We’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from drivers licensed in the great state of Texas asking why they’re just now receiving a suspension notice from ticket(s) they received nearly four years ago! Well, the answer appears to be that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) got a little behind with their paperwork. After they were recently audited by the feds, they caught up their paperwork so they wouldn’t lose their federal highway monies.
Here are just a few of the questions we received regarding old tickets, new Texas suspension notices and other good ol’ Texas information. Here’s the truth.
Question: I just got a suspension notice from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for a couple of 15 plus speeding tickets that I paid back in 1997. What’s going on? Can Texas really suspend me for tickets I got four years ago?
Answer: Yes. In most cases, regardless of how long ago you were convicted of a serious ticket, the feds can still require your home state to use it against you for suspension purposes, regardless of when it’s finally posted to your motor vehicle record. For example, the state of Texas recently was audited by the feds to check on compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). Because Texas DPS was behind with their paperwork, many Texas drivers never were suspended, even after being convicted of two or more “serious” violations within a three-year period, as required by the feds. So, although these convictions were more than three years old, Texas still had to comply with the fed rules and send out suspension notices.
Below are the definitions of serious traffic violations as defined in Section 383.5 of the FMCSR. (These are listed on page 67 of your little green and white paperback Safety Pocketbook.)
a) Excessive speeding, which is 15 mph or more above the posted limit;
b) Reckless driving;
c) Improper or erratic traffic lane changes;
d) Following too close; and
e) Violation in connection with a fatality accident.
Question: I just got a ticket in Texas and called the court to see if I could take traffic school or get a deferral. The clerk told me that since I got my ticket in a construction zone there was nothing I could do except go to trial. Is that true?
Answer: Yes. As of Jan. 1, 2001, there is a new law in Texas that a driver who gets any ticket in a construction zone, with or without workers present, can’t go to traffic school or have the ticket deferred. The only options are to pay the ticket or have a trial.
Question: What if I get a ticket in Texas and it is not in a construction zone, is there anything I can do?
Answer: Yes. There are several things you can do. First, depending on the court, you may be able to take traffic school for certain violations. You’ll need to call the court clerk for the court listed on your ticket to see if you’re eligible.
A second option is to ask the court to defer the matter. If this option is available, you may be placed on probation for 60 days to one year, depending on the charges. Ask the clerk to send you any paperwork that needs to be completed. If you don’t want to keep up with your probation time or paperwork, you may want to hire an attorney to keep track of everything for you.
Last, you can plead not guilty to the charge and request a trial. If you choose this option, be prepared to appear with or without an attorney on your trial date to have your case heard by a judge or jury.
Question: What can I do if I receive a suspension notice?
Answer: If you’re being suspended for serious violations, your home state DPS can’t change the amount of suspension time. However, a judge might agree to “stay” or continue your effective date of suspension for a little while, but you’ll eventually have to serve the required suspension. Unless, you still have time to appeal the matter or you received the tickets in states, counties or parishes where the particular court will agree to reset the matter, throw out the old conviction and hear the matter again. n
What to do if you get a suspension notice
- Contact an attorney immediately when you receive your suspension notice. Make sure no matter which attorney you call, he/she knows something about transportation law and procedures for reopening a particular case. Simply hiring a general practice attorney may not be the solution to your problem.
- Have a copy of your paid tickets, receipts and MVR so the attorney can determine where you received your tickets.
- Remember, trying to reopen a case usually only will work on tickets you paid voluntarily. If you went to court alone or with an attorney to fight the ticket in the first place, the court most likely will refuse to reopen the case.
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 might have regarding transportation law to ROAD LAW, 1330 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 215, Oklahoma City, OK 73106; phone: (405) 272-0555; fax: (405) 272-0558 or contact us through our web site at www.roadlaw.net. We look forward to hearing from you.