Road Law – June 2018
Laws vs. rules
Jeff McConnell and James Mennella
State courts are getting tougher on Class A, commercial driver traffic tickets when it comes to agreeing to pretrial relief and amending traffic tickets.
District attorneys across the country are constantly being misled by their corresponding state department of motor vehicles and are being told by bureaucrats at these DMVs that making any change to a traffic ticket issued to a Class A commercial driver is considered “masking” and is strictly prohibited.
Pure and simple, that statement is a lie. There is no federal law that prevents prosecutors in state courts from amending a Class A driver’s moving violation traffic ticket to another, factually based, similar-driver-point, moving violation. In English, based on the facts of the case a district attorney or municipal prosecutor can recommend a change or amendment on a Class A driver’s traffic ticket and let the driver plead guilty to that changed or amended charge.
So, what’s true when it comes to what a state district attorney or municipal prosecutor can do with a Class A traffic ticket? Current federal law 49 CFR 384.226 says a “state must not mask, defer imposition of judgment, or allow an individual to enter into a diversion program that would prevent a CDL holder’s conviction … from appearing on (their) driver record.”
There’s nothing in this definition that says a DA or municipal prosecutor has somehow lost their prosecutorial discretion to amend a Class A traffic ticket charge to another similar moving violation that’s factually based and has the same number of driver points associated with it.
When a DA or municipal prosecutor recommends amending the charge listed on your Class A traffic ticket to another charge that’s factually based, carries the same number of driver points, and allows that amended charge to be processed and appear as a conviction of your driver record. That’s not masking a conviction, according to 49 CFR 384.226. If you’re a Class A driver with a ticket, a DA or municipal prosecutor can legally help you if they want to.
Here are some recent questions and answers we’ve received from drivers. We hope the information helps you.
Q: I’m Class A and got a ticket in Ohio for speeding 70 mph in a 55 mph zone. I asked the prosecutor to give me their recommendation to change my ticket to a speed that’s less than 15 mph over the posted speed so I don’t get a “serious” charge conviction on my driver record. The prosecutor said that they can’t amend the ticket at all, because that would be “masking.”
A: Fake news! The prosecutor can amend your ticket to a lesser speed (even a 1 mph speed reduction would guarantee that you’re not convicted of a “serious” charge) and charge you a fine and court costs on your amended charge to make sure the court clerk reports your amended charge to the state DMV. The process of amending a Class A traffic ticket to another, factually based, similar-point moving violations and having your amended charge appear as a conviction on your driver record is not masking a traffic conviction.
Q: I got a ticket for “unsafe lane change” in Michigan, and the instructions on my ticket said that if I wanted I could go to court on my ticket, so I did. When I got to court, the DA said that it was court policy not to change a ticket for anyone. All I wanted was the DA to recommend changing my ticket to a nonserious, factually based, same-point charge of “disobey a traffic control device” and let me pay all the same fine and court costs. I thought you said that DAs can recommend a change to a Class A traffic ticket?
A: You are correct. A DA can recommend a change to a Class A traffic ticket according to federal law 49 CFR 384.226. But a DA doesn’t have to agree with your request to amend your ticket and, as with the DA in this question, she’s refusing to help you because doing so is against her particular Court’s policy and not because of Federal Law 49 CFR 384.226. 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.