisprudence there. Or it may be all about shaking down the people for their money.

ETA: lawbuff cites the law, saying that’s the beginning and end of THAT argument. But he is silent on the possibility of defending on the grounds discussed here.

ETA2: I’m still wondering why this thread is in GQ rather than IMHO.

You know, that makes sense. I always thought ‘EXEMPT’ was an odd, overly-legalize, unclear sort of word to signify an abandoned crossing.

The possibility is not very good, but as I said, one is free to defend themselves with any law, the trier of fact will decide the law.
dsm, pay a visit to a library where they have the Iowa Code/Laws, it does not have to be a law library, maybe the main branch of the county public library.

Look up the law you quote. After it will be what is known as Annotations (case law citations), summaries of decisions on this particular law, see if any help.

While some states, and I did not look up for Iowa, recognize as a defense “Mistake of Law” and or “Mistake of Fact” as a defense, even if not recognized, one is still free to use it.

I looked it up. dsm, I do not think it would legally fly, but you have nothing to loose.

701.6 Ignorance or mistake.
All persons are presumed to know the law. Evidence of an accused person’s ignorance or mistake as to a matter of either fact or law shall be admissible in any case where it shall tend to prove the existence or nonexistence of some element of the crime with which the person is charged.
[C79, 81, §701.6]

Yeah, give it a shot. You have nothing to lose. I contest almost every single parking ticket and red light ticket by mail, and I win half of 'em, even if I thought my excuse was lame and bullshit. Ironically, the one case I thought (and still do) believe I was 100% in the right is one of the ones I lost.

Never hurts to try. The one traffic violation I contested in person, the judge gave the whole courtroom an offer: pay up, and it doesn’t go on your record as long as you don’t have another violation in six months. I decided to take the sure offer, even though I was ready to defend myself.