Bottom Line
Road Law
A good MVR is the name of the game

Jeff McConnell & James Mennella
ATTORNEYS AT LAW

As a commercial driver, your motor vehicle record, or MVR, represents who you are. Your MVR is your electronic resume to the trucking industry and can make or break your ability to drive a commercial vehicle.

What you might not know is that many things, not just traffic ticket convictions, can affect your MVR. Here’s a few of the most interesting questions we’ve encountered regarding MVRs and our answers. We hope the information helps.

Q: It’s been more than three years since I paid my last traffic ticket. Yesterday, I ran my MVR and all three convictions are still listed on my record. I thought after three years that all my tickets would fall off. Why are my old tickets still on my MVR?

A: Remember what an MVR really is – it’s a complete history of your driving record. Just like the War of 1812, although long over, you can still read about it in the history books. It’s the same with your MVR – it’s your driving history.

So, whatever traffic convictions you’ve had in the past, no matter how long ago, those convictions are part of your permanent record, your history. But, for insurance purposes, your traffic ticket convictions are usually only relevant for about three years. After that time, although the convictions are still on your driver record, most insurance companies don’t consider them to be important when deciding whether to insure you.

Also, most states only look at three years of driving history for suspension or revocation purposes because of excessive point or moving violation convictions. In certain instances, your history that is older than seven years may be archived and not appear on your record; however, each state has its own rules.

Q: I’m a commercial driver and about five years ago I was driving my car and was involved in a very minor auto accident. At the time, the driver of the other car didn’t seem to have any injuries. We exchanged information, the police came, made an accident report and neither of us got a ticket. That’s the last I heard about the accident until now.

I went to my Department of Motor Vehicles yesterday to renew my driver’s license and was told that my license was suspended because a “default judgment” had been entered against me stemming from a five-year-old accident case. Also, to get reinstated, the DMV told me that I’d have to get a letter from the accident victim’s attorney. What’s going on?

A: Believe it or not, this is a very common occurrence. What’s going on is this: In your accident case, the driver of the other car had two years to develop a “sore neck.”

It appears that, whether real or imagined, the driver of the other car developed personal injuries of some sort or the other. The other driver then hired an attorney; the attorney filed a lawsuit naming you as the defendant.

Allegedly, the attorney has proof that you got notice of the lawsuit along with the date, time and place to be in court and, when you didn’t show up, the judge issued a default judgment. The “victim’s” attorney filed a copy of the judgment with your DMV, along with a request to suspend your driver’s license until you complied with the terms of the judgment, i.e., until you paid for the other party’s property and/or personal injury damages.

Here’s the catch: The good news is that if you truly didn’t get notice of the date, time and place to be in court, you may be able to explain this to the judge who, in turn, may vacate or dismiss the judgment against you. The bad news is that your driver’s license was “legally” suspended and, even if the judgment is dismissed and you get reinstated, the very word “suspended” may nevertheless continue to appear on your MVR as part of your history.

Q: Can my MVR be “cleaned up”? 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 those tickets be taken off?

A: 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” and sends a copy of the guilty ticket to that state’s department of motor vehicles, which 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 better have a very good reason. Remember, the court usually has total discretion as to whether it will reopen your case, and the older the conviction is, the less likely the court will be willing to do so.

Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; fax to (405) 463-0565; send e-mail to roadlaw@att.net or call (405) 463-0566.