California Vehicle Code Section 21655.9—Preferential Use of Highway Lanes for High-Occupancy Vehicles
California Vehicle Code Section 21655.9 refers to use of the commuter or car pool lanes for high occupancy vehicles (HOV). HOV lanes are reserved during certain hours for high traffic highways with at least one passenger or in some cases at least 2 passengers to be used during peak commuting hours.
If you are caught using these lanes and do not have the requisite number of passengers, you are in violation of CVC Section 21655.9. Fines are steep, starting at $237.
Who Can Use the HOV Lanes?
During commute hours, HOV lanes may also be used by motorcyclists who do not need a passenger to be able to access the lanes. Buses and para-transit vehicles are exempt as well. This does not include school buses, charter or sightseeing buses that must have the requisite number of passengers to use the lanes during the commute hours.
Vehicles that are low emission or electric may also use HOV lanes. The DMV will issue white or green CAV decals to hybrid, electric or other vehicles that are these emission type vehicles pursuant to Section 5205.5:
- ILEV (federal low-emission vehicle
- SULEV (super ultra low emission vehicle)
- ZEV ( zero emission vehicle)
- TZEV (transition zero emission vehicle)
- Enhanced AT PZEV (enhanced advanced technology partial zero emission vehicle)
If your vehicle has any of these decals, then you are permitted to drive solo in the HOV lanes at any time. Of course, emergency vehicles are always permitted in these lanes as well.
Risk of a Misdemeanor Charge
A violation of CVC 21655.9 is an infraction. It is not considered a moving violation in most cases so that you will not receive a point on your driving record. However, if you do cross a double yellow line when entering or exiting an HOV lane, it is considered a moving violation and you will receive a point.
CVC 21655.9(c), however, refers to a more serious violation. This states:
“(c) A person shall not operate or own a vehicle displaying a decal, label, or other identifier, as described in Section 5205.5, if that decal, label, or identifier was not used for that vehicle pursuant to Section 5205.5. A violation of this subdivision is a misdemeanor.”
In other word, you were using a decal or label issued for a vehicle that fits the emission standards under Section 5055.5 on a vehicle that was not issued the decal or label. If you were stopped by a police officer for violating a traffic code section or for any other valid reason, the officer could check to see if your decal was issued to your vehicle.
A misdemeanor conviction under this subdivision carries these penalties:
- Summary or informal probation
- County jail time up to 6-months
- And/or a fine up to $1000
Can You Defend a CVC 21655.9 Violation?
There are defenses to any violation. It is fairly straightforward regarding a violation of this section since you either had the required number of passengers in your car or not while traveling in the HOV lane during the posted commute or car pool hours or whether your vehicle displayed the proper decal or label issued for that vehicle.
Regardless of the circumstances, we want to learn more about your situation to understand what your options are. Reach out to our team to find out more about your citation. You can also submit the ticket for a free review.