One of the first questions that officers will ask you when they approach your vehicle is whether you know why they pulled you over. This question is set up in a way that many motorists may feel like they must answer. It is this initial statement, in most cases merely meant as a way to be cooperative with the officer, that can be later introduced in court and can be difficult to defend against. Judges have found that these statements are voluntary and admissible, which means that even if all the other facts contradict the issuance of a Vermont traffic ticket or criminal citation, this statement alone can be enough to uphold a conviction. A few tips for the roadside questioning are as follows:
- Never reply with a substantive response to the question of why you think you were pulled over: A simple “I am not sure sir” is sufficient. Do not think that by admitting to the offense that you are going to be cut a break because it in fact can make the officer’s position stronger and thus they may be less likely to bend on negotiations if they are confident they can secure a conviction at a trial.
- Make the officer’s job as easy as possible: The less time an officer spends in your presence the better it is for both of you. Have your license and insurance information ready, hand it to the officer as soon as he approaches the vehicle and keep the verbal exchange to an absolute minimum.
- Remember, everything you say is likely being recorded: Most officers have body cams or microphones connected to their uniforms and can catch the entire interaction between the officer and the driver.
Most motorists put in the position of interacting with an officer on the roadside can be an intimidating and daunting task. Of course we want to be polite to the officer, who is just doing their job, but we also do not want to make turn this cooperation into a full blown confession, which can only go to hurt your case in the event this interaction turns into a full blown arrest or the issuance of a Vermont traffic ticket.
There are certain areas on Vermont highways that are easier to navigate then others. When it comes to Vermont Interstates I-91 and I-89, the degree of difficulty can be significantly diminished, especially during low traffic times. As a result, many motorists may feel that they can travel at speeds much faster then the posted speed limit. Although traveling a few miles over the posted speed limit may land a motorist a traffic ticket, there are times that the speed alleged is excessively over the posted speed limit, which can lead to a Vermont Excessive Speed criminal charge. One area on I-89 in particular has been deemed a “hotspot” for excessive speed charges, begging the question of what factors are leading to more criminal charges in this stretch of highway then any other in Vermont.
According to a report by Vermont Public Radio, one Vermont State Trooper has arrested several motorists traveling at speeds in excess of 100 mph in a 10 mile stretch on I-89 between the Royalton Sharon town lines. For those who have traveled this stretch of road before, it is easy to see why more motorists would feel comfortable traveling at high speeds then on other Vermont highways.
Stretches like this on I-89 can be a recipe for a Vermont Excessive Speed charge if one is not careful
It can be easy to forget the speed you are traveling. In certain areas, it can become even easier to allow this lack of attention to turn into a dangerous situation that may result in a criminal charge. Understanding where these situations may be more likely to occur may not only prevent them from happening, but in the unfortunate event that one is arrested for a Vermont excessive speed charge, it can be a useful tool in rationalizing some of the behavior in order to best argue for leniency when the case is brought to court.
In order to determine the viability of a speed trap defense, one must first ask themselves, what is the legal definition of a Vermont speed trap. A speed trap is defined as a speed limit that is unjustified based on specific factors set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association as well as the local Governor’s Highway Safety Program. Based on the evaluation of engineers in these programs, local and state speed limits are set based on specific factors including the type of roadway, the visibility of drivers while on that specific stretch of roadway and population density. It is the intent of these evaluations to reasonably limit the speed limit to ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike. If it is found that a Vermont speed limit sign was posted at a speed lower then what a study would conclude, then it could be defined as a “speed trap” and subject to attack at a Vermont traffic hearing.
However, providing that a speed limit is in fact not supported by NHTSA or GHSP is a difficult task. Further, even if an argument can be made that the speed limit does not fit the defined criteria, once would also have to show what criteria that specific stretch of roadway would fit into and what an appropriate speed limit would be. Most traffic judges will limit such an inquiry at trial, given that the purpose of the traffic court is to efficiently resolve cases, not allow for hours of testimony as to why a speed limit was in fact a speed trap.
One of the only real ways to implement change is to demand a study be conducted on the stretch of roadway by a NHTSA or GHSP engineer. If this is conducted, the study itself could be considered a public record and could potentially be admissible in Court. Certain stretches of road, especially on Vermont Route 100 may be subject to additional studies in the future and could be a key piece of evidence if a favorable result is concluded that will show that a speed limit is unreasonably low and thus is considered a speed trap.
Its bad enough for a motorist to be put in handcuffs after being charged with excessive speed, a criminal offense that carries up to 90 days in prison and a suspension of one’s license. However, what more and more motorists are seeing besides the citation to appear in a Vermont court, is that they are also facing a substantial civil infraction for the same offense, a penalty that could result in 8 or more points on one’s driving license and a fine nearing or exceeding $1,000.
There is a method of thinking behind law enforcements issuance of both the civil and criminal violations and it takes some significant digging to figure our exactly what they are looking for with regards to a resolution of the cases. However, in many cases, prosecutors take a one, or the other mentality, where they are satisfied with a motorist pleading to one of the charges in exchange for them dismissing the other. However, this determination if fact-specific and varies from case to case depending on a wide range of factors, such as one’s driving history, how they handled their interaction with police as well as other factors such as prior criminal convictions.
Thus, it is extremely important with excessive speed criminal charges and the accompanying civil charge, to contest them both so that a motorist can preserve their rights to negotiate a favorable deal at a later time once all the facts come to light.
Excessive Speed criminal charges in Vermont are no joke. They come with serious financial penalties and the risk of having a criminal conviction on a motorists’ record for the rest of their life. Thus, it is important to set forth a plan on how to deal with these charges early in the prosecution of the charge. It may just set the motorist on a path far less detrimental then if they just succumb to law enforcement’s suggested punishment.