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PO Box 123456789

Los Angeles CA  90027

(213) _____-_________


Defendant in Pro Per



COUNTY OF _______________






CASE NO: _____________________

 DEFENDANT’S TRIAL BRIEF                                          

Department #: ________________

Trial Date: ____________________

     Defendant HARVEY HOMELACK submits the following:

1. The jaywalking statute (Vehicle Code 21955) is vague and ambiguous as to the meaning of the words “cross the roadway.”

It is a basic principle of due process that an ordinance is unconstitutionally vague if its prohibitions are not clearly defined. (See Grayned v. City of Rockford (1972) 408 U.S. 104, 108.) There must be ascertainable standards. "Men of common intelligence cannot be required to guess at the meaning of the enactment. [Fn. omitted.]" (Winters v. New York (1948) 333 U.S. 507, 515.)

People v. Soto (1985) 171 Cal. App. 3d 1158:

“Vague laws may trap the innocent by not providing fair warning… A vague law impermissibly delegates basic policy matters to policemen, judges, and juries for resolution on an ad hoc and subjective basis, with the attendant dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory application. . ." [citing Grayned supra.]

In the case at hand, California Vehicle Code Section 21955 (CVC 21955) states that:

“Between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers, pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk.”

 The words “cross the roadway” are not defined by statute.

Do the words “cross the roadway” mean to cross the roadway completely or also partially?  The statute does not say.  Thus, a pedestrian or law enforcement officer is left to guess at it meaning.

Would a person partially crossing the street in order to enter into his or her car on the driver’s side technically violate Section 21955?  We don’t know.

Would a person cross the street who starts to walk across the street, changes his mind, turns back, and returns back to the original curb?  We can only guess.  For the statute does not define the words “cross the roadway.”

Thus, being vague, the statute cannot be reasonably followed or uniformly enforced due to varying interpretations.  Therefore, the Section 21955 is fatally defective on constitutional grounds.  Thus, the infraction charges against Defendant must be dismissed.

2. Even if the jaywalking statute is not unconstitutionally vague, Defendant  did not violate the ordinance because he did not “cross” the street.

    California Vehicle Code Section 21955 (CVC 21955) states that:

“Between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers, pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk.”

Defendant did not “cross” the roadway.  He started to move across the intersection, but changed his mind, turned back, and returned to the same side of the street from where he started.

What does “cross the roadway” mean?  Common sense dictates.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the other side.”

Defendant never got to the other side!  Thus, he did not cross the road!

The case of People v. Hawkins (1942) 51 Cal. App. 2d Supp. 779, involved prosecution of  pedestrian for crossing roadway against stop signal.  In seeking to define the word cross, the Hawkins court stated:

“Of the many meanings in which the word "cross" may be employed, there is one in common use that aptly fits the word as it appears in the section we are considering. It is the first definition of "cross" as a verb given in 25 C. J. S. 10:

‘To pass from side to side.’

It is among the definitions given in Webster's New International Dictionary (2nd ed.):

‘To pass or extend from one side to the other of; . . . as, to cross a stream . . .’

Within this definition, a person born in the Middle West does not cross the continent if he journeys either to the Pacific Coast or to the Atlantic Seaboard…”

So also, Defendant, who has advanced into the roadway part way, and then turned around and returned to the original curb from where he started, did not cross the roadway.  Therefore, he did not violate the jaywalking statute.

In Croxall v. Broadway Department Store, (1932) 127 Cal. App. 153, 156, the court construed “cross” to mean “relating to those who are crossing the roadway from curb to curb.”

In the case at hand, Defendant did not cross the roadway.  Why not? Because he did not pass from “side to side” or from “curb to curb.”  Rather, he moved part way across the street, stopped, and turned back.  Unlike the chicken, he did not cross to the other side.


3. Codes that regulate the process or act of crossing the road use different language than does Vehicle Code 21955.

            For examples:

Former Vehicle Code Section 476, included the following: "(c)

. . . 3. No pedestrian shall enter the roadway or cross any part of the roadway or from or to a safety zone against a red or 'Stop' signal . . ."

Vehicle Code 1456 states, in part, that:

* * *

(b) … No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the "WAIT" or "DONT WALK" or approved "Upraised Hand" symbol is showing.

Vehicle Code 21950(a):

The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter. 

Note: The "ing" in crossing is a participle showing ongoing movement or being in the process of crossing.

            Section 21955 uses the words, “cross the roadway” … not “crossing,” not “start to cross,” and not “cross any part” of the roadway. Therefore, the definition of “cross the roadway” must mean to cross from one side of the roadway to the other side of the roadway.

4. Summary:

The subject jaywalking statute is unconstitutionally vague because the words “cross the roadway” is not defined at all.  On such basis, the case ought to be dismissed.  However, should the court rule otherwise, then the definition of “cross the roadway” means to “pass from one side of the curb to the other side of the curb.”  And Defendant, unlike the chicken, did not cross the road because he did not get to the other side.  Therefore, Defendant did not violate the subject statute.  Accordingly,  Defendant is entitled to finding of "not guilty."


Dated: __________________          By:   ____________________________
                                                                        Defendant HARVEY HOMELACK





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