Sunday, June 28, 2009

Garage Party - A Fun Way to Reduce DWI

We had a garage party last night. With all the DWI cases I handle where people had a few drinks and then drove home, this idea came to me. Wouldn't it be nice if you could go somewhere, have a few drinks, and not worry about driving home?

There's more to this. First, one of the motivators was that we now have a refrigerator in our garage. We bought new appliances. While we got rid of the others, we kept the fridge. Inspired by that Heineken commercial (see below - might be the Dutch or German version), I bought a lot of beer to fill the fridge.

Well, it turns out I don't drink that much beer. So what do you do when you have a fridge in your garage full of beer? Aha! You have a garage party. Now this is not the same as a Harley Davidson garage party.

Basically, we invited the neighbors over (so no one will be driving home). And we had a lot of beer, along with some other drinks.

It really went well. People brought their kids and the kids played together. The new neighbors got to meet the old neighbors. In today's world where we're all chasing our kids from soccer games to Tae Kwon Do, we don't get to talk to our neighbors much. This gave us all a chance to catch up.

Having the party in the garage means your house doesn't get messed up. Since the weather was pretty nice, the party expanded onto the driveway and the kids played there and in the yard. And if it had rained, the garage would have provided shelter. We parked our cars in the street before the party started.

Our neighbors brought over some desserts and a couple other goodies too.

My ulterior motive to reduce the amount of alcohol in the house had mixed results. A lot of my beer was consumed, but a couple people brought more over. I put out two bottles of wine, but neighbors brought three more. And we never opened any of the wine.

Most important, everyone seemed to have a good time.

So do your part to reduce DWI in your neighborhood. Invite the neighbors over for a garage party.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Guest Blogger

Happy to have a guest blogger on our blog. My associate David Cooper is now contributing. His first blog post is on suspended licenses.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Suspended License: Why you should care and act quickly

Why should you care? If you are driving in New York State and you have forgotten to answer a ticket or never heard back from the court you may be suspended. If your license or privilege to drive (for out-of-state drivers) in New York is suspended and you are stopped while driving in New York, there is a very good chance you will be charged with a crime, known as Aggravated Unlicensed Operation in the Third Degree (AUO 3rd). This is a misdemeanor (worse than a violation, but a lot better than a felony).

Have you moved recently or live out of state? A large number of people that have moved or live in Quebec or Ontario may not know they are suspended. The address that New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (“NYSDMV”) uses is the address at the time the ticket was issued. In addition, NYSDMV computer typically have problems sending suspension notices to Canada, since it only accepts five-digit zip codes, not Canadian postal codes.

It is almost summertime and many people are traveling into New York. If you are not sure what happened with an old ticket, you may want to follow up. If you are a Canadian citizen you may have trouble getting across the New York border. You may be able to resolve this with the help of NYSDMV . If you prefer, our firm may be able to help.

Remember you do not want to just plead guilty to a bunch of tickets that you forgot about. You have to first find out what the ticket or tickets were for. If you rush to plead guilty on speeding ticket for 86 in 65. You will not only be responsible for the fine, but also the driver responsibility assessment, which is an additional $300 in this case (as of June 2009). Also, if you are convicted of three speeds or two work-zone speeds in 18 months in New York State, your license or privilege to drive in the State of New York will be revoked.

Finally, an added incentive to act now is the fee to lift the suspension(s) is going up from the current $35 per suspension to $70 per suspension on July 6, 2009.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why shouldn't I hire a lawyer to beat my ticket?

Saw something on the web that got me laughing. Back in '05 I did a post about lawyer marketing on the web. I critiqued some websites that claimed to help people with their tickets.

Well, someone from speedticketbeaters -dot- com tried to post a comment on that old blog post. I don't allow these sites to promote themselves through my blog. But it was funny. The comment asserted, among other things, that "traffic lawyers don't know anything about traffic law." This is quite similar to something on the site, which I quote below with more critique:

Why shouldn't I hire a lawyer to beat my ticket?
Here's several of many reasons:

"Several of many"??

Lawyers do not study traffic law in law school ....

I don't remember much traffic law in law school. But traffic cases in most of New York are handled in local criminal courts. Law school did cover Constitutional Law, Procedure, Evidence, Criminal Law. Along with a few other topics, those classes are quite relevant to traffic law. In addition, some of us actually learn more after law school. I've had over 40 jury trials. Maybe I learned something along the way.

... all [lawyers] ever ... do is plea bargain your ticket down to a lower fine. That is not winning, and still costs you big money in insurance ... and ... fines!

We do usually plea bargain. Our focus is not just the fine though. Most of our clients are concerned about the points and insurance impact. Many of them ask if we can get them a deal where they pay a higher fine so they can get less points - but it generally doesn't work that way.

And plea bargaining is not all we ever do. Our office has done several speeding ticket trials, and we win about half of them. We occasionally get tickets dismissed before trial too. But the strategy of fighting tickets is risky, and in most cases our clients prefer the safer option of a deal that protects their license and insurance.

Lawyers charge a fortune [and] ... do ... mediocre work ... on speeding tickets. ... Lawyers call us ... asking us to teach THEM ....

You'd think if they say we charge so much, they'd have the decency to publish their fees. They don't. They do at one point criticize other websites who charge only $50 as too cheap. There are places (like Florida and Texas) where lawyers don't charge much more than that.

There most certainly are some lawyers who do mediocre work. But most of the lawyers I see handling traffic cases do a good job for their clients. And if there are lawyers calling these guys for instruction, they strangely are not identified on the site.

One thing about hiring a lawyer - at least with most NY lawyers, we put our names and addresses on our websites. You know who we are. On this particular website there is no information identifying who really runs the site.

Another detail: It is true that in cases where the cop doesn't show up for trial, the case will sometimes be dismissed. But they usually do show up (I'd say about 95% of the time) and even when they don't, some judges won't dismiss the case.

There's also the nightmare scenario. Under NY law you can get up to 15 days in jail for speeding. You go without a lawyer to the wrong court with the wrong judge with the wrong set of facts, and then you don't handle things well, ... you might not be going home that night. It's pretty rare, but I remember one young woman who walked out of Court after the deal didn't go through, and was brought back in wearing handcuffs. I know of a couple judges who put people in jail for high speeds too.

These incidents are very rare, and not something I'd want my clients worried about. But if something does go wrong, do you really want to rely on a questionable website? You might feel more comfortable with a lawyer.

Drunk Driving articles in the Wall Street Journal

Two good articles in the Wall Street Journal this week.

Yesterday there was a discussion of drunk driver data by The Numbers Guy - Carl Bialik. It talks about statistics on the risks of driving at varying blood-alcohol content (BAC) levels. Bialik briefly mentions flaws in breath testing. Hopefully he'll do a more complete discussion in the future.

The day before there was an article, Drunk Driving Foes Split, about how infighting between MADD and another group about when ignition interlock devices should be made mandatory - for drivers caught over 0.08, or at 0.15 and above.

Drunk driving deaths have remained steady for about 15 years, even though there are more DUI patrols and harsher penalties. It thus appears that the extra enforcement isn't doing much.

I talked about this in the past on my other blog about how our drunk driving laws waste money.

If we really want to reduce drunk driving deaths there are better options: Increasing mass transit; changing zoning codes that keep bars away from homes and require them to have ample parking; and focusing enforcement on dangerous areas (like where pedestrians are close to cars) instead of interstate highways.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

County Court update

A new milestone for our court directory - we now have 6000 courts in our database - see below.

There's about 1500 in NY; 240 in CA; about 200 in the New England states (MA, CT, RI, VT and NH - we haven't done Maine yet); 600 in NJ; 168 in FL; GA has 500 and we're still adding more; 132 in Illinois; nearly 300 between MD, VA and DC; 220 in NC; roughly 600 apiece in Ohio and PA; and there's more.

Texas might become the biggest. We're closing in on 1000 courts there, and we have a long way to go. The state has about 250 counties. NY, by comparison, has 62.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

New York Speeding Ticket - Piece by Piece

We added a new page to our website with a breakdown of a typical New York speeding ticket. Please post any comments or suggestions on this blog post.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Lawyer Websites and Spelling

I was just looking at a lawyer website and it had some animated graphics. Below is an image I clipped from the animation.

Maybe it's just me, but I think clients are a bit less likely to hire a lawyer who spells poorly. Click on the image below and it should enlarge a bit and be easier to read. The key words should be "traffic" and "rights".