Attorneys at Law
In the United States you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an attorney. You might say that we’re everywhere, but does your attorney always know what’s in your best interest? You can’t just trust your livelihood to any member of the bar, but you can make sure that whoever you hire knows as much as possible to get you the best result. In this issue, we discuss various lawyer marketing techniques and potential pitfalls for the unwary.
Question: I recently received a letter from an attorney about my pending traffic ticket and his fee for assisting me. How did this attorney get my name and even know about my ticket?
Answer: In many states, it is common practice for attorneys to search the court docket of upcoming cases and send letters to the names on those dockets. There is nothing illegal about the practice, and the information is public record. The letter you received is nothing more than an advertisement for that attorney’s services and an invitation for you to call regarding your case.
Question: I hired an attorney who sent me a letter about my traffic ticket. After my court date, I received a letter that said, “Congratulations, we were able to have your citation amended to a 0 point violation with payment of fine and costs.” I’m from Louisiana; doesn’t the lawyer know that we don’t have a point system?
Answer: Unfortunately, the answer is probably no. One of the most overlooked elements in representing clients with traffic-related matters is their home state motor vehicle code. Too often, attorneys don’t know, or take the time to find out, what impact accepting a plea on a client’s behalf will have in another state.
Remember, although the state where you received the violation matters to an extent, the real concern is what your home state will do with the violation when and if it is reported. In this example, the relief that the attorney obtained for the client really doesn’t have any benefit, unless the amended violation would not be reported.
Question: I have a citation that I need to get amended, but I don’t want to appear for trial and need to hire a lawyer. What should I look for when hiring an attorney?
Answer: The main thing you need to look for is an attorney who is familiar with what we call the “Bermuda Triangle.” The triangle requires three questions to be answered: Is the violation a “serious” violation under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations? Is the violation a point or moving violation in the driver’s home state? What options are available in the state where the ticket was received?
Not every lawyer will know this information, nor will you want to pay a lawyer to educate himself about this information. What you can do is to know at least two points of the “triangle.” Know the FMCSR violations (found in the green and white pocket book) and whether you are licensed in a moving violation or point state.
If you can supply this information to whomever you hire, it will save you money and increase the likelihood that any plea agreement reached is the most beneficial to your driving record.
Jeff McConnell and James Mennella invite you to send any questions or comments you may have regarding transportation law to: Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; fax questions to (405) 463-0565; contact them through their Web site at roadlaw.net; e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at (405) 463-0566.