By Jeff McConnell and James Mennella
Anger does strange things to people. Even the calmest souls can become whirling dervishes when they feel they’ve been mistreated, taken advantage of or compromised. When drivers initially call us for help, they’re usually furious that an officer issued them a traffic ticket for some sort of violation that they didn’t commit.
Almost without exception, the callers will immediately want to discuss the facts of the matter, and that’s a completely natural response. The callers will usually want law enforcement heads to roll, blood to spill, the bogus charge to be dismissed in its entirety with no payment of any fine or court costs, and the citing officer to be publicly chided by the judge.
If the matter isn’t dismissed, the callers usually want to have a full-blown trial and want to testify under oath as to their own innocence. After we’ve discussed each caller’s particular problem, we ask a few simple questions:
What do you really want from this case?
What are you really trying to accomplish?
Is your goal to punish the officer?
Is your goal to see that justice prevails?
Is your goal to get an apology and a pat on the back from the judge?
Or is the real goal to try to do everything legally possible to preserve and protect your motor vehicle record?
Usually, the callers will then tell us that the true purpose is, of course, to protect their MVR. Once we determine that, we can discuss all options to achieve that goal. Here are some examples.
Q: I recently received a traffic ticket for driving 70 mph in a 55 mph zone. I tried to explain to the officer that there’s no way I could have been going that fast, but the officer wrote me the ticket anyway. I want to take this case to trial.
A: You certainly have a right to plead “not guilty,” set this matter for trial, and appear in court to testify under oath that you weren’t speeding, even 1 mph, over the posted speed. But the judge/jury may still find you guilty, and that means you’ve just been convicted of a “serious” category violation.
A better idea may be to allow your attorney to plead you “not guilty,” set the matter for trial, and contact the district attorney regarding a recommendation that guarantees you’re not convicted of a “serious” traffic violation.
Remember, it usually takes two convictions of “serious” traffic infractions in a three-year period to disqualify your commercial driver privileges; you can’t get your second conviction if you don’t get your first.
Q: I got a traffic ticket that I didn’t deserve. I didn’t do anything wrong; the officer was unprofessional and treated me badly for no reason. I’m not guilty of what I’ve been charged with, and I want to go to trial because I don’t want the officer to get away with this. What do you think?
A: First things first – we recommend you do all you can to protect your motor vehicle record rather than concentrate on getting even with a particular officer. That’s not to say that you should simply roll over and let the officer improperly accuse you of a traffic offense as well as treat you badly. However, there’s a right time and place for everything.
First, plead “not guilty,” set the matter for trial, and have your lawyer work out the best possible plea agreement for you.
Then, once the ticket issue is settled, you can write a grievance letter to the citing officer’s superior. Your grievance will become part of the officer’s permanent employment history. Then, every time the officer is reviewed for a promotion or pay increase, your grievance will be considered in the department’s decision. LL
Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to:Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134, call 405-242-2030, fax 405-242-2040, or email firstname.lastname@example.org