Car-Pool Lane Violations Can Result in a Stiff Fine

B . Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers' questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life

Q I got a ticket for being the "sole occupant" in the car-pool lane. I heard that this could be expensive, and that I should go in front of a judge if I want the fine lowered. Is this true?



A The fine for driving in the car-pool lane without any passengers--as well as crossing the double yellow lines to enter or exit the car-pool lane--is severe. If this is your first ticket for such an offense, the total minimum fine, including the penalty assessments, is $246. The maximum total fine is $365.50. If this is your second conviction within a year, the total minimum fine is $368.50 and the maximum fine is $491. If this is your third or more conviction within 2 years, the total minimum is $613.50 and the total maximum is $1,226.

It would not help to go before a judge if you are being asked to pay the minimum amount, since that amount is mandatory and must be imposed. In fact, you could run the risk of being ordered to pay a sum greater than the minimum, but not exceeding the maximum permitted by law.

Q What civil rights does a minor, particularly an 11-year-old, have? A court has set a visitation schedule for the child to visit his non-custodial parent, but the child strongly objects to the visitation. Can the child be forced to make the visit? I have heard that a child has no say in such matters.

I understand that a child may have his own lawyer to represent him in court. How much weight does this lawyer have?



A The law provides that a child's wishes will be considered by the court and given "due weight" if the child is of "sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody."

There is no magic age as to when a child will be considered capable of making an intelligent reference. Generally, the older the minor, the more weight will be given to his or her wishes, although this should not be considered a fast rule.

An attorney can be appointed to represent the child in a custody dispute if the court finds that it would be in the child's best interests to do so. This generally occurs when the child's interests differ from the interests of both parents.

I have often said that there is usually no simple answer to questions dealing with property settlements or child-custody problems arising from a divorce. I would suggest that you consult an attorney in order to safeguard your child's happiness and well-being. The attorney would be in the best position to advise you as to the procedure to modify visitation, and whether an attorney for your child is necessary.

Q I did a really dumb thing. I was caught going over 100 m.p.h. on my motorcycle. Can I loose my license?



A The consequences of driving at that speed can be expensive. The total maximum fine, including penalty assessments, is $1,226. In addition, the court can suspend your license for up to 30 days.

If you receive a second conviction within a 3-year period, the total maximum fine would be the same, but the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend or restrict your license for 6 months.

If you are convicted three or more times within 5 years, the total maximum fine would again be the same, but the DMV will suspend or restrict your license for 1 year.

If the DMV should decide to restrict your license for a second or more conviction, you could be limited to driving to and from work.

Got a question for Judge Nomoto? Write to: Ask the Judge, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Questions of broadest interest will be answered in her column.

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