Wheels of Justice
Winner of a brand-new traffic ticket? Now what do you do?
A police car slips in behind you and hits his lights…what should you do now? To answer that question, I spoke with Trooper Kera Philippi. Trooper Philippi is an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Public Information spokesperson, and she advised drivers to understand that the stop is handled at the trooper’s discretion.
She gave me the following suggestions for any driver who is being stopped: (1) Pull off the roadway, past the shoulder if safe and practical, in order to protect yourself and the trooper from traffic; (2) Put your hands on the wheel, and if it is dark outside, turn on your dome light; (3) Stay in your vehicle unless or until the trooper asks you to exit; (4) Do not reach into the glove box or under the seat or do anything that could cause the trooper to think you are reaching for a weapon, and (5) Provide your driver’s license, proof-of-insurance and registration card.
To defend yourself against a traffic ticket, you must understand what it is. A traffic ticket is a citation issued to a driver by a law enforcement officer and a summons to either pay a fine or appear in court at a future date to answer the charge. Far too many times, drivers forget that a citation is nothing unless the driver pleads guilty and pays the court or the driver is later convicted in court.
In fact, the citation is only the law enforcement officer’s best professional assessment of whether or not a traffic law has been violated. Fortunately for America’s professional drivers, the decision of guilt or innocence is left to a judge or jury, none of whom witnessed the alleged infraction.
Does that mean that you should fight a ticket even if you are guilty? The answer is yes! Many drivers believe that because they were going a little fast or following a little too close that they should pay the ticket and take their lumps. The truth is these tickets, where the driver is actually at fault, are treated in the same manner as if the driver was not guilty as required by our laws. Remember that the American legal system always has the defendant in a criminal case innocent until proven guilty.
Most drivers don’t think about their family insurance when they get a traffic ticket. But they do when their insurance costs go up 25% or they lose their personal auto insurance. Your employer might just terminate you be-cause your driving record could cause his company insurance rates to skyrocket. Put yourself in his place; how much more would you pay just so you can keep a driver or several drivers with bad records? Not much I bet.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.