Crazy Flashing School Zones on Holidays

When school zone speed limit signs are flashing that usually means that you need to go the speed limit indicated by the sign. However, Virginia law requires that the school zone speed limit signs only be on 30 minutes before and after school hours. What does that mean on a holiday?

Today I was driving while doing some errands and passed through a couple school zones where the school zone speed limit signs were clearly flashing, indicating that you’re supposed to only go 25 miles an hour. However, as I got to the school you could tell that not a soul was on campus. The schools were closed because it’s the day before Thanksgiving, but the school zone speed limit signs were still flashing.

I would argue that those school zone speed limit signs are completely invalid on a day when school is not in session because Virginia law clearly specifies that the signs can only be on 30 minutes before and after school hours. Therefore, on a day when school is not in session, even if the lights are on, I would suggest that you have a strong defense to any kind of school zone speed limit ticket. The regular speed limit for that roadway is obviously still in effect, so you can’t just go any speed that you want. But on a day like today (before Thanksgiving) or Thanksgiving Day or Christmas or any days like that when school is clearly not in session, I think that provides a strong defense and should be a winning defense to a school zone speed limit ticket even if the lights are flashing.

The problem with this argument is that the defense would fail without proof. If the officer gives you a ticket, you would have to come into court. And if he testifies that the lights were on it would fall upon the defense to prove that the school wasn’t in session that day. The reason is that some judges don’t believe that the law requires the officer to affirmatively prove that school was in session at the time in question and that the lights were on at the proper time. Some judges do require the officer to be able to testify what time school was starting or ending that day but some judges don’t. If you happen to be in front of a judge that does not require the officer to affirmatively prove the school times then it would be on us to prove that school wasn’t in session on the day in question. The good news is it should be relatively easy to prove that. We could subpoena an employee of the school or we could simply subpoena records from the school, the official school calendar or something, and admit that into evidence to prove that school wasn’t in session on the day in question.

The moral of the story is, I can’t advise you to disregard the lights on a school zone speed limit sign. If they’re on, you should be obeying those lights. But if for some reason you accidentally don’t obey the lights on a holiday, I think we have a strong defense to a ticket for disobeying the school zone speed limit.

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