Wheels of Justice
Some of the most often-asked legal questions
I try to attend all the major shows such as Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, the Great West Truck Show in Las Vegas and the Great American Truck Show in Dallas. Drivers I see at the shows usually have legal questions that fall into familiar areas: motor vehicle records (MVRs), traffic stops and accidents.
The MVR, or driving record
Every one of us who holds a CDL has a MVR that tells our employer, our personal insurance carrier and the DOT or law enforcement officer that stops us how we drive. Traffic convictions to a CDL driver mean lost time, lost money and maybe a lost job.
What those convictions on your MVR do to your hiring potential is even worse. Ask yourself what carrier would want to hire a driver with a serious conviction or two on his MVR. You can’t afford to have even one serious conviction on your record. Protect your MVR and protect your future as a driver by knowing what to expect and what’s allowed when dealing with the law.
The traffic stop
As a former prosecutor, I want you to re-member that a traffic ticket is nothing until it becomes a conviction. And it becomes a conviction when you automatically pay the fine, fail to show up for court on the appointed day or when you are found guilty. Never, never simply pay a ticket and admit guilt; you are just killing your job and your career.
After the stop is over, one of the best things you can do is record – either on tape recorder or write it down – everything that happened before, during and after the stop. The judicial system understands that data recorded at the time of the incident is more accurate than your memory months later. That makes your written or recorded information more accurate in the court’s mind than that of the officer who makes 25 traffic stops a day and has to recall you specifically at a later date.
If you are in an accident, always keep in mind your own protection. Let’s say you’re involved in an accident that results in serious injuries to another individual, but no fatalities. An officer asks questions; you respond thinking you’re being helpful. But three days later, the injured person dies and the prosecutor files a vehicular homicide charge against you. The slightest things you commented on could be turned around and used against you.
Again, this is where a camera and tape recorder could help out. Snap some pictures of the surroundings – the vehicles and the people who were witnesses. You want a picture of every car tag and person at the scene, if you can get it, because what they saw could help you.
You never know when a traffic stop or accident will land you in court defending yourself and your livelihood. Collecting information will help to protect you if that ever happens.
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.