Monday, August 22, 2005

Speeding ticket lessons

Tough night. I had two clients (sisters) who had been driving together and got pulled over for a fairly high speed on the Taconic in a town in Columbia County. Showed up in Court and the Trooper gave me a harder time than usual. Don't get me wrong. The Trooper was a decent guy. But the facts turned out to be worse than usual.

Their speed was high, more than 30 mph over the limit. Then the Trooper told me that they had kids in car seats in their cars. In my experience, this really bothers police. And then he mentioned that they had a sob story, about their brother having been in an accident. The Trooper also didn't like that my clients weren't there tonight, which is unusual in my experience. Only once before has a Trooper cared about that.

And it turns out that judges in Columbia County are tougher on speeding than what I see from judges in other counties. Normally I would expect to get this 8-point speed reduced to a 3-point non-speed, especially since both clients had pretty clean records. Maybe I've just been lucky so far. The best he would do for me was a 4-point speed. He wrote it up as 13 mph over the limit, saying that since it was less than 15 over, it would have less impact on their insurance. I'm going to have to look that one up.

Anyway, it was better than what could have been. By keeping the points below 6, it saves the clients from the new assessment from DMV, which would have cost them $300 each. And hopefully their insurance rates either won't go up, or it won't be too bad.

Lesson #1: Don't speed in Columbia County (which includes Hudson, NY and Chatham, NY, and a fairly long stretch of the Taconic).

Lesson #2: If you're going to speed in Columbia County, don't go more than 25 mph over the limit. The Trooper indicated that judges in the County won't agree to a non-speed if you're over that number. By the way, the 25 mph rule is a pretty good rule anywhere. I advise clients to aim for no more than 8 mph over the limit, as it is rare to see a ticket for less than 10 over. Of course, I do have one pending now for 9 mph over the limit, so there's no perfect answer. Go slower than the limit and they might decide that's suspicious and pull you over.

Lesson #3: Don't blab your sob story to the cop. They just don't want to hear it. I've got one client who was on her way to a hospital to "harvest" tissue from a dying patient for an eye transplant. The cop still wrote her a ticket. Be respectful to the cop (it isn't that great of a job, some of the things they do is pretty important, and they're mostly good people). There are all sorts of ways you can piss off a cop. Being polite and respectful, even apologetic, is much safer.

Oh, and lesson #4: Don't drive too fast with kids in your car. They really hate that.

Now, for the second part of our story. A friend of mine got a ticket a while ago. Turns out it was in the same court. I had referred my friend to a young lawyer (I forget why - either I couldn't be there the night it was originally scheduled, or I thought the Court was too far). So I get there and I see my young lawyer friend and my buddy together. Of course I didn't remember making the referral so I was trying to figure out why they were there together. :-)

So anyway, turns out my friend had several other tickets on his record already. He pled guilty to a few of them without hiring a lawyer. So they show up in this court in Columbia County needing a no-pointer to save his license. No dice.

The lessons here?

A: Never, never, never plead guilty to a traffic ticket that has points. You can almost always get a reduction (especially if you didn't piss off the cop - see #3 above). Not getting the reduction now can hurt you later, as my friend just learned. Yes, a speeding ticket lawyer is expensive. Personally, I think what I do is worth the money I'm paid.

B: If you've gotten 2 or 3 tickets within a few months, it's time to wake up. You need to slow down. You are in danger of losing your license. That might be a problem if you have a job and you need to drive as part of that job, or if you drive to work.

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