Legal Research

California Funeral Procession Law

I was stopped at an traffic light this afternoon when two police officers on motorcycles entered the intersection from my left with their lights flashing. They stopped briefly and then proceeded through the intersection. At first, I thought that some dignitaries may be paying a visit to Silicon Valley and these officers were serving as a police escort. However, there was no train of black Suburbans following behind.

Instead, I witnessed a stream of “regular” cars, and finally noticed a funeral placard affixed to the windshield of one of the vehicle. While the funeral procession was driving through the intersection with the green light, there was no problem. However, once the light changed, the procession continued through the intersection at the same speed, nearly causing an accident.

The traffic laws regarding funeral processions in California is governed by California Vehicle Code Section 2817.

Any person who disregards any traffic signal or direction given by a peace officer authorized pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 70 of the Penal Code to escort funeral processions, if the peace officer is in a peace officer’s uniform, and is in the process of escorting a funeral procession, shall be guilty of an infraction and subject to the penalties provided in subdivision (a) of Section 42001.

California doesn’t explicitly grant funeral processions the right-of-way, but the California DMV website states:

Do not block or hinder a funeral procession. Vehicles taking part in a funeral procession have the right-of-way, and if you interfere, obstruct, or interrupt the funeral procession, you are subject to a citation (CVC §2817). A funeral procession is led by a traffic officer. All vehicles taking part in the procession have windshield markers to identify them and have their headlights on.

For the procession I witnessed, the practical issues are (1) the funeral placard is not that easy to see at first, (2) headlights are not as meaningful a distinction in the era of daytime running lights, and (3) after the police officers had departed from the intersection, drivers arriving later to the intersection may not have been aware that a funeral procession was passing through.

So, when the traffic light turned red for the funeral procession, a couple cars darted into the intersection from their left. Fortunately, they stopped before there was a collision.

13 replies on “California Funeral Procession Law”

The training for Funeral Procession Escorts who are NOT Law Enforcement Officers should be enhanced and required by any and all Funeral Procession Escorts. At intersections with lights there should be an Escort Vehicle Blocking the intersection until the entire procession has passed through…and that vehicle should have adequate lights/flags/markings to indicate who they are! A simple windshield sign is not enough as it is almost invisible to side traffic! Each Funeral Home should be required to have enough available trained escorts to provide the procession with continuity and safety!

Those are not police officers , if every vehicle in their “procession “ does not follow the rules and if somebody is rightly going thru a green light , they can be held responsible for any damages and injuries that they cause to a victim . To keep going thru a red light they have to have a guard blocking the intersection . This is what I know .

It says peace officer. Most funeral procession cops are wanna be security guards in California.

I escorted funeral possessions for some three and one half years, as a Volunteer in Police Service. The City of Atwater was very adamant concerning loved ones, wishing to attend grave side ceremonies, hopefully arrived in time for those ceremonies. We dedicated two plainly marked vehicles and controlled traffic and intersections as best as possible, insuring police officers handled emergency calls.

The days of funeral processions on busy streets and freeways should be over.
They are too dangerous.

Today the person behind me honked at me to go on the green light while there was a procession so I proceeded with my turn on my green arrow. Instantly I had a huge truck block me off and a motorcycle pull up close to me and started yelling and waving their arms around like they were psycho. I had to be careful not to hit their truck when I went around them. I shouldn’t have to fear for my life by white guys with rebel flags hanging from their trucks because I interrupted their klansman burial. I had respect at the beginning and was willing to sit through the whole procession but there were two lanes and I understand that they are to stay to the right and I was not going to cut them off. The person behind me wanted to go so I just went. Next time I guess I will need a gun or something to protect myself from funeral procession attendees.

Think of Funeral Escorts like School Crossing Guards but for Funeral Processions. Now a Funeral Procession is treated as ONE vehicle and it has the Right of Way in California. Once the first vehicle enters an intersection under a green light, the entire Procession will be “Escorted” thru the intersection by “Funeral Escorts” who will hold the intersection, even if the light changes, until the rest of the procession clears the intersection – this allows the grieving family and friends to travel from the church to the cemetery together in procession. Be kind, someone YOU know may die someday too.

I am a funeral escort operator. I provide training to all of my officers about funeral escorting. Please be informed that there are some cities that have funeral ordinances which allow private funeral escorts to provide escort services to the funeral home. At the same time I am require to various insurances to cover accidents and alike if one occurs.
The cities that have funeral ordinances does background checks, inspect motorcycle/vehicles and some provide testing as my company does. I provide ongoing testing, training background checks, etc. The funeral ordinances, if any of you decide to review them, start with Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Once you do that you will see that the funeral ordinances are very similar although there are exceptions within them. Regarding going into the intersection on Green. I train my officers to go in on Green, not red, and to maintain the intersection until the last vehicle comes through with him/her right behind as the ordinances says. That may mean holding the light when it turns red. Once again, in a funeral ordinance jurisdiction we maintain that intersection until the last vehicle passes one of my officers. We also encourage the funeral home to order one funeral escort officer per 12 cars. Example: if they order two funeral escort officers then they are only allowed 24 vehicles or less. We line our 24 cars up and put stickers on them in the front on the passenger side up at the top, we put some stickers on the left and/or right side of car with a break in between. We do this in an attempt to let the public know that there is a possible hazzard that they need to be aware of. We have air horns, amber and red lights, according to law, on our vehicular equipment. Doing all of the above is an attempt to protect you and a funeral procession. We also encourage and try to ensure that the hazard lights and the headlights are on at the same time. That being said that is the best that I can do. The rest would be up to the public to pay attention and to give respect to a funeral like they use to do in the old days. Even the pedestrians would stop for a funeral procession. There is no guarantee in any method.

This shouldn’t be hard for people to understand? None of us are allowed to enter an intersection until it is clear. Including when a funeral escort vehicle is stopped within. If someone is having a funeral that requires an escort, many people cared for the person deceased. There shouldn’t even be an argument about the legality of the escort services, but rather common sense, respect, and decency.

I was a funeral escort officer myself for a few years and per the California vehicle code, each escort is responsible for 12 vehicles. So if you have 36 vehicles in a procession, they’re required to have 3 escorts. And in which case these motor officers will leap frog from one light to the next to catch the next intersection on a green and proceed to hold that intersection until the last car reaches that unit. And then back up to the front of the procession…. Which Is legal in California. And to interfere with a procession is a violation of the California vehicle code. Also… most officers on their marked bikes have sirens as well as airhorns… sirens are not permitted, where use of the air horns are. So please, when you see a funeral procession, be patient and be respectful because someday it might be your loved one in the back of the hurst.

In the SF Bay Area these so-called escorts are nothing but want-a-be traffic cops. Colma, CA is 99% graveyards, over 2mil dead and maybe 10k residents. The cities and street leading into Colma are over run by these idiots. I have personally been victim of one of these “officers” bang on the hood of my vehicle demanding I stop! They use red lights and sirens, they are NOT supposed to roll into an intersection and shut it down, they are supposed to wait until green in their procession direction and then proceed to hold traffic back. But today I saw a motor officer wearing a gun WHY?

In Orange County California can a funeral escort use sirens and air horns? I know and some places airhorns are OK but not sirens.

I would like to address Darin. I’m truly sorry that you had a bad experience with a funeral escort officer in S.F. No one should have band on the top of your hood even if you wouldn’t yield the right away to their funeral procession. I’ve worked in SF and I am aware of one or two people that may exhibit that behavior but as you know there are bad apples in every industry. Regarding some in the industry wanting to be police isn’t a bad thing if you don’t abuse your power. Please be informed that the funeral escort officers that you saw in S.F. were all retired police, sheriff’s, etc. and by law or department requires them to carry a firearm
do to the criminal elements they previously faced while on active duty. That company cease to exist. There is one security company in S.F. now that may carry a weapon due to their licensing. Why you say, well it may be that the people in the procession have valuable cars, jewelry, money on them and sometimes there gang funerals where shootings are had. I don’t have all the answers but I gave you want I dad. Oh, to Anthony, to my knowledge there isn’t a city, county of CA that allows funeral escorts to have siren. The must use a air horn. Some of the police motorcycles come fully equipped and you have to have the knowledge to dismantle the siren or blue lights

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