Saturday, January 20, 2007

Someone should have hired a lawyer sooner ...

I'm often asked by prospective traffic ticket clients as to whether they really need a lawyer. The answer is no, but that depends on your definition of the word need. The other day I saw someone who didn't think she needed a lawyer. She was wrong, and the consequences were severe.

I walked into this small-town court a few minutes after the session was supposed to start. The judge was sitting at the bench. Standing in front of him, a local police officer and an attractive young woman were speaking with each other and with the judge. I signed in and started chatting quietly with a couple of attorneys on the side. Another attorney who I know well mentioned to me that he would consider giving this woman free representation due to her derriere (he used a shorter word). I didn't think she was that special. And to ensure my political correctness, I hereby disapprove of that attorney's remark, and am deeply remorseful for anything I may have done to suggest otherwise.

In a few minutes I was called by another officer from the same department (let's call him Joe - I don't know his real first name) and we discussed my case briefly, reaching an agreement. We went back into the courtroom to wait our turn. The young lady was still in front of the judge, apparently not satisfied with the offer that had been made.

Joe and I talked quietly while this was going on. I learned that the young lady had a lengthy driving record, with multiple speeding tickets and that her license had either been revoked or suspended by DMV because of this.

The scene our intrepid young woman was making prompted Joe to a realization. She's got a revoked or suspended license. She probably drove here and will probably drive away. So when the young lady finally wrapped up (her case was adjourned), Joe kept an eye on her and, from a distance, followed her outside.

About 20 minutes later, Joe came back in with the young lady in handcuffs. She was now being charged with Aggravated Unlicensed Operation in the 3rd degree, commonly referred to as AUO 3rd. This is a misdemeanor - a criminal charge. The nature of the offense is driving with a suspended license. Joe also charged her with Resisting Arrest, which is also a misdemeanor.

Now, I'm not saying this woman needed a lawyer, because need is such a strong word. I do believe she should have hired a lawyer, long, long, long before that night. Certainly by the time she had been handed her third speeding ticket, and probably when she got the second one. And maybe, just maybe, she should have hired a lawyer for the first ticket.

While I'm at it, she should have started to obey the Vehicle & Traffic Law of the State of New York. Yes, I do think the speed limits are too low in most places. I might even exceed those limits and otherwise violate the V&T Law myself occasionally. But after you've received two speeding tickets, you really should adjust your behavior accordingly. And maybe it's just me, but if your license is suspended, you really shouldn't drive and you certainly shouldn't speed excessively.

On a brief tangent, I had one client who was arrested for AUO 3rd after being pulled over for going 53 in a 30 mph zone. He was also charged with UPM (marijuana possession). So let me get this straight. You're suspended and you have marijuana in the car. Why on earth would you be going more than 20 mph over the speed limit?

I generally advise clients to go no more than 8 mph over the limit, and no more than 5 over if they have a significant driving record. --What honey?-- Oh, I mean I tell all my clients not to speed at all. Of course.
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