Jeff McConnell & James Mennella
Attorneys at Law
This month’s Q & A isn’t about how life should be, what’s fair, what’s equitable, what’s right or what’s legal. This column is about the cold, hard, day-to-day reality of the system we all work in and how we can help you “stay alive” as a commercial driver.
We want you to take a minute and think of the road as a battlefield. Think of OOIDA as your commander in chief who leads you in the long-term, ongoing fight against bogus, outdated, overly burdensome federal and state laws and procedures. Think of “Road Law” as your drill sergeant who’s actually down in the trenches with you, fighting hand to hand, and trying to keep you alive on a daily basis. As your sergeant, we’re giving you a direct order: Don’t tie our hands before we have a chance to help you.
When you’re stopped and given a traffic ticket, act like the professional you are. If you don’t, we may not be able to help you keep your commercial driving career alive. We understand getting a ticket, whether you believe you deserve it or not, is very frustrating and you may want to say to the officer, “Damn it, I’m not guilty,” “By God, this is a bogus ticket,” “This is a violation of my constitutional rights,” or “I’m a member of OOIDA, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Yes, these are all legitimate, reasonable responses to most tickets. But, there’s a proper time and place to make these responses and it’s not to the officer at the side of the road.
When you call us for help with any ticket, you demand we do our job as competently and efficiently as possible. We ask you to do the same. Nothing more, nothing less. Remember, we can help you but you’re always the front line to your own defense.
Question: I was back in my sleeper, sleeping, and my partner got pulled over. The officer came back and woke me up just to see my logbook. The cop can’t wake me up when I’m asleep. Can he?
Answer: Of course he can. Just wake up, hand over your logbook, don’t make any negative comments to the officer and get it over with. If the officer who’s writing you a ticket has anything bad or negative to say about you, he’ll put his notes on the back of his copy of your ticket. When the officer turns his copy of your ticket in to the court, his notes are usually all the judge or district attorney cares about and will, 99.9 percent of the time, find you guilty regardless of your defense. That’s reality. But, if you’re cooperative, the officer won’t have anything negative to write on the back of his copy of your ticket and that makes it much easier for you to fight the ticket when and if you choose to.
Question: I had an accident, but it wasn’t my fault. I even had a witness at the scene that told the officer it wasn’t my fault. I also tried to explain to the officer what happened, but she really didn’t listen and gave me a ticket anyway. Why?
Answer: You did a good job here! You gave the officer all the information she requested and even introduced her to your witness. That’s all you should do. Never argue with an officer for any reason. Just tell the officer exactly what happened and let her take it from there. If you get a ticket, so be it. In this case, you put yourself in a great position to challenge your ticket. You were cooperative without being argumentative, you gave the officer all the information she requested and now, when you go to court to challenge the ticket, the officer can testify that you were cooperative and helpful at the scene. That testimony will go a long way to convince the court to dismiss your ticket.
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; contact us through our web site at www.roadlaw.net, or call us at (405) 272-0555. We look forward to hearing from you.