Sunday, October 18, 2009

Speeding Ticket Story: A Tough Situation

Most of our speeding ticket cases are straightforward. We get hired, get all the information in order, contact the court and prosecutor, negotiate a reduction to something less, and let the client know the result and what they need to do. There's more to it than that, but that's the essence.

Every once in a while we get a client who needs a trial. This story is an example of that.

I'll call her Marina - not her real name. In her late 20s, she is a fashion designer in Manhattan. Marina also has at least one bad habit - she likes to drive fast.

She called us for a high speed - 92 in a 55 - an 8-point speed. But that's not the worst of it. She already had one speeding conviction within the last 18 months, along with a 3-point moving violation. Marina also had another high speed pending, in New York City. The location matters, because in the NYC traffic courts there are generally no deals. So there was a high likelihood that Marina would have a second speeding conviction within 18 months. In our case, if we could not get it out of speeding, she'd have a third speed and her license would be revoked.

The location of our ticket also mattered. In this particular court, the judge is known for being difficult. Not that he's unpleasant, but he rejects deals he doesn't like. And he doesn't like high speeds. This was also in a county where the deputy sheriffs prosecute their own tickets - the DA will normally not negotiate these tickets. It gets even worse. The deputy who wrote the ticket sees himself as Super Deputy. Please note he is not the same as the one in my previous blog post, Supercop. He's also much more pleasant and friendly than that guy.

Putting this all together, we knew it was likely we'd have to do a trial. We charged Marina significantly more than our usual fee. She didn't hesitate.

I showed up for the trial date. Super Deputy was late, giving me hope that he wouldn't show and we'd get a dismissal. He was teasing me. When he did show up, he would only offer a 6-point speed. The points would suspend Marina's license, but worse, the third speed would mean revocation. I suggested a 5-point violation for passing a stopped school bus. She's still get suspended, but that's a lot better than a revocation. No deal. Super Deputy used a typical excuse - the judge won't go for it. Right.

So I got ready for a trial. But the judge would not let us go forward because Marina wasn't there. So the trial was adjourned.

I had a great conversation with Super Deputy before I left. He seemed very prepared for trial, more so than most cops I've seen. On the bright side, he had been accepted into a job in a nearby city police department - with significantly better pay. He was waiting for the next opening, but that would be months away. Would the case be adjourned long enough that he'd be gone?

No such luck. When we showed up for the next date, which had been adjourned a few months, he was still a deputy. With the rough economy, the city had a hiring freeze.

We waited for a couple hours while the rest of the traffic cases were resolved, then started the trial. Super Deputy did not handle it well. I made appropriate objections to a number of things he did and said, and he got rattled. At one point I made an objection (hearsay I think), and he said: "Your honor, I don't know what defense counsel wants me to do."

The Assistant DA stuck around to watch. After Super Deputy got completely rattled, he finally offered to step in and conduct the prosecution. We went outside to chat, and he agreed to reduce to the school bus violation.

Walking out, I asked Marina if she understood what happened. Her response: "You just saved my ass."

As we walked out of the building, there was a guy out front with an umbrella who greeted Marina. He waited while we had a last bit of conversation, then escorted her to a $100,000 Mercedes. She got in the back and he got into the driver's seat. She had a driver ... from Manhattan. I'm wondering if the car ride up and back cost more than my fee.
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