What was once Columbus day weekend, but now is being adopted as Indigenous Person day in Vermont means a lot of things. A long weekend for school children and federal employees, Octoberfest at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor and the start of fall cleanup for homeowners. However, beyond the beers consumed, the leaves raked and the extra morning to sleep in, this weekend officially kicks off the foliage season for Central and Southern Vermont. As a result, police will be out in force this weekend enforcing traffic laws along all the rural and major roads across the state.
As a fair warning, we are providing some places to be especially mindful of when soaking in the Vermont scenery so that you leave our lovely state with only fond memories and not a traffic violation complaint:
- Route 7: At times this road can look like a major highway with its passing lanes and long straight stretches of road. However, the speed limit can vary significantly in therese areas from 55-25 with little warning. Be especially careful in the towns of Mount Tabor, Bennington and Wallingford, as officers are often stationed in certain areas where the speed limit drops significantly;
- Route 30: The trip from Brattleboro to Manchester winds through the southern Vermont foothills and can be a great drive to soak in all the foliage. However, traveling though the villages of Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend and Dummerston can also result in viewing the lights of a Windham Sheriff or State Trooper if you get caught staring too much at the mountains instead of the speedometer.
- Route 100: Ludlow to Killington: It is almost a guarantee that the Windsor Sheriff will have heavy patrols out in this area, especially when traveling through the towns of Plymouth, Tyson Corners and Bridgewater. The speeds can drop from 50mph to 25 mph within a short period of time and officers have been trained to shoot their radar within close proximity to these changes.
- I-89 and I-91 Intersection: Traveling through White River Jct. where the two major highways intersect is a great launching point to many Vermont destinations. Keep in mind that the speed limit drops to 55 mph in this zone, as what seemed like a safe cruising speed of 70mph can turn into a $175 ticket in no time.
Most people are unaware of the law related to illegal expansion following a motor vehicle stop. The police routinely perform motor vehicle stops on motorists in Vermont, which can often result in a Vermont speeding ticket, some other Vermont traffic ticket, or a criminal citation related to DUI. Most often, it is the quality of the driving itself that alerts the police to a particular vehicle. But what happens if the police use a minor traffic violation, and the resulting motor vehicle stop, as a mechanism to investigate the driver or passengers pertaining to issues that are unrelated to a Vermont speeding ticket or Vermont traffic ticket?
The vast majority of motor vehicle stops in Vermont are related to speeding and minor traffic infractions. But once a motor vehicle stop has occurred, the police are only permitted to investigate and inquire about issues directly related to the reason for the stop. They are not allowed to detain you any longer than it takes for them to issue you the ticket.
Does this mean that, following a stop based upon a speeding infraction, an officer would be forced to ignore and walk away from the obvious open alcohol container, plainly visible illegal substances, or a driver who appeared visibly intoxicated? No! The driver or occupants would clearly be in more trouble. However, if the police make no such observations, they are not allowed to use this opportunity to further inquire about other potential criminal or wrongful conduct. This is an illegal expansion.
At Chadwick Law, we not only specialize in defending Vermont speeding tickets and Vermont traffic tickets, we specialize in challenging illegal expansions. As a motorist in Vermont, be aware of your rights. If you are pulled over related to a Vermont speeding ticket or Vermont traffic ticket, politely decline to engage in conversation of issues that are not related to the stop itself and decline any requested searches. The common result of challenging a case due to an officer’s illegal expansion of a stop is that the criminal charge is dismissed. Protect yourself with awareness.
One of the most frequently asked questions as a result of a Vermont traffic ticket are whether the points issued as a result of of the violation transfer to the operator’s home state. In short, there is no exact answer to this question. Each State runs their own point system when it comes to civil traffic infractions. As a result, each state has their own internal policies with regards to whether or not points are shared from one state to another.
It is important to note however, that regardless of whether points transfer, the most important question to those living outside the State of Vermont is whether the violation itself transfers. The violation (defined by a code) is what carries with it the potential for increased insurance rates, which as posted previously can cause motorists thousands of dollars in hiked premiums over the coming years.
What insurance companies are looking for when they check a motorist’s driving record is whether the violations themselves carry with them an indication that they fall under a category of “moving infractions”. This means that the violation charged was the direct result of the manner in which an operator drove their motor vehicle. Speeding violations are the first that come to mind. However, there are other violations such as running a red-light, failure to yield and driving too fast for conditions which carry the same connotation as speed does in the eyes of insurance companies.
As a result, the overall motivation for any operator looking to contest their Vermont traffic ticket is to avoid as much of the “moving violation” indication on their driving record as possible. This will minimize the damage of a driving record check and will ensure that an out-of-state motorist will not be hit as severely or at all, when their insurance company checks up on the driving status of an individual driver.
The sign should read, “law compliance checkpoint ahead”, as officers are on the lookout for all types of potential criminal offenses.
A favorite tool for law enforcement in detecting drivers operating under the influence of alcohol, DUI checkpoints have long been effective in law enforcement netting arrests on busy holiday weekends such as Memorial Day and the 4th of July. However, drivers would be remiss to believe that these checkpoints are present only to detect potential alcohol based offenses along busy Vermont roads. Instead, in recent years, law enforcement have honed their skills to detect other offenses, such as drug consumption that can also result in a motorist be inglead off to the mobile command post to be processed for a criminal offense.
Of the most common offenses detected by law enforcement is the possession and consumption of marijuana. Although possession of small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized (resulting in only a civil infraction, not a criminal citation for possession of under 1 oz.), the detection of marijuana can now lead to not only a hefty fine, but also increased scrutiny by law enforcement to see if the operator is under the influence of marijuana while driving the motor vehicle. Although this is not your standard run of the mill DUI investigation, drug recognition experts are being trained at increased levels to be able to respond quickly to a report of a potential driving while high infraction.
These offenses carry with them the same penalties as a driving under the influence of alcohol charge (maximum of 2 years in jail and loss of license for up to 6 months). Further, even if a motorist is found not be under the influence of marijuana, but is under the age of 21, they can face up to a 6 month license suspension as a result of merely possession a small amount of marijuana.
DUI checkpoints are misleading in name and in purpose. Law enforcement use these checkpoints to have unfettered brief contact with a magnitude of individuals to detect and arrest those suspected of violating Vermont laws. Thus, when approaching one of these checkpoints it is important to know that all actions committed by the driver will be heavily scrutinized and that you will not be off the hook if you have not consumed alcohol, but may have something else of interest in the vehicle that a well trained Vermont law enforcement officer may be able to detect.
Its great to support your law enforcement officer. It’s not so great to try and use this connection to get out of a ticket.
Being a member of the Police Benevolent Association is a great way to show your support for law enforcement and the difficult job they perform on a daily basis. However, in the State of Vermont, having a PBA card is not a free pass to getting out of a speeding ticket. In fact, it is a fast track to offending an officer on the roadside and decreasing your likelihood that the officer will be willing to give you a break.
Traveling throughout the state handing traffic tickets it impossible to count the number of times I have spoken to a police officer who has mentioned that the driver they pulled over pulled out a PBA card in an attempt to get them to let them off on the roadside without a ticket. In several cases the officer was so offended that what was originally going to be a warning turned into nasty pink ticket because of the driver’s mindset that they should not be issued a ticket because of their connections in another state. “It offends my professionalism” I can recall one officer stating to me while discussing a potential resolution of a speeding ticket in Windham County.
Because you have friends or family who are law enforcement officer or you are a law enforcement officer yourself, does allow you to drive with relative impunity in the State of Vermont. So next time you are pulled over, it is better to be polite to the officer and keep that PBA card deep inside your pocket. This, in the long run, will be the best move you make if you want a favorable outcome for your Vermont traffic ticket.
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.
With the passage of Act 76 in the State of Vermont, decriminalizing possession of under 1 ounce of marijuana, questions have been raised as to whether or not the discovery of such an amount can still give a basis for law enforcement to search a motor vehicle. Without owner consent, Vermont law enforcement need to meet a probable cause of criminal wrongdoing in order to receive approval from a judge for a search warrant. Thus, given that possession of small amounts of marijuana is now considered a civil infraction, similar to a speeding ticket, challenges are beginning to surface in Vermont and surrounding states as to the lawfulness of warrants issued on a violation of ACT 76 alone.
Although the law is clear that for civil violations, officers may not detain motorists for a time that would exceed the normal time for issuing a traffic ticket, law enforcement continues to challenge this rule by attempting to expand the scope of their investigation when they claim to smell a strong odor of burnt marijuana. However, some recent cases against search and seizure have arisen recently in Massachusetts, one most notably in COMMONWEALTH vs. MATTHEW W. OVERMYER, which states “In sum, we are not confident, at least on this record, that a human nose can discern reliably the presence of a criminal amount of marijuana, as distinct from an amount subject only to a civil fine. In the absence of reliability, a neutral magistrate would not issue a search warrant, and therefore a warrantless search is not justified based solely on the smell of marijuana, whether burnt or unburnt.”
Thus, with the increasing number of drugged driving arrests occurring on Vermont roads, and the legalization of marijuana possession in the forefront of the Vermont legislature, it is reasonable to conclude that a substantial amount of grey area continues to exist in prosecuting such cases that can only be clarified through litigation in the Vermont County court system.
The fine and the points associated with a traffic ticket only tell a small part of the total monetary story. The financial consequences of a Vermont moving violation can encompass much more then the fine itself. One of the biggest concerns for motorists is what type of rate increase they should expect from their auto insurance if their carrier catches wind that the motorist has been convicted of a Vermont DUI or moving violation.
According to a report written by Bankrate.com a single speeding ticket alone can carry with it between a 19-23% hike in insurance rates. While a DUI carries with a 93% hike, while reckless driving such as texting while driving can bring with it rate increases as much as 82%.
What is even worse for those with less the pristine driving records is that if you add up a few of these violations, many insurance companies will refuse to even offer you insurance.
Based on the real and substantial consequences of even the most benign of traffic violations, it is important for motorists to calculate what the actual cost of that Vermont DUI, speeding ticket or reckless driving conviction could bring before determining whether or not it is worth the effort and expense of fighting it in the hopes of mitigating or eliminating the collateral consequences.
There is a big difference between daytime speeding and nighttime speeding. During the day officer’s will in many instances give a little more leeway to drivers who are exceeding the speed limit. However, as the sun goes down, drivers need to beware that any speed over the speed limit may be the basis for a motor vehicle stop due to the increased risk of operators driving under the influence of alcohol during the evening and night hours.
The long held basis for a lawful motor vehicle stop in Vermont is when an officer has a reasonable and specific suspicion that an operator is violating a traffic law. During the day, when most motorists are traveling to and from work, Vermont officer’s will often let minor violations slide. However, even a minor issue such as traveling 5mph over the speed limit or having a license plate light out can result in the blue lights being activated at night.
As a result, motorists should be especially mindful of their operation during the nighttime hours. As, even if they are doing nothing else wrong besides the minor traffic violation, this can still lead to a hefty ticket and significant inconvenience as they attempt to navigate the nighttime roads throughout Vermont.
As the seasons change and the snow starts to fall, more driver will be venturing outside into slippery driving conditions. In Vermont, with its sudden elevation changes and narrow roads, the risk of being involved in an accident drastically increases when snow and ice start to hit the roadway. Thus, in these unfortunate events when a car accident does occur, Vermont law enforcement will be looking to see if drivers were operating their vehicle in a safe manner to determine whether a driving citation or traffic ticket needs to be issued.
Some of the evidence officers will look for is as follows:
- The length of any skid marks to give an indication of how fast the vehicle was moving before the accident;
- The condition of the vehicles tires. Bald tires along can result in a traffic ticket if the officer feels the driver was negligent in not installing sufficient tires on their car for the driving conditions;
- The difficulty of the road. Did this accident occur on a windy tight road, or a wide straight road such as Route 7 or Interstate 89 or 91?
- Witness statements. Did anyone else see the accident occur or the manner of operation leading up to the accident? Keep in mind here, that if witness observation is the sole basis of the Vermont traffic ticket, the officer will need to provide the witness at the hearing, which is rare in Vermont Judicial Bureau proceedings.
Keep in mind all of the above when venturing out into the snow this winter. Also keep in mind that in Vermont it assumed that any accident, was a result of driving too fast for the conditions or driving recklessly unless their is proof to refute this assumption and thus, extreme care is needed in order to avoid the tickets or criminal citations that can add insult to an already injurious situation.