By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law
There is a phrase or a “term of art” that could be very helpful to you when you go to court to challenge or contest a traffic ticket. The phrase is “factually based amendment.” Knowing this one simple term may help you, in certain instances, prevent your CDL from being disqualified.
Q. I received a ticket for “improper lane change” in the state of Georgia. I’m licensed in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety told me that I’ll only get two points on my Oklahoma driver record if I just pay the ticket. I don’t have any other tickets on my driver record so I’m not really worried about two measly points. Should I just pay the ticket?
A. No. Do not simply pay this particular ticket. Your charge, “improper lane change,” is a “serious” category charge according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Even though you have no other traffic ticket convictions on your current, three-year driver record, a conviction of only one “serious” violation may prevent you from being eligible for liability insurance.
Instead of simply paying your ticket, think about pleading “not guilty” and requesting a “bench trial.” The court should process your request and mail you a notice for your new trial date.
When you appear for trial, you’ll usually have an opportunity to speak with the district attorney to try to avoid an actual trial and receive a recommendation to amend your original charge to something that’s not as harmful to your driver record. This is the time where you’ll be able to throw out the phrase “factually based amendment” to the district attorney.
For example, you’re talking with the district attorney, and he or she asks you what you want to do with your ticket to avoid a trial. You say, “How about dismissing my ticket?” The district attorney says, “No.” So then you ask the district attorney to amend your original, “serious” category charge to a non-serious, non-moving, zero point charge (i.e., “defective equipment”), and again the district attorney says, “No.”
With the district attorney having said “no” to your first request to dismiss and “no” again to your second request to amend to a zero-point/non-mover, what’s left?
Your third option is what’s left. You could respectfully request the district attorney to amend your original, serious category charge of “illegal lane change,” to the “factually based,” non-serious charge of “disobeying a traffic control device.” That is, the white hash marks in the road way are not merely decorations for your pleasure but are, in fact, traffic control devices, designed to designate one lane of travel from the next.
If you allegedly violated these traffic control devices by not remaining in a single lane of traffic, then amending your original, serious category charge to the non-serious, identical point offense of “disobeying a traffic control device” is appropriate.
The bottom line in this example: You didn’t get everything you wanted, but you’ve avoided being convicted of a “serious” category violation and in doing so have limited the damage to your driver record. 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 email@example.com.
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.