For those of you who don't know us, we're attorneys Jeff McConnell and James Mennella. We limit our legal practice to what we call "ROAD LAW." We defend professional drivers and transportation companies nationwide against all federal and state traffic violations.
We'll be writing a monthly column in Land Line to inform OOIDA readers of important legal issues that affect their business and livelihood. We'll do this by using a question and answer format to explain our most frequently asked questions.
Question: I have an attorney that I use for most of my business needs. Why should I hire someone different when I receive a ticket?
Answer: If you're a professional driver, you need a lawyer that understands federal and state transportation laws. Most drivers think they're in good hands when they hire any attorney, but that's a very dangerous thing to believe for two reasons. First, a general practice attorney that handles personal injury, bankruptcy, divorce, etc., probably knows nothing about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). Second, a local, general practice attorney usually knows nothing about the state law where the driver is licensed. Any attorney who doesn't take the time to do the necessary research could do a lot of damage to a professional driver.
Question: I received a ticket in my personal vehicle and I just paid it. Now, it appears on my commercial motor vehicle record as well. Why?
Answer: There is not a separate commercial/non-commercial motor vehicle report (MVR). Whether you're convicted of a violation in your personal vehicle or in your commercial vehicle, each conviction will appear on your MVR.
Any Attorney who doesn't take the time to do the necessary research could do a lot of damage to a professional driver
Question: I'm licensed in the state of Texas and I received a ticket in Ohio for speeding (65 in a 55 mph zone). The officer told me to just pay the ticket because it was a "0" point violation. After I paid the ticket, I ran my MVR and it showed up as a conviction. Why?
Answer: The officer didn't tell you the whole truth. Here's the facts. Your "home" state or the state where you're licensed is the only state you should be concerned with. For example, if you're licensed in Ohio, your first two speeding convictions in twelve months will go on your Ohio motor vehicle record, but they go on as "0" point violations. If you're not licensed in Ohio, this doesn't apply to you. In the question, the driver was licensed in Texas. Texas doesn't even have a point system. Texas has a moving/non-moving system. Because speeding is a moving violation, the Ohio ticket appeared on the Texas motor vehicle record.
Question: Can the federal government suspend my CDL?
Answer: Yes. The federal government can suspend your CDL privileges if you're convicted of two of the five "serious" traffic violations under the FMCSR within a three-year period. The five violations are as follows: (1) Excessive speed (15 or more mph over the posted limit), (2) Reckless driving, (3) Following too close, (4) Improper or erratic traffic lane change, and (5) any citation that you receive from a fatality accident. If you're convicted (meaning that you voluntarily pay or the court finds you guilty) of two of these five violations within a three-year period, the federal government will suspend your CDL for 60 days.
Question: I was cited for speeding -15 over in my car. Is that a federal violation?
Answer: No, you have to be driving a commercial vehicle before a ticket can result in a federal violation. But remember, just because the violation isn't classified as federal doesn't mean that it can't hurt you. In addition to the five federal violations, your "home state," (the state where your license was issued) has either a moving violation or point system for suspension purposes.
For example, if you accumulate enough points or moving violations within a specific period, you'll receive a notice of suspension from your home state. This type of suspension is for both your CDL and "four-wheel" privileges. However, unlike a federal suspension, you may be able to get a work permit or suspension modification to continue driving.
We hope you can use the information in this column to help with every day, real life problems you face on the road. We invite you to send us any questions or comments you may have regarding transportation law to ROAD LAW, 1330 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 215, Oklahoma City, OK, 73106; fax to (405) 272-0558 or contact us through our web site at www.roadlaw.net. We look forward to hearing from you.