Road law
K is for kangaroo

By Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, attorneys at law

If you spend enough time in the practice of law or representing yourself, you might find that courts across the country have practices and end results with considerable variation. There are many definitions of the term “kangaroo court” and some are harsher than others.

I was involved in an accident and received a citation for following too close. Can you help me with this ticket?

Yes, we can help you. The particular court where your case is going to be heard has several requirements that make it more difficult than most. First, to get a court date and plead not guilty, this particular court requires that you post a cash bond with the clerk’s office. Yes, that is correct, no credit cards, checks, money orders, cashier’s checks, etc. Thus, the first hurdle is a personal appearance to post your cash bond and enter the plea of “not guilty.”

If I post the bond, is there any chance that a plea bargain can be worked out in advance of a trial date in which I would need to come back to court?

Unfortunately, the policy of the local district attorney’s office is that there are no plea bargains offered before the hearing date.

If we’re lucky, occasionally something can be worked out minutes before the scheduled hearing time. But, with 300-plus parties on the docket, it’s often hard to accomplish.

Further, most of the assistant district attorneys or ADAs are newly minted, lack any authority to make a plea bargain decision, and are “cutting their teeth” with traffic trial practice.

While this may be good experience for the district attorney’s staff, it is not good for your livelihood as a CDL holder, or for the efficient administration of justice.

If I come to court will I need to testify?

It depends. It’s the state’s burden to prove their case against you and not for you to prove that you’re innocent. However, in many instances, you are your own best witness, and your testimony is what helps win the case.

Does the person I ran into have to come to court as well?

Again, that depends. If the other person was not given a citation or if the district attorney’s office does not subpoena them, then they likely will not appear unless they are local and have unpaid damages.

The interesting part of your case is that the officer did not witness the accident. So, for the ADA to present the best evidence, they need a witness who actually saw or was involved in the accident.

It is common practice in many jurisdictions that the only person to get a subpoena is the officer who wrote the citation.

To make matters worse, traffic trials are routinely conducted without a proper witness for the prosecution to make their case. Against an uninformed layman representing himself, this is like shooting fish in a barrel for the ADA.

And the judge will likely not have a problem with it if no one is objecting to the officer testifying as to what occurred. 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.