By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law
We recently had a client with an unusual Illinois overweight ticket. The ticket was unusual because of the particularly high fine amount of almost $18,000. The client faxed us his citation, including a copy of his "Special Vehicle Movement Permit Provisions."
After reviewing the permit, the client called our office to discuss the facts of his case and why he believed his case was a "slam dunk" to be dismissed. Here's part of our conversation.
Client: I faxed you my ticket and a copy of my permit. I want this case dismissed because the officer was totally wrong for giving me this ticket.
ROAD LAW: Tell us what happened.
Client: Well, I was driving in the middle lane and I saw a sign for my exit ahead. I started slowing down but there was a car in the right lane that wouldn't let me over. I slowed down to almost 40 mph but the car kept slowing down too. I saw my exit but, because the car was still in my right lane, I couldn't take my exit.
So I went less than a mile farther and saw a cop sitting on the side of the road. My right lane was clear then, so I pulled up behind the officer. The officer came up to my truck and asked me if I had a problem.
I said, "Yes, I've got a problem because I missed my exit because another vehicle had blocked my exit lane." The officer asked to see my permit and went back to his vehicle. In a while, he returned and gave me an "Overweight" ticket.
The officer said he gave me the ticket because I was off my permitted route. I said, "I know I'm off route because I missed my exit."
But, I told the officer, "my permit allows me to be off route up to 1 mile or less if the reason is to obtain fuel or repair; to provide for food or rest; to allow for a legal return to a permitted route; or to comply with regulatory signs to weigh."
The officer said "tell it to the judge" and went back to his vehicle.
ROAD LAW: So the bottom line is that you admitted you were off route and not in compliance with your permit, but you have a "1 mile or less" exemption in the provisions of your permit that actually allows you to legally be off route.
Client: That's right. I can't get a permit violation for being off route unless I'm more than 1 mile off route.
ROAD LAW: OK, we're looking at your "permit provisions" that you sent us. Which particular provision are you saying allows you to be off route up to 1 mile without actually violating your permit?
Client: The "Assigned Permitted Route" provision. That's where it says I'm allowed to be up to 1 mile off my route and still be legal.
ROAD LAW: So, are you talking about the "Assigned Permitted Route" provision that says; "The assigned permit route includes a distance of one (1) mile onto another contiguous state jurisdiction highway."
Client: Yes, see what I'm saying. That provision allows me up to 1 mile off route and I'm still legal.
ROAD LAW: Yes, I understand what you're saying. Let me ask you a couple of questions. You were driving your tractor in Illinois when you missed your exit?
ROAD LAW: You were still in Illinois when you pulled up behind the Illinois State Trooper who issued you an Illinois ticket?
ROAD LAW: The exit you missed wasn't located at the Illinois state line?
ROAD LAW: You never left the state of Illinois during your trip?
Client: No. What does the Illinois state line or leaving the state of Illinois have to do with my right to go up to 1 mile off route?
ROAD LAW: Unfortunately, everything. Let me read that provision to you again. "The assigned permit route includes a distance of one (1) mile onto another contiguous state jurisdiction highway …" Your permit only allows you to go up to 1 mile off route into a different state. Your permit does not allow you to travel any distance off route in the same state where your permit was issued.
Client: Oh *$#@!
ROAD LAW: Hold on. All is not lost. We may not be able to get your case dismissed, but I bet we can get your fine reduced way down where you can live with it. Let's talk to the court about it.
The takeaway here: you should always read the permit carefully to avoid this kind of situation. LL
We 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 to 405-242-2040; contact us through our website at www.roadlaw.net; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; or call us at 405-242-2030. We look forward to hearing from you.