Thursday, July 26, 2007

Unsolicited attorney mailings to prospective clients

One of my clients got a letter from a local lawyer that I thought was inappropriate. Images of the letter (with information about both the lawyer and the client whited out) are at the bottom (click on them to see them enlarged). Let's take a look and see what's wrong with this:

1. Notice the enlarged fonts, boldface, and underlining. Maybe it's just me, but lawyers shouldn't shout. The only time I think we use bold in a letter is when we tell our clients that courts do not accept personal checks, and that they need to send a money order.

2. This is one of the big problems -- How did this lawyer know my client had a ticket? We've heard from one source that this lawyer does FOIL requests on all the local courts, but I don't know that for certain. Disciplinary Rule 1200-8(h) requires that he was supposed to disclose how he obtained my client's identity and learned of his legal need. It's not in the letter. I sent a letter asking for this information and he hasn't responded to that either.

3. Another big problem is the substantial exaggerations. The biggest one is where he says that if you plead guilty to a 6-point speeding ticket the total cost will be $3800. The $3800 includes:
a: $355 max fine
-- The fine range is $90-300 and there is a $55 surcharge. Technically correct, but he leaves out the minimum.

b: $300 DMV Assessment
-- This one is dead-on -- unless the client already has points.

c: $3145 insurance hike (estimated over 3 years)
-- Um ... where on earth did he get this figure? I'm guessing my client, a really nice retired fellow, pays about $500 a year now on his insurance. If his rates got bumped at all, he'd probably be looking at a 30% increase for 3 years, for a total increase of about $450. I'm guessing too, but I'll bet my guess is a lot better, and it's not an unreasonable scare tactic.

The funniest thing is where he estimates with a reduction to a speed of 75 in a 65. Notice for fines he now has $150 with (+surcharge if applicable). I don't know where the surcharge is inapplicable, and you have to wonder why it's left out here but included in the plead guilty estimate. Funnier still is his estimate of the insurance hike at $1550 for 3 years. Under Insurance Law 2335, your rates cannot be raised for a speed of 15 mph or less over the limit. The insurance hike for this reduction is zero.

I'm eager to see comments on this. Please fire away!


Anonymous said...

I would be interested in how he got this info also, as FOIL does not apply to courts. If a court is giving out its Docket info in total, then they are violating judicial rules. I have never heard of any court doing that, not to say it does not happen.

Do Judges in your area really allow a speeding ticket to be reduced to a parking ticket? I would never allow that as if the individual didn't pay, I as a judge have little recourse as you can't scoff a parking ticket. In our county we use VTL 1101 for most reductions.

Unknown said...

We frequently get parking tickets (1201(a)) for our clients in local courts on lower speeds. However, I have been to courts where the judges won't do it for precisely the reason pml mentions. I think 1101 is another common reduction -- no points, max fine of $100 + $55 surcharge (vs. $150 fine and no surcharge on the parking ticket). The 1101 does show up on a driving record, so we prefer 1201(a) when we can get it because it does not show up. I'd also worry a little about how 1101 would play in other states.
Judges may like 1201 because more of the revenue goes to the town, but I'm not sure about that.

Anonymous said...

1101 does not show up on your driving record. The reason it does not is in reality its a bogus charge. In order to accept it electronicaly DMV had to reprogram its computers. The DMV legal office does not even like judges accepting 1101's because it doesn't leave a record.

There is a judge in our county that won't accept a reduction to anything lower that 1110a which still assigns points.

Anonymous said...

So which is it? Does 1101 show up on your driving record in New York state? albany lawyer said it does, but pml said it does not.

Unknown said...

Not sure whether 1101 shows up on a record. I think it does. pml thinks it doesn't. I'm pretty sure I'm right, but I don't know if I've ever actually seen it on a driving record. I'd say you can check with DMV to find out for sure, but then you'd also have to be sure the DMV person you're talking to really knows the answer. They're not always reliable.

To really find out, you'd have to get a ticket and then get it reduced to 1101. Then you'd find out. :-)

Anonymous said...

Has the debate been resolved? Does 1101 show up on your driving record?

Unknown said...

Not resolved as far as I know. I'm pretty sure I've seen one on a driving record, but pml has seen a lot of this stuff too and thinks differently. I guess someone's just going to have to go out and violate that law so we can know for sure. ;-)

CatEcumen the Ecumenical Cat said...

Hi Warren, I'm about to do a reduction for a client to 1101, and I found this post while looking to see if it does carry any points or not, so .... we'll see!

Anonymous said...

I practice in NJ and subscribe to a service which obtains the names of people ticketed from the Court and sends out advertising letters for me. If i send out 2000 letters a week it costs me $1700 and I can expect to bring in 20 cases at $400 a pop ($8000). Low hanging fruit.