Vehicle Code 21651 VC

VC 21651 – Driving on the Wrong Side of Road

VC 21651 - Driving on the Right Side

Driving on the Wrong Side – Table of Contents

VC 21651 – Overview

To be clear, despite the name of the statute being “Driving on the Right Side”, a violation occurs when someone drives on the wrong side of a roadway. Moreover, VC 21651, Driving on the Right Side VC, can be violated in two ways:

  1. driving across a divided highway in violation of VC 21651(a); or
  2. driving on the wrong side of the road in violation of VC 21651(b) and (c).

Merely driving across a divided highway can occur when a driver makes a left turn or a U-turn across a double yellow line. Driving on the wrong side of the road can occur accidentally when a driver is not paying attention, is distracted or driving while impaired.

Violations for driving across a divided highway, specifically VC 21651(a) include driving over, upon or across the dividing section which is delineated by intermittent barriers, curbs, double-parallel lines, or other markings on the roadway. Notably, a driver can be charged with driving on the wrong side of the road, specifically, VC 21651(b) and (c), even if the driver crossed the road for only a few feet is enough for a violation under the law.

Certainly, driving is inherently dangerous and can result in property damage and serious injury or death. Moreover, driving in traffic can be frustrating. However, the various rules of the road are enforced to ensure the safety of all drivers and pedestrians, as well as promote the efficient flow of traffic. Crossing the dividing line on any roadway, particularly when there are two directions of traffic is particularly dangerous because the result can be a head-on collision between vehicles. Furthermore, driving on the wrong side of the street can also result in a head-on collision and severe injury or death.

VC 21651 – Sentencing

Penalties for violating VC 21651, Driving on the Right Side, are divided into two categories depending on whether the charge is for VC 21651(a) for driving across a divided highway, or VC 21651(b) and (c) for driving on the wrong side of a roadway. The possible penalties include:

  • crossing a divided highway in violation of VC 21651(a) and is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine up to $238 and one point on your driving record
  • driving on the wrong side of the road in violation of VC 21651(b) is punishable as a misdemeanor when no injury or death occurs
  • driving on the wrong side of the road in violation of VC 21651(c) is punishable as a misdemeanor when injury or death occurs.

A violation for driving on the wrong side of a roadway can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether the violation resulted in injury or death. If the prosecutor proves the defendant willfully drove on the wrong side of the roadway and injury or death occurred as a result, the defendant can be sentenced to up to six months in county jail. Notably, there must be a finding that the driver acted “willfully” which means the driver merely intended or had the willingness to commit the act. In other words, there is no need to prove the driver intended to break the law or cause injury or death.

Drivers in California should be aware that every moving traffic violation results in a point being recorded on the driver’s record. Accumulation of numerous points can lead to increases in the cost of insurance coverage, and designation by the DMV as a “negligent operator” and lead to suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. Additionally, courts may allow a defendant to pay a fine and attend driving school. Generally, successful completion of a driving safety course will result in no points being recorded.

VC 21651 – Prosecuting

In order for a conviction for VC 21651(a) for driving across a divided highway, the prosecutor has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the crime including:

  • the driver was operating a motor vehicle
  • the driver caused the motor vehicle to cross over, upon or across a dividing section including intermittent barriers, curbs, double-parallel lines or other markings.

The prosecutor can also successfully prove a case for VC 21651(a) with evidence that the driver made a left turn, U-turn or semicircular turn on a divided highway except through a designated opening in the barrier that the driver was permitted to use or a plainly marked opening.

A conviction for VC 2165(b) for driving on the wrong side of a roadway requires proof of:

  • the driver was operating a motor vehicle
  • the driver willfully failed to drive on the right side of the dividing section.

As mentioned, willful conduct means the driver intentioned the act of driving on the wrong side of the road, and does not require proof that the driver intended to violation a law. Furthermore, if the charge is for a felony under VC 21651(c), the prosecutor must also prove that an injury or death did occur; but again, there is no need to prove the driver intended to cause an injury or death.

VC 21651 – Defending

Since the prosecution must prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, an experienced criminal defense attorney is necessary to review the facts as well as the police reports and other evidence. Not only is this important to prepare a defense strategy, but your attorney can identify and discuss weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case to argue that charges should be dropped or negotiation an acceptable plea deal.

With that said, common defenses to VC 26151(a) for driving across a divided highway include:

  • the driver was not operating the motor vehicle
  • the driver did not cross a divided highway
  • the driver did cross a divided highway, but only because of an emergency.

Common defenses to VC 26151(b) and (c) for driving on the wrong side of the roadway with no injury or death occurring include:

  • the driver was not operating the motor vehicle
  • the divided section was not visible or improper
  • the driver did willfully drive on the wrong side of the roadway, but did so accidentally or unknowingly.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will also be able to determine whether any of your rights were inadvertently or purposely violated. This could include an improper traffic stop or unlawful seizure of evidence. These violations can lead to evidence being inadmissible at trial, or more significantly, persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges.

Driving on the Right Side – Hire Us

If you or a loved one is being charged with VC 21651 Driving on the Wrong Side, we invite you to contact us immediately for a free case review. Schedule an appointment to meet with us in person, or feel free to submit an evaluation online and we will get in contact with you ASAP. We can provide a free consultation in our office located in Century City, or by phone.

Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.

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How to Win Your Case

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