Road Law
Getting your head around it

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law

When you say, “I’m having a hard time getting my head around that,” it simply means that you’re having trouble understanding something or some idea. It’s easy to see why some have trouble getting their head around or understanding the legal system. It can be tough to understand what’s really in their best interest after receiving a traffic ticket.

Q. I just got a traffic ticket, but I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m absolutely innocent, and I’m not going to pay this damn ticket. I’m going to court to fight this ticket and am not going to stop until it’s dismissed. This ticket is just plain wrong.

A. You’re upset, and we understand your frustration. It’s never easy being accused of something you know you didn’t do. Unfortunately, having received a ticket, you’re now part of what we call “the game” – and you have to understand how this game is played.

When we say, “the game,” we actually want you to think about your ticket as a game between you and the state that issued the ticket to you. Of course, before you can competently play any game, you’ve got to know the object or goal of the game as well as the rules, right?

Goal: The primary goal of the ticket game is different than you might automatically think. The main goal is not to have your ticket dismissed. The main goal is to protect your motor vehicle record – protect your CDL so your livelihood as a commercial driver remains intact.

Yes, having your ticket dismissed would be great and, on occasion, dismissals happen. But you also “win” when you successfully protect your CDL and your legal ability to drive a commercial vehicle.

Rule No. 1: After you receive a traffic ticket/criminal complaint, whether you believe you’re innocent or not, you have to think about the worst-case scenario if you’re actually convicted of the ticket/complaint.

For most traffic tickets, it’s pretty simple to find out the worst thing a conviction would do to you.   

Just get a copy of your home state motor vehicle code to determine the number of points a conviction of the charge would allocate to your driver record. Or if you’re a resident of a state that issues only “moving violations,” not points, verify whether your charge is a moving violation.

Most important, you’ll need to know if the charge on your ticket is considered a “serious” or “major” violation according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. A conviction of a “serious” or “major” violation could result in disqualification of your CDL.

Rule No. 2: Once you know the worst thing, legally speaking, that could happen to you if you’re convicted of the ticket; you need to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Again, don’t jump to the automatic answer of “I want the ticket dismissed.” Dismissal would be great but that outcome is extremely rare.

What you really want is guaranteed maximum damage control of your driver record – i.e., your MVR.

Negotiating with the state to amend/change your ticket charge is where the game really gets interesting. In most cases, there are a lot of creative options that would guarantee minimal damage to your MVR but, at the same time, allow the state to collect fines and costs.   

If you successfully negotiate a guaranteed outcome to your case, then you completely avoid the risky, time-consuming and always uncertain outcome of a trial.

Rule No. 3: Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep your eye on the prize. Paying money to a court for fines and costs is the least of your worries and is most certainly small stuff. After all, the real prize is getting a guaranteed outcome that minimizes damage to your MVR.

You get what you need, the state gets what they want, and you live to fight another day. It’s a win-win. 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 roadlaw@att.net.

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.

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