What I Learned About Cops and Lawyers

It’s time to tell you how my traffic ticket saga ends. First, however, I should tell you how it started.

About a month ago, I was driving on a local expressway when I entered an area with some construction off to the side of the road. At about the same time, I came up behind a slow-moving car. We were in the middle lane, so I changed lanes to pass him on the left.

I was still in that lane when I noticed a State Police car right behind me. A few seconds later, he flipped on his lights. Not sure if he was stopping me or just trying to pass (it’s happened before), I signalled a lane change and moved over. He followed me over.

Drat.

I waved to let him know I saw him, then I moved over to the right until I was off on the shoulder. I found a nice wide place to stop, and I pulled way over so he’d have plenty of room to stand next to my car without getting hit by passing cars.

He walked up and told me I had passed an emergency vehicle parked on the shoulder without changing lanes. My confusion must have shown, because he explained that there was a truck with flashing lights on the shoulder in the construction zone.

While he went back to his car to write the ticket, my wife and I discussed the situation, and neither of us could remember the truck. When the trooper returned, my wife asked him to explain what had happened, and he again said there was a truck with flashing lights on the shoulder, and that my lane change had taken me closer to it when I should have been giving it more room.

The ticket required a court appearance, and when I read up on the law, I got a little worried about the potential for high fines or suspension of my license, so I hired a lawyer.

I should point out that despite my misgivings about this law, I have no principled objection to requiring drivers to change lanes or slow down when passing a stopped emergency vehicle. It’s a simple rule, it infringes no basic rights, and it serves a legitimate public purpose.

In other words, I wasn’t under the impression that I had done nothing wrong. I didn’t remember seeing any construction vehicle, but neither could I say with any certainty that there wasn’t one. Given that I don’t think of construction trucks as emergency vehicles, I could easily have missed seeing one in the shoulder.

I hired a lawyer to avoid getting screwed because I didn’t understand the law, not because I thought I was innocent. Going into court, I assumed I was guilty.

Unfortunately, when I had my day in court, the judge agreed with me. I lost.

How did that happen? I think most losing defendants blame lying cops and lousy lawyers when they lose in court. Why should I be any different?

My lawyer and I spoke twice before the trial, once on the phone and once outside the courtroom, for a total of about half an hour. He’d clearly spent some time thinking about the case. I was kind of impressed since this was just a traffic ticket. He had me believing the case was winnable.

Because my record is pretty clean, my gut instinct was to plead guilty and ask for supervision. If the judge agreed, I’d pay a fine, attend traffic safety school, and keep my nose clean for 4 months, and nothing would go on my record. I haven’t done that in about 20 years, but I gather it still works that way.

My lawyer had a different idea. He thought the law was poorly written, and he couldn’t find any case law about it, so he thought we should go to trial. I told him that as much as I hated telling a lawyer not to do his stuff, I was reluctant to take the risk of a conviction when I had a chance at supervision. He told me I’d still be eligible for supervision. I told him to go ahead.

About 10 minutes later the clerk called the case and my lawyer indicated we wanted a trial. The prosecutor said he was ready, so the cop and I were sworn in together in preparation for our testimony. Then the prosecutor started questioning the cop, and a strange thing happened.

The cop changed his story.

When he originally stopped me, he had told me twice that I passed a truck. In court, however, he testified that I passed a State Police car that had pulled someone over. He also said there were no other vehicles nearby, and that I didn’t slow down.

My first thought was that he had changed the vehicle to a police car because that sounds worse than a construction truck. When I thought about it later, however, I remembered that one of the elements of the crime was that the emergency vehicle had to be engaged in its official duties. My lawyer had thought he might have a chance of getting a dismissal if nobody was able to put it on the record that the construction truck was on duty. How would the trooper know? Did he go back and interview the occupants? I wondered if maybe he changed his story because a police car performing a traffic stop is clearly doing its official duties.

There are more benign explanations as well, such as bad memory. The scenario he described is typical of a special enforcement effort for this law: One cop spots an unrelated infraction and pulls the offender over, then a second cop pulls over people who pass the first cop. If the trooper did a lot of those recently, maybe he just got one of them confused with my case. Or maybe, despite identifying me as the guy he pulled over, he has no actual memory of the stop and just made up something plausible. In either case, he should have taken notes, but maybe he’s bad at that, or he forgot, or his dog ate them.

So, it’s possible the cop didn’t really lie. But he certainly didn’t tell the truth.

While I was out driving one night many years ago, shortly after I first got my license, I noticed a police car had done a traffic stop ahead. This was a street without a shoulder, so he was in the right lane, and I was in the left lane. Just as I passed him, the officer threw open his door and stepped out, forcing me to swerve for his safety. He didn’t actually step in front of my car, so I probably wouldn’t have hit him, but ever since then I’ve approached emergency vehicles with caution.

My point is that I would have noticed if I passed close to a police car. I might not have changed lanes, but I would have remembered all those flashing lights.

Yet the only way the officer could be telling the truth is if (1) I didn’t notice the police car, (2) my wife didn’t notice it either, and (3) when the cop stopped me, he somehow misidentified a police car as a truck.

There’s just no way. I passed a construction truck or nothing at all.

Now there’s an interesting thought. They say that you should always tell the truth because it’s easier to remember. Maybe that’s why the officer couldn’t keep his story straight: He made it up. Maybe the reason my wife and I don’t remember a construction vehicle is because there wasn’t one. It suddenly seemed possible that I was actually innocent—as in I didn’t do it. Needless to say, I like this theory.

During cross, my lawyer asked the trooper how far off the road the other cop car was (in the shoulder), where its driver was (standing to the left of the car he stopped), and what method he used to tell I didn’t slow down (eyeball).

I was surprised that my lawyer ignored the change in the cop’s story. I asked him about it later, and he seemed to have missed it, which kind of pissed me off. Wasn’t he paying attention?

Then again, so what if the cop changed his story? The specific factual issue is immaterial: Whether I passed a truck or a police car, I still passed something the law defines as an emergency vehicle. On the other hand, if the cop can’t keep his story straight then his testimony is a lot less credible. However, I’m the only one who knows that for sure. If I tell the judge about the cop’s conflicting statement to me, is there really any chance he’ll believe me? Does it create reasonable doubt? Still, what’s the harm in trying? I’m not sure what to think about this.

The prosecution rested, and my lawyer moved for dismissal, which was denied. Now it was my turn. My lawyer asked me what I did when I saw the police car on the shoulder.

Given the cop’s testimony, I was tempted:

“The trooper is mistaken about the highway being clear of other vehicles. I had just come up behind a slow-moving vehicle in the middle lane. I signalled and moved into the left lane to pass. The road curves to the right, so until I was fully in that lane, my view of the shoulder was obstructed by the other vehicle. Once I saw the stopped police car ahead, I started to slow down to move back into the lane I had just left, but the other vehicle slowed down too. By the time I had dropped back far enough for a safe lane change we had already passed the stopped police car, so I just stayed in that lane until the trooper pulled me over.”

I don’t know if that would have worked, because it would still be my word against the trooper’s. Who’s the judge going to believe? Even worse, the prosecutor—who’s probably done 500 of these things—might have found a quick way to trip me up. In any case, I wasn’t about to perjure myself over a traffic ticket. I told the judge that I didn’t remember seeing a police car or anything else that presented a hazard or that was unusual, so I don’t know what I did.

In closing arguments, the prosecutor reiterated his case. He also called my testimony “not credible,” which pissed me off.

My lawyer responded with a defense I didn’t quite understand. I think he was arguing that the law was poorly written and unclear and that it seemed to require that whenever a cop pulled onto the shoulder all the traffic was supposed to move over a lane and that if everyone did that then traffic would grind to a halt and that no one ever really does that so that cannot have been the intent of the law in which case we don’t know what it means so I should be found not guilty. Or something like that. I really didn’t get his point.

When we were done, the judge said he used to do personal injury law and accidents were terrible things and safety was important, so he convicted me and gave me a $150 fine.

My lawyer then told the judge that I shouldn’t be punished for asserting my right to trial and asked for supervision. The judge denied it and moved on to the next matter before the court. As we were leaving, the judge told us to come back up so he could get one more thing on the record. He addressed my lawyer and said that he’d been giving out $150 fines to everyone that day.

When I said I had a lousy lawyer, I was mostly kidding. It just feels like I had a lousy lawyer because I lost. I was also pissed off that I let him talk me into going to trial. I should have taken the supervision.

As he walked me to the clerk’s office to pay my fine, he seemed genuinely embarrassed that we lost. He told me that he hasn’t lost a case in this courthouse in about 6 months. He also told me that because the offense was failure to yield to an emergency vehicle I wasn’t actually eligible for supervision, so we lost nothing by going to trial. I didn’t ask him why he told me before the trial that I was eligible for supervision.

It would be easy to say he’s a bad lawyer because he lost, but that would be a common analysis error: You can’t learn much from a single data point. The outcome of a case depends on lots of variables beyond the control of the lawyer—many of them also unknown to him—so whether he wins or loses a single case doesn’t reflect all that strongly on how well he does his job. In this respect, lawyers are a lot like sports figures: On any given day, the best can lose and the worst can win.

In sports, you can just watch more games until you build up enough data to draw sound statistical conclusions. That’s harder to do in trials, because they’re all different and because of some selection bias (i.e. good lawyers getting the harder cases). In situations like that, you have to ignore the outcome and judge elements of the actual performance.

Only I don’t know nearly enough about lawyering to judge his performance. Most of what I know comes from reading courtroom stories about spectacular cases, and my lawyer did nothing that struck me as spectacular, but that’s not at all surprising for a routine traffic case. If he’d made some clear and obvious mistakes, I could safely decide he did a bad job, but he didn’t, so I can’t.

I’ve mentioned a few things about my lawyer that give me pause, but I doubt that any of them would have changed the outcome. The cop said I did it, I said I didn’t. The judge believed the cop. I guess my lawyer did what he could with the case I brought him.

The only thing we could have done differently is not gone to trial, and if the lawyer’s right about this case not being eligible for supervision, even that wouldn’t have helped.

The truth is, I really don’t know how to tell if my lawyer did a good job. He told me later that the prosecutor’s plea offer was a $500 fine, so we still beat that.

He probably did a decent job, but…dammit! I was hoping for an acquittal!

On the other hand, I’m going to remember the lying cop for a long time. It astounds me to think that a cop would lie in court over a traffic ticket, which is why I’d like to think that he didn’t do it on purpose. Nevertheless, his testimony was flat-out untrue.

That’s a bit of life experience I’ll definitely take with me next time I’m sitting in a jury box.

24 Responses to What I Learned About Cops and Lawyers

  1. My wife was with me in the car, but my lawyer didn’t suggest bringing her to court, so she didn’t come along.

    Hmm…I suppose it would have helped if we both testified. Would the two of us be more credible than the cop?

    Maybe my lawyer could have asked the cop how many people were in the car with me or something, and if he said it was just me, we’d have a couple of problems with his testimony we could talk about.

  2. I think it would have helped. That way you could have testified what the cop told you (about the truck) and she would have corroborated it. You might have also felt like you could remind the lawyer about it, since there were two of you.

    But then, maybe he wasn’t going for that angle at all.

    Generally, witnesses are good only if they support your story.

  3. I enjoyed your story and appreciate the insight you brought to the table.

    I hope you will delve a little deeper into the nature of police testimony and its ever-changing nature in order to serve the “ends” of justice. I think you will find it interesting.

    Consider this: Whenver there is a factual conflict between a person accused of wrong doing and cop, who will be believed and why? It’s a stacked deck for a reason. In large measure, the public realizes somewhere deep down that this is the case, but it’s basically fine with them as they would prefer to stick the cops for the general benefit of smacking the bad guys. The implications, however, when it’s your butt on the lines, are seldom recognized.

    SHG

  4. I was nailed on this law yesterday on I-57 between Champaign and Chicago. I have one question – do I need a lawyer or can I just go and pay the $75 ticket? The $10,000 thing scares the hell out of me too.

    I do have a comment though too. I agree with your earlier posting – if running over people is bad, it’s bad period. I don’t need an extra law to tell me not to run over people next a vehicle with a flashing light on it.

    The other weird point about this law is that it creates something like a conflict of interest. I mean here the state troopers are responsble for enforcing a law where one of their own was killed in the line of duty which created the law in the first place. So by god they are gonna teach all those idiots a lesson who dare pass by – carefully but not necessarily switching lanes.

    I passed a state trooper with lights on who was sitting behind a stalled tour bus. Two pedestrians were visible on the left side of the bus which was fully off the road. No other pedestrians were present on the road.

    When the cop pulled me over I was stunned. I figured it was one of those “helper” stops where he saw something sticking out of my door and wanted to let me know. Right away he asked for the license. I asked if there was a problem. He seemed pretty miffed at me and asked me why I hadn’t moved left. I actually couldn’t speak because I just couldn’t believe he thought I did something wrong.

    I didn’t know it was a law, but of course we all know ignorance is no excuse. I actually got very angry when he further said I was speeding at 79 (which I wasn’t but I was doing 72) From the very beginning though his whole demeanor was so accusatory and holier than though. It was like I had just slugged his little brother and how could I be so awful.

    I kind of got the impression that if I had said I didn’t know it was a law (rather than a courtesy) to pull left he’d get even more pissed at me.

    On top of this ticket though he got me for speeding. The thing is there were at least 4 cars who passed him all at the same time. I just happened to be the one who didn’t move left. Now think about that too. All these cars in a pack moving at 65 or 70 mph and they all have to move left when there is no real need or danger. Why have four cars all traveling at slightly different speeds some in the process or near process of passing others move left at the sight of flashing lights when it’s clear there is no crash, no pedestrians on the road and no serious safety problem on the shoulder. Tell me its safer for all these cars to move left than to stay in the same lane and pass by without lots of steering and speed adjustments.

    I don’t want to seem like I’m whining either. I would admit the wrong I guess if the guy wasn’t such an ass about it.

    One other thing, I know cops are taught to take control of the situation in order not to get killed when they truly are dealing with bad, bad people. But this guy was a few notches over that “take control” line.

    And it is a stupid law nevertheless.

    Thanks for posting. At least I don’t suffer alone.

  5. A good lawyer wouldn’t have asked the cop: “How many people were there in the car?”, especially a lying/bad memory cop. A good lawyer would have asked:”Isn’t it true that there was a passenger in the car?” yes. “A female passenger” Yes. Perhaps flushing other details: White female?” Yes. You only ask leading questions on cross examination.

  6. This is the kind of thing that undermines respect for both the law and its enforcers. Stories like this get out, and it ends up biting the cops in the ass.

  7. Man, this story stuck with me today, the way stories do when you think later what you would have done if you knew then what you know now.

    Here’s the way it should have worked out (in my imagination):

    As soon as the cop lied about what happened, my lawyer would have known exactly what to do on cross-exam.

    Lawyer: Are you sure it was a police car that was pulled over?

    Cop: Yes.

    Lawyer: Do you recall that there was another passenger in the defendant’s car?

    Cop: No, I don’t recall.

    Lawyer: You don’t recall that there was a woman in the car?

    Cop: Not really. I pull over a lot of cars.

    Lawyer: Let me try and jog your memory. That lady sitting in the gallery (points to wife)

    My wife would have been there. She wouldn’t have missed something like me on trial. That’s just us, but in this case it would have helped.

    Cop: Maybe she was. I don’t exactly recall.

    Prosecutor: Excuse me, is this going anywhere?

    Judge: Get to the point, please.

    Lawyer: Well, your honor, that woman, who was with the defendant at the time is ready to corroborate the story of my client that this officer at the time told them both that they had passed a work truck, not a police car. It gets to the reliability of this witness’s recollection.

    Judge: OK, but finish it up.

    Lawyer: (Looking to cop) So, that woman is ready to testify that you plainly said you pulled them over for passing a working truck. So, did you pull them over for passing a work truck, or a police car?

    At this point, the officer could not possibly be looking cool because if he answers “truck,” he has undermined his credibility. If he answers “police car,” he risks perjuring himself.

    The most likely answer: “I’ve told you, it was a police car.”

    Lawyer: So, this would be a highway patrolman, like yourself, ticketing people on the expressway.

    Cop: Yes.

    Lawyer: One of your colleagues.

    Cop: I suppose, yea.

    Lawyer: Do you recall which one?

    Prosecutor: Your honor, where is this going?

    Judge: Counsel?

    Lawyer: Your honor, may I approach the bench?

    Lawyer and prosecutor approach the bench.

    Lawyer: Your honor, if a colleague of this officer was in that vicinity at the time of this incident, it seems unlikely that he wouldn’t know who it was. In any case, there would be a record of this other officer in that location at that time in the files. But there won’t be any such record because my client is certain that he didn’t pass a police car, and he didn’t pass a work truck. So, how far are you willing to let this go?

    At this point, I can’t see a judge or prosecutor taking chance on risking the career of a traffic cop over something like this. They would know that if they get a conviction, this lawyer could easily get the wife’s affidavit and police records proving that there was no police car in that area on official duty, which opens up perjury charges against the officer, not to mention having the judgment overturned on appeal because the officer’s credibility as a witness was undermined.

    Anyway, that’s what a good lawyer would have done. Very Perry Mason.

    The underlying question, though, is how much did you pay this lawyer? You’re not going to get a defense like that from a $400 lawyer.

  8. M. Hodak:

    I like the visual! I’m not sure it would have gone exactly like that, but that hits all the major points.

    I can’t tell from Mark’s telling of the story whether the cop was asked whether there was someone else in the car. If he was and he said no, then yeah, point to her and ask him if he recognizes her. If he says no, then you have to move on and call her to testify.

    I don’t think he would have said anything other than police car, though.

    That’s his memory and he’s sticking to it.

  9. Lawyer: Your honor, if a colleague of this officer was in that vicinity at the time of this incident, it seems unlikely that he wouldn’t know who it was. In any case, there would be a record of this other officer in that location at that time in the files. But there won’t be any such record because my client is certain that he didn’t pass a police car, and he didn’t pass a work truck. So, how far are you willing to let this go?

    Judge: Too bad you didn’t request those records before the trial and now it is too late because we are at trial. The unprepared attorney may call as many interested witnesses as he wishes and I will give that due consideration against the word of my buddy po po, hier. In both the liability and penalty phases. So, how far are you willing to let this go?

  10. Scott’s Law

    On June 17, 2007 I was arrested for violating an unknown traffic law, I.V.C. 625 ILCS 5/11-907(c). On October 23, 2007 I was acquitted, but it was not easy. What (Illinois only) traffic offense carries a much more severe penalty than drunk driving? Illinois politicians call it “Scott’s Law.” Never heard of it? Neither has anyone else — it’s a state-police secret. The current edition (December 2006) of Illinois’s Rules of the Road published by the Secretary of State makes no mention of “Scott’s Law” except to say on page 70 that “a driver should, when safe to do so, move into a lane not adjacent to the emergency vehicle ….” This seven-year-old law, signed by our criminal governor, Lyin’ Ryan, requires a mandatory license suspension for one violation, yet it is not included in the list of 22 reason for suspension in Chapter 6 of Illinois’s Rules of the Road. In addition to a mandatory suspension, a conviction can result in a $10,000 fine, much higher than drunk driving. This law also requires a mandatory (Bloomington) court appearance; you cannot hire a lawyer to take your place in court, and you cannot plead guilty to avoid a personal appearance. I live four hours away, but my appearance would be required even if I lived in Alaska.

    What terrible thing did I do to cause the Illinois State Police to arrest me? On Sunday, June 17th I was driving from Rockford to Pittsburgh on Interstates 39, 74 & 70. Shortly after 3:00 a.m., I approached flashing lights on both sides of the southbound lanes of I-39, eleven miles north of Bloomington. I remained in the right lane when I passed two state police cars parked behind a third vehicle on the left shoulder. A few seconds later I passed two other state police cars parked behind another third vehicle on the broader right shoulder. When I passed the second cluster of vehicles, I (a) slowed to 35 mph, (b) turned on my left lane-change signal, and (c) straddled the center line because (i) I did not want to block any vehicle pulling out from the left shoulder, (ii) I did not want to pass close to the cluster of vehicles on the broader right shoulder, and (iii) I did not want to hit any debris on the road. Four police cars and two other vehicles on the shoulders indicated there may have been a collision. The two clusters of vehicles were approximately 150 yards apart although, while approaching in the dark, the six cars appeared to be adjacent to each other.

    Approximately ten minutes later, one of the four police cars speeding at about 120 mph caught up to me to (1) take $75 cash for a bond, (2) issue complaint 4799740 for “Scott’s Law” and (3) issue warning 5273716 for improper lane usage. At the time I thought, and I still think, I did the safest thing possible under the circumstances by (a) slowing to 35 mph, (b) turning on my left lane-change signal, and (c) straddling the center line.

    Why were those six cars parked back there? He would not tell me. There was no collision: no debris on the road. Two cars stopped for speeding at the same location: impossible because there were virtually no cars on the road at 3:00 a.m. Sunday — only an occasional 18-wheel truck.

    Four police cars and two other vehicles, probably also police cars, on the shoulders at the same place — what does that indicate to you? A scam — a police trap. The state policeman refused to even file a police report, thus giving himself the opportunity to change his story in court, i.e., lie under oath.

    There is no such “Scott’s Law” in any of the other 49 states. In Illinois during the seven years this law has been in effect, over 20,000 tickets have been issued by the Illinois State Police, and no tickets have been issued by other police agencies except where there has been a genuine emergency. To an ordinary driver, a police car writing a speeding ticket on the broad right shoulder of an Interstate Highway is not considered an emergency any more than your car parked in the same place would be, yet one is included and the other is not included in the “Scott’s Law” statute.

    On October 23rd I drove to Bloomington for my personal court appearance, but the state cop did not show up. I had to wait an hour in the courtroom while the government tried to find the offending policeman. When the judge finally called my case, the female assistant state’s attorney unbelievably tried to force me to make still another trip to the Bloomington courthouse because she did not have her witness. The judge denied her motion to continue, and he then dismissed the “Scott’s Law” case against me.

    If it happened to me, it can happen to you. Those same six cars could be out there in the dark tonight. Once in a blue moon we catch a rogue state cop and put him in prison. We need to catch more of them.
    -30-

  11. My girlfriend and I were on I55 in Springfield coming from Milwaukee going to TX. It was about 8pm I believe the 19th of March. Anyway,we were on the road left hand lane when we noticed a cop in the grass on the left.he had his back window lights on and was just sitting there. He had noone pulled over and was sitting in the car. Just like we do in Tx we slowed down and proceeded with caution. Just as soon as we passed him he put on his roof lights and pulled us over.He told us she had violated Scotts Law and proceeded to write a ticket. He even gave us this pamphlet explaining a little about the law. Now this month on the 17th and must appear in court. We dont really know what to expect. We cant even really afford to travel back there much less pay for a lawyer. Wish us luck!!!!!

  12. Thanks I think we did too. I think he was there on the interstate waiting for someone to violate that law. I will let yall know how it all plays out.

  13. Well its me diana… Me and my girlfriend violated Scotts law. Well, we went to court this last thurs. Took us 15 hours to get there.We plead guilty and she got a $200 fine. I am very disappointed in the state of Ill. Turns out they care more for their cops than their average citizen. The judge tells the courtroom about how the day was gonna go. explaining fine ect… well he never mentions scotts law, but he says ” no seatbelts wellll we dont really inforce that. Drivers get a $25 fine and children without seatbelts $50 fine. OOMMMGGGG are you kidding me????? We freakin passed a cop who was just SITTING IN HIS CAR. He had no one pulled over. His vehicle was a good 10 ft in the grass from the side of the road. But its ok to let children not be in a seatbelt so they go flying through the windsheild . I find this absolutely absurd.I spoke with a least 10 people in court that day who are from Ill and NONE of them knew about Scotts law.. and yet we from TX are expected to. When my girlfriend got in front of the judge he was like “Scotts law, Yeahhhh not many know about this law but we do inforce it ” OOMMM GGGGG I tell you that state has put a bad taste in my mouth. If at all possible i will never step foot back in that state. I would rather go 200 extra miles around that damn state. Hope yall dont ever have to go through what we did. thanks for letting me vent. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing lol.

  14. Thanks for your story, Diana.

    When your friend plead guilty and got the fine, did the judge enter a conviction? Or did she get supervision? It’s important because a conviction goes on her record, which may count toward a suspension of her license.

    Also, what state is your friend’s license issued in? And do you know if they have some sort of agreement with Illinois regarding driving records?

  15. We are both from Tx. and that is where are licenses are from. The DA gave her supervision and I am not sure if the two states have an agreement on that matter. All I know is that I am sooooo glad its over with. Hope to hear more stories on here bout others with the same problem.

  16. I think the intention of this law is good. But whether it is worthwhile to be a law and the penalty is questionable.

    If it is a good law, after seven years, most of people in Illinois should know and other states should follow. But non of them is true.

    In my opinion, The law was not advertised enough to let people know and the penalty is harsh for a first time offender (especially for out of state drivers).

  17. I failed to move into the fast lane because of a State Police car sitting in front of an empty one. No one was on the road. I was followed and stopped. He asked me if I had Lazy eyes? Then he brought up Scotts Law. Failure to move over when a police car with the red and blues blinking. I explained to the officer I had never heard of Scotts Law. He argued that I had to know! The ticket was marked $75. He said I would probably pay $150. I ccase is to be in court on July 31st at 8a.m.should I hire an attorney. I am 71, in good health, no alcohol or other ticket since 1991. I would not want to lose my licensee as I am a widdower.
    Should I take a family member to court in case something bad goes wrong?

  18. You sir, should be a novelist. Over this tiny, insignificant life event, you have written an unbelievably long piece about it. You must be a good writer, considering I just sat here and read part 1 & 2. My advice though, find something more meaningful to write about. You could go far! = ]

  19. I know this is about a decade old but I just wanted to say you are right; you had a bad lawyer.

    Simply for your case you should of plead no contest and took the plea.
    You would have got no points and paid the minimal fine. your lawyer took the nothing or double route on the a small technicality of how the law was worded and not on the merit of the strength of your defense or evidence presented. A big mistake that you pay for not him.

    If you fight it you should have fought it yourself.
    here are some simple points on going to court for traffic infraction cases.

    1. you would never get a lawyer unless you don’t want to appear as the lawyer could substitute your presence on your behalf.

    2. You have three choices, not guilty, guilty and Nolo contendere.

    3. The period between arraignment and entering a plea is the only time you can bargain to suspend, and the court would bargain if they think you have a chance to have this tied up in court. The court wants to save time as well for time is money loss for them. but if your case is a slam dunk against you don’t expect any bargain at all, or if you already lost the point of giving a bargain would be throwing money away in the trash to them.

    4. If you waive your right to a trial and plead guilty they take saving courts time as consideration and give you the minimal fine and possible a bargain.

    5. If you fight it in court you will be fined the maximum fine possible to recovery cost and time of the court. you are not getting around that, this is the gamble you take. Most times this is a double or nothing.
    If you have the choice for a six-man jury always take that, and not just the judge. the judge will always favor the city interest of time and cost.

    6. Never let the cross-examiner make a statement about your character or any statement which is impossible to be known as fact. This is hearsay at minimal and can even be slander. Always object and state that such statement has no merit for it is said with no supportive evidence nor fact.

    If he says that you have money to lose in which makes your testimony not credible just reply

    ” To say at the least my testimony is not valid is purely from hearsay of my own character for which you have no knowledge of unless you want to present any character witness; at that, I also would object on that count as well due to not declaring such witnesses in discovery and would move to postpone to examine the new evidence for preparation of cross-examination. ”

    The statement would be redacted at that point.

    7. Always try to get the officer to state under oath something different than what’s in the case notes, you may not think that is important but it clearly states his character. Also, on your cross, you will ask if he read his notes before the trial started. If he did you can say

    “Even after twenty minutes, you can’t even remember the details in your own notes what is there to say you remember the correct details as you eventually wrote the notes after the citation? it seems you have an issue with your memory even with important details you gleaned only moments ago. ”

    It will be objected for sure but simply explain that his lack of attention to detail as a police officer even under oath shows the lack of character which may elude to his testimony to be unreliable. The judge should say it will be noted but to not go any further on that line of questioning or it will be redacted.

  20. I too was pulled over by a very angry yelling officer on the expressway, who wrote me a ticket for $120 for allegedly violating Scott’s Law. I did slow down immediately, drove carefully, and pulled over as far as I safely could in my lane in busy December traffic when I saw a parked SUV with no person in or anywhere outside the vehicle with flashing lights parked on the side of the expressway around 2:30 PM. I am a safe driver and always slow down and proceed with caution or stop for emergency vehicles. There was NO emergency. Just a parked vehicle with lights flashing, and no one visible. I was in disbelief that I was being pulled over when I was driving safely. So today I went to the required court, and was told I could not pay a fine, and I must return to the court next month for trial. How do I find a reputable traffic attorney to plead my case? What should his fee be to represent me in court? What chance do I have of having the case dismissed when the angry officer knows the judge, and I don’t? I have an excellent driving record. I have never been to traffic court before. I feel like it was an entrapment and I did nothing wrong. I have been a careful driver for over 45 years! Could the judge actually take away my drivers license? How do I make a living and keep my job if I have no other way to get to work?

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