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Road Law
Take it off, take it all off

No, it's not what you think. This edition of Road Law explains how you may be able to clean up your motor vehicle record (MVR) by taking the bad things off. The number one question we get on a daily basis is, "Can you clean up my driving record?" Well, in some cases yes, and in some cases no. Here's the truth.

Question: I used to work for a company that just paid all my tickets. Now that I'm an owner-operator, my insurance company told me I have too many tickets on my MVR. Can you take those tickets off?

Answer: Your ex-company didn't do you any favors by paying your tickets. Now that your MVR looks like Bonnie and Clyde's, there's really only one legal way to try to clean it up. Here's how it works. When you pay a ticket, the court clerk takes your money, stamps your ticket "guilty," sends a copy of the guilty ticket to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), who sends it to your home state DMV. Then, the court clerk puts your file in the closed file box and takes it to the basement of the court house, where it sits, collects dust and eventually becomes food for the rats. (Well, maybe not rat food!)

The point is, once your ticket is paid and the conviction entered, your case is closed and out of that particular court's system. When we try to take it off your MVR, we have to go back to that particular court and ask them to put your case back in their system or to reopen your case.

Here's the tricky part. You have to ask the court, in writing, to reopen your case and usually, there's no legal reason for a court to do it. That means that if you expect a court to reopen your case, you had better have a very good personal reason why it should. Remember, the court usually has total discretion as to whether it will reopen your case and the older the conviction is, the less likely they'll be willing to do so.

This is not an easy process. Trying to reopen a closed case is a very difficult, time consuming (and usually expensive) process and is only something you try to do as a last resort.

If you don't want the conviction on your MVR, don't voluntarily convict yourself by simply paying a ticket

Question:I hired an attorney to help me with a traffic ticket. We went to court, had a trial and the court found me guilty. Can I get the conviction off my MVR?

Answer: Probably not. In this case you had an attorney when you went to court the first time. If your time for an appeal is over, and you had an attorney the first time around, the court usually isn't going to be very sympathetic when you ask to have your case reopened.

Question:I got a ticket and was just going to pay it and get it over with. If it shows up on my MVR, can I go back to court and ask to have it taken off my record?

Answer: Yes, you can ask the court to take it off later, but why would you plead guilty in the first place? If you don't want the conviction on your MVR, don't voluntarily convict yourself by simply paying a ticket. In almost every case, you're much better off pleading not guilty so you, or your attorney, can go to court and discuss the matter.

Question:I have three tickets on my MVR and I asked an attorney in my hometown if she could help me take the tickets off. She said that because I was already convicted there was nothing anyone could do. Is that true?

Answer: No! That's not true. Once again, depending on the particular court, if your convictions are not too old, you didn't have an attorney the first time around and having them on your MVR is causing you extreme personal hardship, most courts would be willing to look at your case again.

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.