Road Law
Be patient, keep your cool

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law

In this issue we take a look at scenarios where it pays to keep your cool and exercise a little patience in resolving your case or conflict. We hope you don’t have to face any of these issues, but if you do, these examples may aid in your decision making.

Being pulled over by an aggressive officer can be an intimidating experience that nobody wants to be a part of. However, losing your cool and escalating the matter with law enforcement generally doesn’t end well for the driver.

Q. I recently hired an attorney to help me with a traffic ticket in Texas. The justice of the peace couldn’t help me since I am a CDL holder, so we set the case for trial. The matter has been sitting for a long time and I am losing patience. I want to pay the violation and get this over. Should I just go ahead and pay it?

A. It depends. It is not uncommon for cases in Texas to sit on the trial calendar for long periods of time, and this can be in your favor in the long run. If it sits long enough, the case may be dismissed for lack of prosecution, the officer may retire or be transferred, or any witnesses may be unavailable depending on the type of case you have.

As long as the case is still pending and there are no loose strings with the court that would cause some type of default, then you should just let it sit and try not to let the uncertainty of the matter get to you. Even if you don’t get relief at the justice court level, you generally can appeal to the county court level and get a second chance with a different court.

Q. I was recently pulled over, and the officer was very antagonistic towards me. I had a hard time keeping my cool and thought the officer was really trying to provoke a fight with me. Do I have a right to defend myself if I feel threatened by the officer?

A.On a basic traffic stop or inspection by a law enforcement official the argument for the need to exercise self-defense is probably a stretch. Generally, every stop by law enforcement contains some use of force in varying degrees.

The first example is the officer in uniform with a badge, gun, baton and pepper spray. The next level a driver perceives is the use of verbal commands to do something, and they can be issued in conversation or may be barked out like a drill sergeant depending on the officer. Third-level use of force comes into play when the officer feels that he or she needs to control a situation by using the accessories, for example the baton or pepper spray, to immobilize a combative suspect. The final use of force is deadly force and should only be used if the officer feels his or her life is in danger.

Being pulled over by an aggressive officer can be an intimidating experience that nobody wants to be a part of. However, losing your cool and escalating the matter with law enforcement generally doesn’t end well for the driver. Your best bet is to try to remain calm and get through the encounter. After the situation is over, take some time to record your observations and experiences so they can be reported to the appropriate agency to be dealt with internally.

The more legitimate grievances a law enforcement official receives, the harder it is for the employing agency to justify the continued employment of that individual. 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.