By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law
We’ve all had the opportunity in our lives to sit down and plan a trip, an event, a meeting, etc. Usually, you start with the easy part first – i.e., writing down what your best, most wanted plan would be, otherwise known as your Plan A.
The difficult part comes as you’re writing down your “best case” scenario plan. In the side notes of your piece of paper, you have to think about the “what if” or Plan B options just in case Plan A goes awry. It’s these Plan B options that we attorneys think about the most when we’re helping you with a traffic case. As the Rolling Stones sing, “No, you can’t always get what you want. But, if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.”
Q. I got a ticket for “following too close” in Georgia that was total bull. It was rush hour traffic, there wasn’t an accident and I was not following too close. No way am I going to have this ticket go on my record. I didn’t do it. Can I have a trial for this ticket?
A. Yes, you usually have a legal right to a trial for just about any ticket and, usually, the state where you received the ticket has the burden of proving that you’re guilty. Usually, you do not have to prove you’re innocent. But, step back from your “right to a trial” for just a minute. Ask yourself, “What do I want the outcome of my case to be?”
Of course, you want the case/charge dismissed with no payment of any fines or costs. But, what if the assistant district attorney or the judge won’t agree to dismiss your case? Do you really want to proceed to trial? Do you really want to make two or three personal appearances in this courthouse? Do you really want to take the risk of being convicted of not only a “moving” or ”point” violation but also a “serious category” violation along with the possibility of having your commercial driver’s license disqualified for 60 days?
After you consider your right to a trial option in this matter, at least consider the alternative or Plan B. Instead of a trial, consider agreeing to an amended charge. In other words, ask yourself, “What do I need the outcome of my case to be?” Well, in this case, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations you’ve been cited with a “serious category” violation. Your first and foremost goal of a commercial driver is not to be convicted of any serious category violation. So, although you want your charge dismissed, you need your charge to be amended to a guaranteed, non-serious category violation. Usually, if you have a decent driving record, a court will be much more willing to amend than to dismiss a particular charge.
Q. I got a ticket in Texas almost two years ago. I pleaded not guilty, but I still haven’t got a court date. When I call the court to check on the matter, the clerk tells me it’s still not set for trial. Shouldn’t my case be dismissed because I didn’t get a speedy trial?
A. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial to defendants in criminal proceedings. The majority of traffic cases are not criminal in nature; thus, the term “speedy” is subjective and can vary from court to court or state to state.
Usually, courts are given great discretion as to what is a reasonable amount of time to set a matter for a speedy trial and prosecute a case. From experience, we’ve had cases go without a trial setting for more than three years, and our requests to dismiss these cases have all been denied. 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.