Driving conduct that will result in a Vermont CDL suspension

There are two different ways in which an individual who holds a CDL can face suspension in Vermont based on driving a regular motor vehicle.

(1) operating, attempting to operate, or being in actual physical control of a commercial motor vehicle on a highway with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more or under the influence, as defined in section 1218 of this title;

(2) failure to stop for an accident that the trucker is involved in;

(3) using a motor vehicle in the commission of any offense under State or federal law that is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.  This can be anything from transporting a small amount of drugs to firearms to unlicensed chemical waste;

(4) refusal to submit to a test to determine the operator’s alcohol concentration, when suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol;

(5) operating, attempting to operate, or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a highway with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more or under the influence of intoxicating liquor or other substance;

(6) operating, attempting to operate, or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a highway when the person is under the influence of any other drug or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug to a degree which renders the person incapable of driving safely.  This can include being under the influence of marijuana, which can be detected if a Vermont Drug Recognition Expert finds that the operator is impaired to the slightest degree;

(7) operating or attempting to operate a commercial motor vehicle while the license is revoked, suspended, cancelled, or disqualified;

(8) operating a commercial motor vehicle in a negligent manner resulting in a fatal injury.

Beyond the listed offense, there are also offense defined as “serious traffic offenses that can result in CDL suspensions if a trucker is convicted of two of them on separate occasions.  These offenses include:

1)  Careless and Negligent Operation of any motor vehicle (does not have to be a big rig-can be a personal vehicle);

2)  Gross (operating well beyond the normal standard of care) Negligent Operation of any motor vehicle;

3)  Excessive Speed (traveling 20 mph or more over the posted speed limit);

There are also specific 60 day disqualifications for trucker’s failing to adhere to railroad crossing signs, with enhanced punishments for every subsequent violation.

The basic fact of the matter, is that every alleged violation in the State of Vermont can pose significant hardships for those who rely on their CDL to make a living.  Thus is it important to challenge each violation so as to minimize the damage it can cause in both the short and long term.

The difference between a Vermont CDL ticket and administrative hearing

Many equate a CDL ticket hearing in the State of Vermont to be the same as requesting an administrative hearing through the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.  However, this common misconception can cause serious problems if one is facing a Vermont CDL ticket that may have a serious impact on a trucker keeping their CDL license.

What is a CDL ticket hearing?  A CDL ticket hearing is the initial procedure in which a trucker who is accused of a traffic infraction or a violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations.  This hearing, administered through the Vermont Judicial Bureau is where evidence can be presented to refute the allegation and is a trucker’s best opportunity to eliminate or minimize their exposure.  This hearing allows for witnesses to be called, for video evidence to be presented and for all parties to testify under oath as to the circumstances of the stop.  Although the rules of evidence or relaxed in these hearings, there are still certain requirements that must be met for evidence to be considered by the Vermont Assistant Judge who presides over the case.

What is a CDL Administrative Hearing?  A CDL administrative hearing is a process afforded by the Vermont DMV to confirm that the convictions on a trucker’s CDL license are in fact what they purport to be.  This hearing, which is customarily held over the telephone allows a trucker to present evidence to support that the conviction record is wrong, but does not allow a trucker to contest previous tickets that have already been adjudicated, either through the payment of the fine, or through the CDL ticket hearing as described above.  Although an administrative hearing can stay the execution of a CDL suspension, the chances of prevailing in these hearings is sufficiently less than during a CDL ticket hearing.

There are numerous avenues to challenge your Vermont CDL ticket.  However, knowing where your best opportunity is and how to leverage this in order to reach a favorable resolution can ensure that truckers are able to stay on the road even when their driving record is less than ideal.

Vermont Police out in force for DUI checkpoints

Drivers beware!  Vermont State Police in cooperation with local police forces will be out in mass from now until the beginning of the year conducting DUI checkpoints across the State.  These checkpoints primary objective is to detect drunk drivers, but will also be to enforce seatbelt and other Vermont motor vehicle laws.

It has been well settled in Vermont that the following provisions must be followed in order for a DUI roadblock to be considered constitutional under the 4th Amendment.

As a general rule, a DUI roadblock will pass constitutional muster if: (1) the initial stop and the contact between the officers in the field and the motorist involves an explanation of the nature of the roadblock and minimal detention of a nonimpaired driver; (2) the discretion of the officers in the field, as to the method to be utilized in selecting vehicles to be stopped, is carefully circumscribed by clear objective guidelines established by a high level administrative official; (3) the guidelines are followed in the operation of the roadblock; (4) approaching drivers are given adequate warning that there is a roadblock ahead; (5) the likelihood of apprehension, fear or surprise is dispelled by a visible display of legitimate police authority at the roadblock; and (6) vehicles are stopped on a systematic, nonrandom basis that shows drivers they are not being singled out for arbitrary reasons.  State v. Martin 496 A.2d (VT 1985)

Roadblocks have been attacked on constitutional grounds for a wide range of reasons, such as Officers detaining a motorist for longer than is necessary or for them singling out certain vehicles based on their make and model or the appearance of the driver.

If your planning on driving during the evening hours this month, be sure to check local newspapers for press releases on DUI checkpoints that are planning on being conducted.  However, as a basic rule, the assumption should be, that if your driving at night this month, expect that there will be a Vermont DUI checkpoint somewhere along your travels.

5 things not to do when pulled over by a police officer

Most motorists have experienced the sinking feeling of being pulled over by law enforcement.  For those caught for speeding or another traffic violation, the conduct on the roadside can make a huge difference in how the Vermont traffic ticket resolves if you elect to challenge the ticket.   In the event that you are pulled over by a police officer, there are five important things to avoid at all costs when the officer begins to approach your vehicle:

1)  Do not make sudden movements while waiting for the officer to approach your window:  Although these movements may seem innocent enough to you, such as shuffling around in your glove box to look for your insurance papers, these movements can make an officer uneasy when approaching the car.  An uneasy officer is a grumpy officer, which is not a good start to the initial interaction.

2)  Do not open the window just a crack so you can pass out your license and registration.  Hiding something?  An officer certainly will think so if you open the window just enough to pass out your documents.  This suspicion could rise into something far more serious if an officer thinks they detect something else, such as the smell of alcohol or marijuana.  If you have nothing to hide, show it by opening the window 100%.

3)  Don’t ignore the officer’s initial greeting:  Saying nothing when an officer comes to your vehicle and greets you is a big no-no.  You don’t have to openly confess to committing a traffic violation, but you certainly can say hello and ask the officer how their day is, a sure-fire way to start your interaction off on the right foot and to put the officer at ease in figuring out how to deal with you.

4) Don’t argue the facts of the stop.  Although the officer may in theory be wrong, the roadside is not the place to plead your case, it is a time to show professionalism and courtesy.  Arguing the merits will increase the likelihood of a ticket.  Also, keep in mind that the officer has some discretion in determining the fine, a way to ensure they do not cut you a financial break is to make a legal argument on the side of the road as to why the stop was unjustified.

5)  Don’t tip your hand as to your intent to challenge the ticket:  Want a way for the officer to remember you?  Tell them that you will see them in Court, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen.  An officer that does not show up for a ticket cannot prosecute it, which means a victory for you.  Telling them on the roadside that you intend to challenge it, will make them much more likely to appear 30-90 days down the road when the Vermont Judicial Bureau sets the matter for a hearing.

Do you need a Vermont DUI attorney to negotiate a favorable plea deal?

Many people charged with DUI in the State of Vermont will go into their initial hearing ready to take whatever resolution the State offers. For those facing a DUI-first offense, the arraignment day offer may appear attractive. Depending on the conduct of the accused, the breath test results and the circumstances of the arrest (i.e whether there was an accident) Vermont State’s Attorneys commonly offer a sentence that does not included jail if the accused has no other criminal record.

However, the imposition of suspended jail sentence or, in some cases, a fine-only resolution, only tells a small part of the punishment that will be imposed. For most, the critical component of any plea deal is the length of license suspension. This suspension can range from 30-180 days on a DUI-firt offense depending on the circumstances, which for most can impose an undue hardship on their ability to provide for themselves.

Although the suspension is scary enough, the steps that a DUI conviction brings in order to have their license reinstated can take even longer than the 180 days period if the accused individual does not take affirmative steps at the onset of their DUI arrest.

So, with all this in mind, many may ask the question of whether they need a DUI attorney to assist them in navigating the legal land minds that await in a DUI charge. Although each individual’s circumstances are different, taking a concerted, focused approached on how to navigate the system and how to challenge certain aspects of a DUI charge can make a high difference in the degree of punishment that an accused endures. The investment to be guided through this process and the benefits of taking a road to resolution with the fewest obstacles possible may be well worth the small investment it takes to have a professional travel with you through this uncertain process.

The difference between suspicion and conviction in a Vermont DUI

Although press releases will primarily focus on the allegations a police department levies against the accused in a DUI arrest, the facts as they are presented can begin to give hints as to the actual facts of the case, not just those painted by law enforcement.  In analyzing these details, potential defenses to the charges can already be investigated, giving a defendant a head start in their Vermont DUI case.

In a recent arrest, police are alleging that a woman may have been under the influence of alcohol when she was involved in a head-on collision in Warren, Vermont.  Further charges beyond the DUI may result due to the fact that the woman had two of her children in the car with her at the time of the accident.  Despite these circumstances, police have not released any further information as to the case, only that it remains under investigation.

Although police may have enough to have reached a preliminary standard of probable cause, this suspicion of criminal wrongdoing is a long ways from a conviction in a Vermont Superior Court.  Only by analyzing all the evidence as it is disclosed can a true picture be painted as to the strength of the State’s case.  Although the initial release of information looks bad in this case, there remains much to be investigated before any charges can be substantiated.