By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law
"Success" means different things to different people. If you asked 10 people what their definition of success was, you'd usually get 10 different answers.
Some people measure "success" in financial terms. Others measure success spiritually or through their good deeds. As this issue represents Road Law's 100th column, we measure our success by whether the information we've given throughout the last 99 issues has helped even one person, one owner-operator, one independent driver understand a particular issue better or helped maintain their driving career. If the answer is "yes," then Road Law has been successful.
Future Road Law columns will continue to bring you the latest legal and case topics that specifically apply to you, the commercial driver.
We always give you our phone number and email at the end of each column so you can contact us with any questions you have regarding tickets, civil issues, criminal charges or any other legal matters that affect the trucking industry. We've enjoyed writing about the topics that are important to you and look forward to continuing our service in any way we can.
As the U.S. trucking industry continues to evolve, it's more important than ever that you have someone you can ask about the problems you face every day. As always, we enjoy working directly with the OOIDA staff and continue to be impressed with what a truly unique and vital organization OOIDA is.
In this issue of Road Law we're going back to the basics with some of the most common Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation problems drivers face because it's routinely the lack of understanding of these basic traffic regulations that result in the most professional and financial harm to commercial drivers.
Q. I live in Texas and have a Texas CDL license. I just got a ticket in Colorado for "improper lane change" and I called the court to see if I could go to traffic school and have the ticket dismissed. The court clerk told me they didn't have traffic school anymore but that I could get the ticket reduced from four points to only two points if I send the money in before the date on the bottom of the ticket. Should I just pay the ticket so I get fewer points on my record?
A. No, you should not simply pay the ticket. First, any ticket with the word "lane" listed in it is usually going to be considered a "serious" category violation according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and if you're convicted of a "serious" violation, your commercial driver license may be disqualified for up to 60 days.
Second, your driver's license is issued from another state (Texas); not from the state where you received the ticket (Colorado). So, even though Colorado reduces your points from 4 to only 2, your home state, Texas, will pay no attention to your point reduction and will simply assess your conviction as if you received the ticket in Texas.
Instead of trying to get a point reduction, you should ask to have your ticket amended to a nonmoving violation, like "defective equipment" or, in the worst case, ask if you can plead "guilty" to another moving violation that's not on the "serious" list. Of course, you can always plead "not guilty" and appear for trial if you want.
Q. My wife and I are owner-operators and we were stopped by the Wyoming State Police and given a ticket for "speeding 66/55." This ticket is completely bogus because I had my cruise set on 60 and I couldn't have been going over 61 to 62 mph.
The officer was very rude, unprofessional, and made one hell of a mess when he searched our truck without our permission. My wife and I are very upset by this event, and we're not going to pay this ticket out of protest. Also, we want to sue this officer for the damages he caused when he searched our truck. Can we sue this officer and the state of Wyoming?
A. Unfortunately, no. You shouldn't try to sue the officer or the state of Wyoming as they will usually, like most officials representing a state, will be exempt or immune from being sued.
Instead, a better idea is to file a grievance against this officer. You can do this by calling the court clerk to get the full name, work address and work phone number of the officer. Then, call the officer's work number and ask dispatch who the officer's commander, captain or superior is.
Once you have the officer's work address and superior's name, write out your grievance and mail it to the attention of the officer's superior. Once received, your grievance will be posted to the officer's permanent employment history and the next time he is up for a pay raise or promotion, your grievance will be sitting there in the officer's file. The more grievances an officer has in his or her file, the less likely they'll be given a pay raise or promotion.
Also, you'll need to either simply pay your "non-serious" ticket or go to court to contest it. Never ignore a ticket as you may end up with a warrant for your arrest, a "failure to appear" ticket issued by the judge, or a notice of driver's license suspension. 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.