By Jeff McConnell &
Attorneys at law
Protecting your CDL may be the most important professional duty you have. Your CDL is how you earn your living and provide for yourself and those that depend on you. We understand that receiving a traffic ticket is frustrating and can generate a lot of anger.
Many drivers who call us will, at first, say they want to go to trial and do whatever it takes to fight the ticket. Sometimes a trial may be the best thing you can do, but you shouldn’t decide to have a trial simply because your ego is bruised and you’re angry.
Trials – whether you hire a lawyer or not – are expensive. You have to consider your actual, as well as your opportunity, costs of having a trial. Also, before deciding to have a trial for a traffic ticket, you’ll need to consider the type of ticket and what a conviction would do to your driver record.
Here are a few questions we received recently about whether having a trial for a traffic ticket would be a good idea. We hope the information helps.
Q: A highway patrolman stopped me and said I was driving in the left lane. I tried to explain that I was only passing a much slower vehicle and was in the left lane for less than 30 seconds. The officer said it didn’t matter how long or why I was in the left lane and gave me a ticket anyway.
I have a pretty good driving record with only one other ticket for following too close in the last three years. It’s not fair that I got this new ticket and I want to take it to trial. What should I do?
A: Yes, you have the right to appear for trial and testify, but you really need to consider a few things before deciding whether a trial is the way to go.
First, let’s take a look at your driving record. The ticket that’s already on your record, i.e. “following too close,” is a “serious” category violation according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Your new ticket is likely to be considered a “serious” violation as well.
So, within the past three years, you’ve already been convicted of one “serious” violation. If you’re convicted of the new charge, you’ll have two “serious” convictions within three years, and your CDL will be automatically disqualified for 60 days.
Do you really want to take the gamble of having your CDL disqualified for 60 days? Because you already have one “serious” conviction within the last three years, we’d recommend you take the sure thing by pleading guilty/no contest to an amended, non-serious charge. Yes, you’ll be pleading guilty/no contest to a moving violation, which will probably add two or three driver points to your record, but your CDL will remain valid.
Q: I got a ticket for reckless driving when a four-wheeler called 9-1-1 and reported a truck was weaving in and out of traffic. This ticket is BS. I wasn’t even in the area listed on the ticket, and I certainly wasn’t weaving in and out of traffic. The cop told me that he didn’t see me doing anything wrong, but he had to give me the ticket because of the report.
I’m definitely taking this to trial. Do you think that’s a good idea?
A: Maybe, but you should definitely plead “not guilty” and have the matter set for trial. Once the matter is set for trial, we recommend you give the court a chance to make a recommendation and even agree to dismiss your charge based on the facts of your case.
If a trial is necessary, the person who actually made the 9-1-1 report will have to appear and testify under oath. If this person doesn’t appear, the case will most likely be dismissed because the officer can’t testify to something he/she didn’t actually witness. 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 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.