Road law
Code vs. code

By Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, attorneys at law

The Texas motor vehicle code, the Illinois motor vehicle code, the Florida motor vehicle code, etc. Each state in the U.S. has its own specific motor vehicle or driver code that usually lists all of the particular state’s traffic violations; whether the violations are “moving or non-moving” violations; and, if it’s a state that uses a point system, how many driver points may be allocated for each violation.

The following illustrates the kind of problem you might have when you receive a ticket in one state, but your driver license is issued from another state.

I got a ticket in Illinois for “improper stopping/parking on a bridge.” The cop told me it was “just a parking ticket” and that it was “no big deal.” But my driver license was issued from Michigan, so I was wondering if the Illinois cop was right and I should just pay the ticket? What do you think?

First, you did the right thing by asking questions before you simply submitted payment for your ticket. You always want to take the time to make an informed decision before you do something that may be irreversible.

Second, this is a great question because it shows just how different each state’s motor vehicle code can be, and how you can get into a lot of trouble when you assume your state’s motor vehicle code is going to be the same as the state where you received your ticket.

Your Illinois ticket for “improper stopping/parking on a bridge” is listed in the Illinois motor vehicle code as a non-point violation. However, your driver license was issued from the state of Michigan, not from Illinois. So, the Illinois motor vehicle code doesn’t really matter to you. The only motor vehicle code you need to be concerned about is the one from your home state of Michigan.

So the question is, will your Illinois traffic ticket amount to a points violation in your home state of Michigan? Maybe yes, maybe no. Michigan doesn’t specifically have an identical charge of “improper stopping/parking on a bridge.”

How will Michigan interpret your Illinois ticket if you’re convicted of your charge? Will Michigan consider your ticket to be a 0-point charge or will they code it as “impeding traffic” which is a 2-point charge?

Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky.

You may be thinking, “Heck, I’ll just call the Michigan Secretary of State and ask one of the representatives there if I’ll get any points when my Illinois ticket hits my record. If the representative tells me I won’t get any points for this charge, I’ll just pay my ticket.” Wrong.

First, getting any Secretary of State representative to actually guarantee, in advance, how your out-of-state ticket will be treated once it hits your home state driver record is usually not going to happen. Second, even if you do get a representative to guarantee how your out-of-state ticket will be treated when it hits your driver record, there’s no guarantee that the representative is correct. And, if the representative is wrong, and you end up with driver points being allocated to your record when you were told that wouldn’t happen, that “mistake” may be irreversible.

The best thing to do would be to get a copy of the Michigan motor vehicle code and select a guaranteed “0 point” charge from the list. Then, you can appear in the Illinois court listed on your ticket and ask the prosecuting attorney assigned to your case if he/she would agree to amend your charge to that particular “0 point” charge. If the prosecutor agrees, you can rest easy. If you can’t get an agreement to amend your ticket, you can then decide to simply pay your ticket or go to trial. 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.