It's your day

February 2020

Jeff McConnell and James Mennella

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Today is the day, and your case is set for trial. Do you want to appear? Must you appear? Will you appear? In this issue, we take a look at different trial scenarios and the need to appear or not. While it is not always mandatory, there are times when appearing has its benefits and times when it does not.

Q. I pleaded not guilty on a ticket I received in Pennsylvania, and my case is set for trial soon. I am no longer running loads in that area and can’t get back for the hearing. Can you appear for me at the trial?

A. If the case is still in one of the magisterial district courts, then generally we can appear for you and conduct the hearing with the citing officer and the magistrate. Keep in mind that we are limited in these situations to negotiating with the officer and questioning the officer, but we can’t testify for you. If you don’t have any testimony that would help your case and the magistrate isn’t requiring your appearance, then the proceeding can be handled in your absence.

If you don’t like the result from the hearing, you have the right to appeal the matter for a new hearing at the next court level.

If you choose to go this route, then your appearance will most likely be required by the judge at trial, although the prosecutor may offer a plea bargain that would resolve the matter prior to the hearing, and your case may be resolved without your appearance.


Q. I was cited for leaving the scene of an accident and was fired from my job. I am unable to appear in court. Can you appear for me?

A. The nature of the citation you received is usually a criminal charge, and if so it often requires that you appear in court with a lawyer. If you are fortunate enough to have a basic traffic citation for this charge and it is not being treated as a criminal charge, then your appearance may not be necessary.

However, a conviction of leaving the scene carries a one-year disqualification of your commercial driver’s license and seriously impairs your ability to find future employment or insurance once you are eligible for reinstatement.

In our experience, even though you may not need to appear, this is a case where your appearance may be beneficial and shows respect for the court, which may help in our negotiations to prevent a conviction of the charge.


Q. I was cited for following too close following a property damage accident. My case is set for trial, and I don’t want to testify about what happened, but I don’t want to be convicted of the charge. Can you appear with me and guarantee I won’t have to testify?

A. It is the state’s burden to prove you committed the violation that you are charged with and not yours to prove you are innocent. That being said, in the court you are assigned, the judges are fairly loose on some aspects of procedure. It is not uncommon for judges to ask questions and interact with both sides during the course of a hearing. Obviously, we can’t guarantee that you won’t be asked questions during this hearing. On the bright side, if you don’t like the result, we can appeal your case for a brand new hearing at the next higher court. LL

Read more of Road Law here.

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.