By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella
attorneys at law
What happens when two different drivers, driving in the same state, in different cities at different times receive traffic tickets that each simply pay? Neither pleads “not guilty,” neither calls a lawyer before paying the ticket, and neither appears for a trial.
As a result, both drivers are convicted of a traffic offense that ends up costing them their driver’s license.
One driver is reinstated within 48 hours. The other’s disqualification remains in effect for a full year.
Q: I was driving my truck in Georgia and got a ticket for “speeding 74/55.” I just paid the ticket and got a notice of disqualification from my DMV. My DMV said that I had been convicted of two “serious” traffic tickets within three years and that I was disqualified for 60 days.
I called the court, which let me speak with the judge. The judge agreed to reopen my case and let me plead guilty to an amended, non-serious speeding violation, “speeding 69/55.” The judge said that she’d mail me the paperwork with her signature. Now what do I do?
A: Send the judge a big thank you letter. You basically had the same problem as the driver in the next question. The difference is that you had a judge who cared enough to help you.
Once you receive the paperwork from the judge, you can turn it in to your DMV, avoid your disqualification, and prevent the destruction of your motor vehicle record.
Although you were very lucky in this case, you should always ask a lawyer about your ticket before you simply send in the fines and costs.
Q: I was driving my truck in Georgia when the truck in front of me blew a trailer tire. I was successful in dodging the debris but the car behind me caught a large piece in its windshield. The car hit the concrete median and flipped over.
I immediately called 9-1-1, but because traffic was so heavy, I couldn’t get to the right shoulder as soon as I wanted. So I went about a mile up the road to the next exit. I called the State Patrol, and an officer arrived soon after.
The officer came to my truck and asked me what the problem was. I explained that I had just witnessed an accident and that I had reported it to 9-1-1 and the patrol. The officer asked me why I left the scene. I explained that “the scene” was a dangerous place to try to pull over so that’s why I had gone to the exit, less than one mile from the accident.
The officer gave me a citation for “leaving the scene of an accident” and told me to pay the ticket so I did. Yesterday, I received a notice of disqualification from my home state’s Department of Motor Vehicles telling me that my commercial driver’s license is disqualified for one year.
I called the court, and the judge refused to set the matter for a hearing. She told me that I shouldn’t have simply sent my fine money in and that now there’s nothing she can do. Is that true?
A: The judge should still have the legal ability to vacate/dismiss your original conviction, allow you to plead guilty to an amended, non-disqualifying offense, such as “disobeying a traffic control device,” and sign an order stating the same.
You could then take the court order to your DMV and have the original conviction removed. The problem is that requesting a case to be reopened is usually at the discretion of the judge. If this particular judge is unwilling to help you, there’s not much you can do. 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 send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.