Road Law
‘Serge’ protector

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law

We’re going to tell you about a recent client of ours. Let’s call him “Serge.” Of course, we’re not going to tell you his real name, but his case was so compelling we wanted to share his story with you.

Now, like any good story, there’s a plot, an antagonist, a protagonist and a moral. The main character and good guy protagonist is Serge himself. Serge is a truck driver who, unfortunately, got “railroaded,” “hoodwinked,” “screwed” – whatever you want to call it.

The bad guy (antagonist) is a particular “service company,” which said that, for a small monthly fee, they’d agree to help Serge when he needed help with traffic citations. So, as you may have guessed, Serge got a couple of traffic citations. And as he was told to do, he sent his citations to the so-called service company so they can “help” him. Here’s what happened.

Q. I’m a truck driver, and I received “No Valid Permit” and “Duty Status Not Current” citations in California about two months ago. I’ve been paying a “service company” a monthly fee for the last four years, so whenever I get citations, I just turn them over to them and they’re supposed to help me with it.

When I got my California citations, I did what the “service company” told me to do and turned my citations over to them. The “service company” promised me that they would “take care of” my citations. But yesterday I got a notice from the court in California that no one appeared in court on my behalf, and now there’s a warrant for my arrest.

I called the court and they told me that no one appeared on my court date; that I couldn’t just pay my ticket because one of my charges, the no valid permit citation, was a criminal charge requiring someone to appear. Now, if I go to court, won’t I be arrested? What do I do?

A.This is a more common problem than one might think and unfortunately it appears that your “service company’s” agreement, probably somewhere in the very small print of your contract, says that they won’t help you if your charge is “criminal” instead of a simple “infraction.” So, now you’re in a real pickle because no one appeared for you in court and a warrant was issued.

The question now is, do you want to try and sort the matter out or hire another lawyer to try to get this cleaned up?

First, someone will need to have the outstanding warrant recalled, and case reset on the court calendar. Once the matter is back on track, you or an attorney on your behalf can generally try to work out a plea agreement or prepare the case for a court hearing.

Depending on the facts of your case, talking to the prosecutor about amending or even dismissing your original charge(s) is a good idea. In your situation, a copy of the valid permit is good evidence to support a request for dismissal. And if you don’t have a defense on the logbook charge, you might offer to plead “no contest” if that would help the court to agree to dismiss your “criminal” charge.

The moral of the story, if you sign up with any so-called service company to help you with legal problems, make sure you find out exactly what is or isn’t covered in the plan. Serge found out the hard way that what he thought was going to provide him coverage for all of his problems was no coverage at all. 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.