your automobile crime charge
Being charged with an automobile crime is a serious
problem. A conviction causes a permanent criminal history, points, an insurance
increase, large fines, a license revocation, and potentially a jail sentence.
This is why it is important to fight the misdemeanor or felony charges against
you. The most common automobile crimes are driving under suspension, reckless
driving, and transportation law violations applicable to commercial drivers
such as log book violations.
driver’s license and suspended registration
The charges of driving on a suspended license or
a suspended registration are common charges. These charges are called either
“aggravated unlicensed operation,” (AUO), and operation while registration
is suspended. There are 2 reasons for a state to suspend your driver’s license
or registration– one being administrative and the other being punitive. An
administrative suspension occurs for things such as failing to answer a traffic
ticket, failure to pay parking tickets, failure to pay child support, or failure
to pay a traffic light photo ticket. A punitive suspension occurs when you
are being punished for an underlying crime such as driving while intoxicated,
failing to consent to a chemical test for DUI, too many speeding tickets or
too many points accrued. In some states being convicted of a drug crime, even
when the crime had nothing to do with the operation of a vehicle, will also
result in your driver’s license being suspended.
In some states, such as Vermont, the difference
between an administrative suspension and a punitive suspension results in
the difference between either a civil charge or a criminal charge. However
in most states you are charged with a crime for driving with a suspended license
or operating a vehicle of which the registration has been suspended.
The goal in defending the criminal charge of driving
with a suspended license or a vehicle with a suspended registration is to
defeat the criminal charge. This can be done through a plea negotiation or
taking the case to trial and defeating the charges. Often the motorist did
not have actual knowledge of the suspension. However, this is not a legal
defense, as so long as the prosecution can prove notice via mailing to your
address of record with the DMV the motorist is deemed to have knowledge of
A competent suspension attorney will focus on the
legal defenses to the charge. For example, often a motorist pays a speeding
ticket to a court but the court nonetheless recorded the case as unpaid and
had the DMV suspended the license. Presentation to the court of timely proof
of payment will lead to a dismissal.
Often, however, the suspension was justified. In
those cases our attorneys work with the motorist in advising him or her on
how to clear the underlying suspension. This is what the court and prosecution
wants to see before they entertain plea negotiations. Often, clearing an underlying
suspension requires either:
Reckless driving, its definition and elements,
vary greatly from state to state. Some of the state’s statutes, such as Connecticut,
merely prohibit operating “recklessly” on a roadway. Other states, such as
New York, require a showing that the motorist operated a vehicle “in a manner
which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of
the public highway, or unreasonably endangers
users of the public highway.” Many states have “per se”
reckless, usually operation of over 85 MPH. Other states have no such “per
se” charge. The start of the analysis of a reckless driving charge
starts with the definition of “reckless” and application of the facts to the
standard. Although each state defines the culpable mens rea (mental
state) of “reckless” slightly differently, reckless is generally defined as:
Being aware of and consciously
disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that disregarding constitutes
a gross deviation from the standard of conduct a reasonable person would observe.
What is common across the board is that a reckless
driving charge is a misdemeanor which will cause a criminal record if convicted,
carries points, causes a large insurance increase, and if you hold a CDL will
cause your commercial privileges to be suspended or revoked. What is also
true across the board is that reckless driving is at its core an “opinion”
crime; i.e., it is based on the opinion of the police officer and any other
testifying witnesses. To sustain the charge, the state must prove that the
motorist exhibited more than mere negligence, more than want of ordinary care.
The prosecution must show a wanton or heedless disregard of consequences,
indifference to the rights of others. An error in judgment or an accident
does not in itself prove recklessness.
When retaining counsel for reckless driving, seek
an attorney that is well versed in traffic ticket defense as well as DUI and
criminal defense. Obtaining discovery, such as the police video, any accident
reports, and an independent investigation by investigators at defense counsel’s
direction is critical to building a defense to a reckless driving charge.
In addition, seek counsel that can put your case in the best light and use
the evidence you discover as leverage to make a plea bargain, get entry into
a diversion program, or move the court to dismiss.
commercial truckers against criminal and non-criminal charges
At the core of enforcement of commercial drivers
license and standards are federal, not state regulations enacted by the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is a unit of the United
States Department of Transportation.
All of the commercial driver vehicle safety and
operation standards are contained in Title 49 of the Federal Code of Federal
Regulations, also known as “49 CFR.” Its various sub sections cover the violations
and standards. For example, 49 CFR 325.1 – 325.93 covers noise emissions;
49 CFR 383.1 – 383.155 covers the requirements for obtaining a CDL; 49 CFR
384.101 – 384.407 contains the regulations that the states comply with the
federal rules for issuing a commercial drivers license; 49 CFR 387.1 – 387.419
covers the insurance requirements for commercial carriers; 49 CFR 390.1 –
390.115 contains safety regulations; 49 CFR 392.1 – 392.82 covers driving
rules of the road specific to commercial motor vehicles; 49 CFR 393.1 – 393.209
covers safety equipment specific to commercial vehicles; and 49 CFR 397.1
– 397.225 covers rules and regulations specific to transporting hazardous
Since these are federal rules they would be unenforceable
by the state police and local police agencies. However, each state has enacted
a compact with the federal government and incorporates by reference these
federal regulations into the individual states statutory scheme. For example,
in New York State the federal regulations are incorporated in New York’s Transportation
While many of these violations are not crimes but
violations what is significant about these regulations is that punishment
upon conviction of many of the violations is severe whether or not a crime.
For example, if a commercial driver is convicted of carrying an overweight
load the fines are in direct correlation with how much over weight the vehicle
was. The fine can be in the thousands. Further, some equipment violations,
such as brake and steering, require that the vehicle be immediately put out
of service even though there has yet to be a conviction. Moreover, there is
a prohibition against plea bargaining some equipment violations in many states,
which means that the case must be tried.
In addition to the Code of Federal Regulation violations,
each state has its own misdemeanor and infraction grade violations codified
in their statutes. A common charge in all areas is log book violations, which
are generally misdemeanor charges. The charge can be as simple as failure
to timely update to violation of the mandatory rest period. Other misdemeanor
charges can be failure to carry a working fire extinguisher and failure to
secure a load.
Our lawyers can evaluate your case and strive to
reach a resolution that prevents a criminal conviction, prevents further suspensions,
and gets you back on the road.