By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law
One of the biggest problems for commercial drivers and sometimes intentional misunderstanding for the U.S. court system today is the term “masking.” If you’re a CDL driver and you’re not familiar with the term “masking,” it simply means that a court can’t hide or “mask” a conviction from a traffic ticket. If you’re still confused about the term “masking,” you’re not alone.
Q. I have a CDL, and I got a ticket in my truck going through Oklahoma. Last time I got a ticket in Oklahoma, I just called the assistant district attorney for the county that I got my ticket in. She gave me a deferral, let me pay fines and costs, and dismissed my ticket. Now, the same assistant DA just told me she can’t help me anymore because of my CDL. Is that true? I didn’t have any cash on me so I gave her my license. Is this legal?
A. Yes and no. If the assistant DA said she couldn’t give you a deferral, that’s true. But, if the assistant DA said the only reason she couldn’t offer you any amended charge was because you have a CDL, that’s not true.
As you’ve driven truck for a few years, you remember the good ol’ days when you could get a speeding or other moving violation ticket and could usually get a recommendation from the assistant DA for a “deferral” or deferred sentence where you simply pay the fines and costs and get your ticket dismissed.
Sad to say, the time for deferrals is over and the law mandating this is clear. But some taxpayer-paid judges and district attorneys are using the term “masking” as a kind of scapegoat to justify reducing their work load when it comes to dealing with traffic tickets.
After all, if you’re a judge or a district attorney, you hate dealing with traffic tickets. You consider having to put up with a traffic docket the bottom of the barrel. Forget about your duty as a lawyer and public official and just hide behind the big door called “masking.” That way, about half of your workload magically disappears, but you still get your full government job and taxpayer-funded salary. Sweet!
We’re glad to say that at least one state – Oklahoma – and perhaps others finally got the term “masking” right and have correctly provided a ray of hope to CDL holders when they receive a traffic ticket in Oklahoma.
The following verbiage is right out of the mouth of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) as a memo to all Oklahoma State Courts:
“It is still considered ‘masking’ for a judge to reduce a charge that has been brought before the court. However, if the prosecutor determines that the initial offense is not appropriate and reduces the charge [either because of an anticipated plea bargain or insufficient evidence on the original charge] before it is presented to the [judge], such action would not fall within the scope of ‘masking.’”
So the bottom line – if you get a ticket, at least in Oklahoma – is that you can ask the city or county DA to amend your ticket before it’s presented to the judge. If the DA agrees, the amended charge, not your original charge, will then be reported as a conviction to Oklahoma DPS.
This procedure could save you a conviction of a “serious” traffic violation and may even prevent a disqualification of your CDL. 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 888-588-8983, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone's legal situation is different. Consult with an attorney for specific advice on your situation.