What Would You Do To Keep A Citation Off Your MVR?
Ok, let’s be upfront about this. I am a lawyer who defends CDL drivers in traffic citations. It is what I do for a living. It puts food on the table and a roof over my head. With that in mind, I have had the pleasure of speaking with 874 trillion truckers over the years (a slight exaggeration – but not by much) about their traffic tickets and the things they would or would not do to keep the citation off their record.
It seems that a lot of drivers believe that you can just pay a traffic citation and it will go away. Rest assured – IT DOES NOT! If you pay a traffic citation you are pleading guilty to the charges against you. That conviction goes on your MVR which can affect your ability to get a better job or haul for a better paying shipper. That conviction can affect your ability to get a safety bonus. That conviction will definitely affect the cost of your personal automobile insurance for you and your family. And of course that conviction may just cost you your job and possibly your trucking career. Accordingly, you should always fight any citation or inspection violation that will hurt your MVR or impact you under CSA.
In addition, some drivers think they can scam the system by paying the fine within 24 hours of receiving the citation. Some drivers send in $5-$10 more than the fine amount for the citation and then never cash the check the court sends them back for the overpayment, thinking that will prevent the conviction from appearing on their CDL. Also, not true.
Another of my favorites is that some drivers think they can fail to pay the citation and it will never show on their MVR. I really don’t need to tell you all that this is not true, right?
The one thing that all of these drivers that try to scam the system or fail to address the citation have in common is that they will not be driving trucks for long. Failure to pay fines will result in penalties being added to the original fine amount, suspension of driving privileges and an arrest warrant issued for the driver. The truth about our legal system is this ….. it never forgets and it never makes a mistake (even if it does make a mistake)….. and it works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Instead of trying to game the system, you really need to ask yourself what you would be willing to do protect your Motor Vehicle Record (MVR)? Would you take a day off work to drive to the court, another day for the trial, plus another day to get back to your terminal? Would you give up the loads and the money to make this happen? Would you be able to get your company to route you to the court with the knowledge it could take 30 minutes or two days for you to have your day in court? Would you do the research on the laws you were charged with violating? Would you represent yourself before a judge or jury? Just how far are you willing to go to protect your MVR?
If you are unwilling to do that I would suggest that you hire an attorney – who knows CDL law -- to represent you. Make sure the attorney you hire is knowledgeable in the area you need help. Do not hire a civil attorney (wills & contracts) for criminal work such as traffic tickets or accidents. A CDL driver needs to hire an attorney that does a lot of CDL defense work so the attorney will know what will happen in the driver’s home state and what to do in the state where the driver received the citation.
In addition, the attorney will likely be able to handle your legal matter without your appearance being required and for what will likely be less than you would pay in travel costs to handle it yourself. I know you may think I am being self-serving but this is no different than what I would tell my son or daughter if they drove a truck for a living? In fact, I would tell them to seek professional advice for all areas of their life and business. Hire an accountant to make sure you stay out of trouble with the IRS and you know how much money you are making. If you see your income dropping, an accountant can help you identify the loss, the reason for the loss, and how to reverse the loss.
Get friendly with a banker in your home town. Everyone needs financial help sometime. You could need financial help because of a big medical bill, or a fire or an accident or just about any unexpected reason. Make sure you are in a position to ask for and receive a loan to pull you through the troubled times.
Ultimately, the best advice I can give a CDL driver is to follow the laws and drive safely. Sometimes, even the very best driver may receive a citation he does not deserve, but protecting his MVR becomes even more important. If you want a favor or the benefit of the doubt from an officer on the side of the road, your chances are much better if your MVR is clean and you act in a professional and courteous manner. Keep in mind that a clean MVR is a golden ticket to the very best jobs, the very best carriers, the very best driving careers and the very best treatment and respect from law enforcement.
Brad Klepper, Esq. is President of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the forty-eight (48) states on both moving and non-moving violations. Brad is also Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at greatly discounted rates. Brad spent almost a decade with the largest law firm in Oklahoma where his practice included extensive experience in transactional law, business defense litigation, and intellectual property. In addition, Brad is a licensed architect and serves as General Counsel to the Oklahoma Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers. Brad has dedicated much of his time to DataQs challenges, which are challenges posed to the FMCSA for CSA incidents, to examine data and reports filed by law enforcement.
800-333-DRIVE (3748) or www.interstatetrucker.com