Sometimes you have to consider ‘Plan B’
Jeff McConnell and James Mennella
In this column, we discuss a couple of recent driver calls regarding two problems and what to hope for in a “Plan B” situation when your “Plan A” doesn’t work. We hope this information helps you, and as always let us know if we may ever help you.
Q: I was driving in Pennsylvania when I noticed two state police officers had a car stopped on the right shoulder with their blue and reds flashing. I was in the right lane, and traffic was really heavy so, I couldn’t move over to the left lane. After I passed the two officers, I was stopped by one of them about 4 miles down the road.
The officer gave me a ticket for “duty of driver in emergency response areas.” I explained to the officer that there was no way I could move to the left lane due to traffic, but he still gave me a ticket.
When I went to court, the officer was there and agreed to amend my original charge to, “improper passing.” I told the officer that I didn’t want to plead guilty to any charge, because I didn’t do anything wrong. The judge told me that she’d give me another two weeks to decide to accept the amended charge or go to trial on my original charge. What should I do?
A: Since your Plan A to have your charge dismissed didn’t work, you’ve got to consider Plan B.
In the state of Pennsylvania, your violation can cause a 90-day suspension of your driver’s license under certain conditions. So if you decide to go to trial and you’re found guilty, you potentially have more at stake.
If you have a clean driving record, to avoid even the possibility of a suspension you could accept the recommendation of pleading guilty to the amended charge of improper passing. While this is not specifically listed as a serious violation under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, many states treat a conviction the same as an improper/erratic lane change.
If your licensing state operates in this manner, pleading guilty to this amended charge may result in you being convicted of a serious category violation as well as a point or moving violation on your driver record. Even so, there’s no suspension associated with a conviction of this particular charge.
Q: I got a ticket for speeding 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, but I was not speeding 15 mph over the posted speed limit. My plan was to go to court and ask the prosecutor to dismiss my charge because there’s no way I was driving as fast as the officer said I was. When I went to court, the prosecutor said they didn’t amend traffic tickets, and that if I wanted to plead not guilty and have a trial, that was my choice. I don’t really want a trial, because I really was speeding, but only about 8 mph over the posted speed. What should I do?
A: It’s time for Plan B. First, you’ve got a prosecutor that’s refusing to amend your ticket, and you can’t testify that you weren’t speeding at all. In some circumstances, you can ask the prosecutor to “stand moot,” or agree not to object if you appear before the judge and ask for an amended charge. This is generally referred to as a blind plea, and it sometimes works when a prosecutor doesn’t have a recommendation to amend a charge. So, if you can get the judge to allow you to plead to any speed up to 14 mph over the limit with payment of a fine and court costs, you can avoid a serious violation conviction under the FMCSR. 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 contact us via RoadLaw.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.