Road law
Local lawyer? Yes or no

By Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, attorneys at law

We get a lot of calls from CDL drivers who ask us if they’d be better off just hiring a local attorney in the city or town where their ticket is going to court.

Of course, there are a lot of good things about local attorneys in a particular area. One of the best things about a local attorney is that they’re usually really familiar with the particular court where your ticket is being processed. But there are also some very big disadvantages to hiring the first local attorney you come across.

First, a “general practice” local attorney may have no or very little experience with traffic ticket clients who have a CDL license. Plain and simple, your CDL license is your livelihood and you don’t want to trust it with someone who doesn’t understand that. A CDL traffic ticket isn’t just a traffic ticket and may result in driver license disqualification, suspension, CSA points, a moving violation, driver points, and losing eligibility for liability insurance. So, for a CDL driver, there’s a lot riding on the outcome of any ticket.

I’ve got a CDL license, but I was driving my car in Tennessee when I got a ticket for speeding, 80 in a 55 mph zone. I live in Mississippi, and it’s really going to be hard for me to go back to Tennessee for my court date.

Because I was driving my car and not my truck, I was thinking about just paying the ticket, because I don’t think this ticket will go against my CDL. But I was also thinking about hiring a local attorney to help me. Would I be better off just paying the ticket or should I hire a local attorney?

Don’t pay the ticket and don’t hire the first local attorney you find. First, you have a CDL license. So, no matter what type of vehicle you were driving at the time, a conviction of any ticket will usually be submitted to your home state of Mississippi and will be included in your permanent driver record.

Unfortunately, the speed you were cited for, 80 in a 55 mph zone “is 15 mph or greater” over the posted speed limit and is a “serious” violation according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. A conviction of two “serious” traffic violations within a three-year period will disqualify your CDL for 60 days.

Second, be sure that the lawyer you hire understands just how important it is for you to keep a clean driver record. Also, the lawyer you hire must understand the relevant sections of the FMCSR that have to do with your ticket as well as your home state, Mississippi, motor vehicle code.

Unless the local lawyer understands or takes the time to understand the relevant sections of the FMCSR as well as your “home state” issues, that local lawyer can’t be trusted to do a good job for you.

I got a ticket in Oklahoma for speeding, 65 in a 55 mph zone, but my driver’s license is from Missouri. I called a local lawyer in Oklahoma to help me with my ticket, and he told me to just pay the ticket because the listed speed on my ticket was only “10 mph or less” over the posted speed so it wouldn’t show up on my driver record. So I did what he said and paid the ticket and now it’s showing on my record. How come?

Unfortunately, the Oklahoma lawyer didn’t do his homework. It’s mostly true that for non-CDL drivers, if you get a ticket for speeding 10 mph or less in Oklahoma, you can usually pay the ticket and it won’t appear on your driver record. But there are two problems with your case.

First, you’re a CDL driver so non-CDL rules don’t apply to you the same way. It may be true that non-CDL drivers can pay a “10 mph or less” ticket in Oklahoma and not have it go on their record. But, because you’re a CDL driver, all traffic convictions are required to be submitted to your home state for processing.

Second, you’re licensed in Missouri, not Oklahoma. So, regardless of what the rules in Oklahoma are, your driver license is overseen by the Missouri Department of Revenue and the Missouri code is the one that’s most important to you. 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.

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.