Deferring CDL speeding tickets
April 27, 2004, 16:26P.D. Ray
Deferring CDL speeding tickets
I bet if this law gets fully enforced, someone will complain to those who can change it.
Maybe put a contact number to the legislative representative at the bottom of the poster?
April 13, 2005, 09:38S Elliott
Any new ideas on this subject? I'm a new CA and my JPs are coming to me with requests for pre-trial diversions on these, all from the same lawyer out of Brownwood.
April 13, 2005, 10:00pkdyer
You are faced with the same Brownwood attorney as we are in Taylor County. So far I have not offered it - but I am no longer doing JP work. Our office is just looking into a pre-trial diversion program, so maybe now it will be. Pre-trial diversion seems a workable option. My problem was with attorneys who asked for dismissal with a plea to failure to appear or some other unrelated offense. Those attorneys insist most other counties do that. It seems that the easiest solution would be for the legislature to get realistic and make the no deferred only applicable to tickets written while they are in their CDL vehicle. I understand the reasoning behind the "all" vehicle law - the purpose is to avoid bad CDL drivers but speeding in their personal vehicle is not necessarily reflective on how they drive their CDL vehicle.
April 13, 2005, 10:49Clay A.
No one opposed these changes last session. No relief for CDL holders in this one. What has happened in Texas is the normal state in the rest of the union and has been for a while. The problem with masking is that CDL drivers drive in so many jurisdictions. If we all take the view of "well no new tickets in my town" we get folks like the bus driver who recklessly kills a bus load of kids with a dozen plus violations and no convictions. Each jurisdiction in Texas said "well he has a clean record" and "he only had one ticket here". If we only want good drivers driving the rigs that can cause so much death and damage doesn't the buck stop with those prosecuting these irritating and "insignificant" cases.
Sorry for another sermon, but my opinion is that the prosecution of these offenses and a prosecutor giving more than lip service to the law is justice.
April 13, 2005, 14:31J Ansolabehere
Way to go Clay! I was just reading a recent column by your successor over at TMCEC in which he advised muni judges that pre-trial diversion of CDL holders' speeding tickets is a no-no.
By the say all you prosecutors, check out the changes Transportation Code 522.081 that go into effect June 1st. Now a breath or blood test refusal by a CDL holder following an arrest for DWI in the CLD holder's private vehicle (no CMV)
, or a BAC over .08 after an rrest for DWI in a non-CMV will be good for a one yar disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for one year (522.081(b)). Also, a conviction for DWI committed in a non-CMV will be good for a one year disqualification (used to only apply if they were in a CMV).
April 14, 2005, 12:27jsdeel
My predacessor in office offered what he called "deferred prosecution agreements" wherein he would have the violator post a cash bond and sign a written agreement to forfeit the bond at the end of a 30 day period without any violations.
My reading of Chapter 522 of the Transp. Code leads me to understand that such a policy or any other attempts at a deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion which collects any fine or court costs would still be a "conviction" as defined by that chapter.
April 14, 2005, 16:54J.L.H.
Good gosh. There's no telling what my local J.P. is up to. I have never heard of this. We are sure not on any truck routes. No US highways run through Hansford County. But still you would think this would have come up in the two years. I think the message for a CDL holder is never ever take a drink less than 24 hours before you drive any motor vehicle.
I guess trucks are big and many haul bad nasty stuff and can cream anything they run into and we ought to have them going the same speed as the rest (hopefully) of us. I said that if the 55 mph limit were raised I would drive right at 70 the rest of my born days. And I have. The rest can do the same.
John Hutchison C.A.
April 14, 2005, 17:24pkdyer
My question is not driving in other jurisdictions but whether applying a stiffer penalty to a person driving their own private vehicle just because they have a CDL license. I enforced it while I was handling JP tickets because dismissing and giving a FTA or someother unrelated charge to me was just a way to circumvent the law. My concern is that by using this against CDL drivers in their private vehicles it becomes a harsh penalty. The statute deprives them of their job even though they have never had a ticket in their CDL vehicle. Unless I read 522.081 incorrectly - getting two speeding tickets over 15 mph w/in a 3-yr period takes away their license even if in their own private vheicle and even if they have had a spotless record in their CDL vehicle. Maybe there could be a provision that they could take deferred for private vehicles but it would remain on their CDL information - maybe give them a few more tickets allowed in their private vehicle. Otherwise I fear that more prosecutors are going to circumvent the law anyway so it does not matter. I do not agree with circumventing the law and by saying that our office is going to establish a pre-trial diversion program does not in any way relfect my feelings about using it. My problem is taking away a person's job for something everyone else can do without losing their job. (we don't even lose our license for driving 15 mph over the speed limit 2 x in a 3yr period in our private vehicle)
April 15, 2005, 08:53Ken Sparks
I agree that the law is too harsh. If a CDL holder goes to a wedding and has too much to drink and gets a DWI while driving his personal vehicle, he loses his CDL. That makes no sense. Laws that carry a penalty that is disproportional to the crime make people disrespect the law in general.
April 15, 2005, 09:37P.D. Ray
I'm pretty torn on this, but maybe they shouldn't speed. We've had people complain that they'll lose their security clearance if they get a def/adj on a class B marajuana charge. My response was often: if the defendant knew that, why did he smoke pot?
I'm fully aware that if I go out and engage in some casual drug behavior that a great portion of our society believes is 'no big deal', (Smoke Marajuana, take someone else's prescription xanax/vicodin/etc.) I'm going to lose my job as a prosecutor if I get caught.
So, I don't do it.
Why is it harsh to require a person who spends their employment travelling the roads of Texas to do it safely in their off time too?
Then again, I drive like an idiot. Chances are, that on my way to Austin next week, I'll be driving over the speed limit while talking on my cell phone in Williamson County. If John Bradley saw me, I'd get lynched.
April 15, 2005, 11:20pkdyer
I would say that there is a difference between committing a class C misdemeanor and losing your job as opposed to committing a class B. Obviously the State of Texas believes that a class B misdemeanor is a higher grade of offense since jail time can be imposed. When we take a job that we know imposes certain penalties it is our option to take that job. I have little doubt that it has always been common practice that one could lose security clearance or their job as prosecutors for committing certain offenses. However, this affects people who have had their jobs for years and now may lose it for committing a class c misdemeanor. They certainly were not aware when they took their truck driving jobs that they would be scrutinized in their own personal driving habits. I am not aware of prosecutors losing their jobs for committing a traffic vioalation, but maybe we should look at that. Two traffic offenses in a three year period and you are out, and of course no deferred adjudication for us. I think there is a clear and distinct difference. I held a secret clearance for 15 years . I was not aware that it was automatic loss of clearance for a class c violation but was aware of what could cause loss of clearance. Again it is not exactly the same when a new law takes away a person's employment for a minor traffic offense. Just like the argument in Michigan about the company who took away the right of a person to smoke at all - does not involve government action so less scrutiny. Here this is government action, so all I am saying is that we should at least scrutinize it under the rational relationship test and see if taking employment away for 2 traffic offenses in a private vehicle passes the government's interests in ensuring safe truck drivers.
April 15, 2005, 12:04P.D. Ray
Well, like I said, I am torn on the issue. And my opinion expressed above is not a strong opinion, just food for thought.
I agree that there is a significant difference, but the concept is still similar. I see your point, and I am nodding my head as I read what you wrote, but it _is_ still _two_ tickets. Upon receiving the first one, they have notice and could technically simply drive the speed limit after receiving the first one.
Then again, what about those annoying tickets that everyone gets when they enter a speed zone that they didn't notice. 70 to 65 to 55 and you don't slow down quickly enough.
April 16, 2005, 08:47pkdyer
Yes and remember that speeding 15 mph over in a private vehicle still gets you deferred -but is considered a serious violation in your private vehicle if you have a CDL. Why do the legislators not consider 15 mph over serious when you don't have a CDL. Maybe to be fair the thing to do is make it a law deferred is not available to anyone who drives 15 mph over. I agree you are put on notice with one, but remember the other ramifications in getting just one ticket - personal vehicle insurance costs. Again there seems to be a way that a deferred could be kept on a CDL license information w/o penalizing one with loss of job and higher insurance costs. Maybe something like after so many deferred in a private vehicle than loss of license. It just doesn't seem to pass a rational relationship test if the driver has a spotless CDL driving record and only has two speeding tickets in a private vehicle in a 3 yr period.
[This message was edited by pkdyer on 04-16-05 at .]
April 17, 2005, 09:01jsdeel
I agree that it seems out of proportion to take away someone's ability to earn a living over a Class C misdemeanor when that law does not apply to everyone. However, think about the speeds involved in this issue. 15 miles an hour over the speed limit is 85 mph on most of our highways. Think about this matter from a personal perspective.
I travel up and down I-20 a great deal, and I have no desire to do so with 18 wheelers travelling 85 to 95 mph. The majority of 18 wheeler accidents I have seen on I-20 resulted in the truck driver walking away from the scene. The passenger cars who get caught in one are seldom so fortunate.
The personal vehicle scenarios may not seem fair, but do all of our other laws?
If the truckers or others don't like it, step up their lobbying efforts and change the law.
April 17, 2005, 10:14pkdyer
Okay - I misread the defintition of a serious offense - it is only when they are in a commercial vehicle. So the 15 mph is fine in that respect - in fact 10 mph would be fine with me. As long as it is applied that way. I would hate to see someone speeding in their personal vehicle over 15mph and have it charged against them as a serious violation which I have heard many have interpreted it that way.
But I still say how they drive their personal vehicle does not reflect on how they drive their truck. Further, of all of those accidents where truckers are involved how many of them were caused by the truck driver. My son travels I-20 in a tanker truck and you don't know how many times he has come home and told of cars speeding past him then cutting in front, slowing down and exiting. Following too close is a violation but truckers cannot always avoid it when passenger vehicles don't respect them. I would also say what we need is better control over the trucking companies. They push the drivers to forge log books, drive more than they are allowed and fail to give them the required rest periods. How do I know - my son used to drive for a company like that. Sometimes he would drive for 12-14 hours then be called back out on the road less then 5 hours later. He was driving a tanker truck then too and I am glad he no longer works for that company. So if we want safer truckers maybe we should penalize the bosses also.
April 17, 2005, 17:15jsdeel
Obviously, my opinion is skewed by my own anecdotal observations which I am sure are far from scientific, but most of the truckers I know are not the great drivers they would have you believe. Many are forced to drive too many hours and turn to some chemical substance to help them stay awake, and they do cause many accidents.
My own personal solution would be to ship more goods by rail. Is there an offense of Engineering While Intoxicated?
April 17, 2005, 22:06mike bartley
Lot of good comments, but what about our privilege as prosecutors to handle cases the way we think they should be handled? Seems I remember reading that the elected prosecutor has absolute discretion to file or not to file... I've had more than one irate person threaten to "call the AG's office about me." I just give them the phone number and, oh by the way, this is what they are going to tell you..."we can't do anything about it." Now someone is trying to tell me if I don't prosecute all CDL cases a certain way (to suit the one lecturing me)(who by the way is not answerable to the voters), I'm violating the Constitution???????
Funny, I thought I was getting paid to make good decisions, and not to follow rote formulas. Course the way things are going, the AG may take over all DA and CA offices and start calling all the shots from Austin?
Folks like Lisa and I are one-attorney offices juggling ten things at one time and lucky if we have one admin assistant. Lisa may have the time to clog up HER docket trying CDL cases (just joking, Lisa).........
When I was sworn in four years ago, our District Judge told me......well, let's just say he hinted that a one-lawyer CA office can easily get buried trying what are really pretty insignificant cases, and may never be able to dig out from the mess......
April 18, 2005, 08:21pkdyer
Yes many are forced to drive too many hours that is why the solution should be to crack down on the people who force them to drive too many hours. But that would hold a company responsible for breaking the law and the legislators probably would not want to make a law that would force companies to be accountable.
Masking by itself is not the problem. It is the lack of information available to prosecutors. If a driver's history would show deferrals then a prosecutor could decide not to offer a deferral to a defendant with a prior deferral.
Moreover, if it is so important, the legislature needs to increase the fine to $500. That might cause some of these guys to slow down or take their medicine. I say this as I prepare to try a speeding case to a second jury. One of 11 misdemeanor jury dates that will not be used to try a DWI or Assault F/V.
April 28, 2005, 11:54KKCP
Sandwiched between HWY 59 and I-45, our county has its share of CDL tickets, too. Here's a couple of solutions that have worked well for me:
If they were in their truck -- trial or pay a reduced fine. I find that reducing the fine DRAMATICALLY (like, to ten bucks) usually leads to a plea.
Equipment violations don't cost any points on the license, so I'll usually jack up the fine on those and dismiss the moving violation.
Or, my personal favorite, according to a local municipal judge, speeding violations that are less than ten percent over the limit don't count any points on the license. Obviously, I have no problem asking someone to plead to travelling 43 in a 40 and paying a $200 fine.
These have cut my jury trial requests about 60%.