Road Law
‘You know any lawyers?’

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law

We get calls sometimes asking if we know any lawyers. This is because some drivers are used to dealing with legal “membership clubs,” where drivers pay a monthly fee to get referred to a local lawyer.

The problem is that many local lawyers don’t focus on trucking, drivers or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). We’ve had a lot of drivers tell us that their “club” lawyer didn’t even show up for their court date. Referral clubs are a gamble.

Road Law is not a membership club. We are lawyers and have worked in the trucking industry for decades, so we know trucks, we know drivers, and we know the law – no matter where you live or where you get a ticket.

A large part of our business comes from drivers with problems created by “membership clubs.” Below are just two examples:

Q. I’m from Texas and got a ticket in Ohio for speeding 70/55. I called my membership club, and they gave me the name of a local lawyer that would take care of my ticket. The lawyer called and told me that he was good at having speeding tickets amended to a “no point” speed violation and that I should trust him, which I did. Yesterday, I looked at my motor vehicle record and the Ohio ticket is on my record as a “Speeding 59/55” conviction. I don’t think this was a good plea bargain after all. What do you think?

A. Your outcome isn’t perfect, but it’s better than what you started with. It’s doubtful that the local lawyer was aware of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations or that the State of Texas looks at “moving” violation convictions for suspension purposes.

Whether it was dumb luck or just the best deal to be had, here is how you benefit from the outcome: Your original “serious” violation for speeding 15 and over under the FMCSR was amended to a no-point speed, which is usually 59/55 and, so, no longer a “serious” violation.

You more than likely saved yourself from any insurance and/ or job problems that come with a serious violation conviction on your record. Now, you can initiate a DataQ challenge with CSA and hope the safety points you got for your original ticket will now be less with the amended charge you were actually convicted of.

Q. I had a citation in Georgia for “disobeying a traffic control device” as I was stuck in an outside lane. The lawyer I was referred to had the charge amended to “improper lane use” and I paid the fine. I recently received a letter from the Illinois Secretary of State (ILSOS) that I had my first “serious” violation conviction (the Georgia citation) and that if I received another serious violation in the next three years I would be disqualified for 60 days. I looked up “serious” violations in the FMCSR, and “improper lane use” is not listed as “serious” so what can I do to have my record corrected?

A. Nothing with the Illinois Secretary of State. The only way to correct your problem is to go back and ask the court to vacate your guilty plea to have the matter reset for an alternative disposition. The nuance that was missed by not just the Georgia lawyer but more than likely the majority of lawyers that come across this issue is that the states are only required to be in substantial compliance with the FMCSR regulations. Further, the states can be more restrictive than the FMCSRs.

Your case is somewhat unique in that Illinois is more restrictive than the FMCSRs and includes more violations in the list of what it considers to be “serious” violations for disqualification purposes. Also, in many states, the way the statutes are written, it is not uncommon that “lane usage” gets coded as “improper lane change,” which usually creates a problem. 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.