Attorney Fox prevails in Vermont DUI Refusal trial

Attorney Fox obtained a “not guilty” verdict on behalf of his client on a DUI-First offense trial in Vermont Superior Court this week.  The State introduced evidence that the Defendant had refused the evidentiary test and had performed poorly on the field sobriety tests.

Attorney Fox argued that you “could drive a truck through the reasonable doubt in this case” and, after 2.5 hours of deliberation, the 12 person jury agreed.

 

 

 

VT Drivers: Why Paying a NY Traffic Ticket is a Bad Idea (and What to do Instead)

Many parts of New York are a simple drive across the border for Vermonters. Drivers from the Green Mountain State should be cautious while in New York; the Empire State is known as one of the worst to get a traffic ticket in. Vermont drivers facing a New York traffic ticket might be tempted to just pay the ticket, rather than deal with the hassle of trying to fight the charges. But this would be a serious mistake. New York and Vermont share driver information—including details of traffic convictions—through an interstate agreement called the Driver’s License Compact. As such, paying a ticket means having to deal with a host of potential consequences far greater than most realize.

Here’s why Vermont drivers should think twice about paying a NY ticket (and what they should do instead).

NY Points Matter to VT Drivers

Despite being licensed in another state, Vermont drivers need to be aware of the points associated with a NY traffic violation. Just like in Vermont, paying a NY traffic ticket means admitting guilt and accepting points. The good news is that New York points will not appear on a VT driving record. Likewise, Vermont does not add points for most out-of-state violations.

However, it would be foolish to think that the New York’s point system doesn’t affect Vermont drivers. The New York State DMV will still keep track of the point value of any traffic convictions. Drivers who are convicted of violations worth six points or more under NY’s system will be assessed additional fines (see below). A conviction for 11 or more points received within an 18 month time period will result in a suspension of driving privileges in New York.

Fines Are Just the Beginning

Unlike in some parts of the country, the fine associated with a NY traffic ticket is not the final cost. Firstly, every traffic ticket comes with a mandatory state surcharge that costs either $88 or $93, depending on where it was issued. Secondly, if the driver is convicted of one or more tickets totaling at least six points, he/she will be required to pay an additional fee called the Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA). The cost of a DRA starts at $300, and increases by $75 with each point over six.

For example, the fine for driving 21 mph over the limit in NY costs $300. This one ticket alone is worth six points, meaning the driver is almost guaranteed to be charged a $300 DRA. When combined with the mandatory surcharge, the total cost of this one ticket is $693! Similarly, a driver who receives two tickets within 18 months of each other for running a red light ($225, three points) and texting while driving ($150, five points) could end up shelling out over $1,000.

Your VT Driving Record Will Be Affected

When New York convicts a Vermont driver of a traffic violation—whether because the driver paid the ticket or tried to fight the ticket and lost—it sends notice of the conviction to Vermont. Vermont then records the violation on the driver’s record. A blemished driving record can affect many aspects of a person’s life, depending the violation(s). For example, it can affect one’s job or job prospects (especially if one has a CDL license or driving is part of the person’s responsibilities). A significant number of traffic infractions or several serious infractions (i.e. reckless driving or DWI) can also affect future criminal sentencing.

Your Vermont Insurance Rates Will be Affected

Paying a New York traffic ticket also means accepting a likely increase in auto insurance premiums. Since the conviction from paying the ticket will appear on one’s driving record, there is no way to hide it from one’s auto insurer. Insurance companies pull customer driving records as often as possible and update rates whenever new convictions appear. One study found that a single speeding ticket can increase Vermont insurance premiums by as much 19 percent.

It’s not just auto insurance rates that can be affected. Having too many tickets on one’s record, or even just one serious conviction can also impact life insurance premiums. The reason? Bad driving, in the mind of insurance companies, means risky behavior. And more risk equals higher premiums.

You Could Lose Your Driver’s License

Although Vermont will not apply points for out-of-state tickets, those tickets can still lead to a suspended license in Vermont. For example, if New York issues a suspension of driving privileges against a VT driver, the Vermont DMV can issue a suspension of the license in kind. This can happen if a driver is convicted of driving 41 mph over the limit (an 11-point violation), drunk driving, or driving without auto insurance.

Another way a Vermont driver could lose their license over a New York traffic ticket: refuse to respond to or pay it. Drivers who fail to respond to or pay a New York traffic ticket can expect NY to suspend their right to drive in the state—even if they are licensed in Vermont or elsewhere. Like all other reasons for a suspension, it will appear on one’s driving record and can result in Vermont suspending the license in kind.

What to Do About a NY Traffic Ticket

It’s a bad idea to pay a New York traffic ticket, but it’s equally as bad to not pay it. The ideal solution, then, is to hire a qualified attorney to fight the ticket. A skilled attorney can develop a strategy to get the ticket dismissed or negotiate it down to a lesser charge that will have little or no impact on one’s driving record. As a plus, depending on the case, a driver who hires an attorney may not have to return to New York to fight the ticket. In most cases, New York allows licensed attorneys to appear in court in lieu of the driver, even if the driver is from another state. This means saving the time involved in a trip to court.

Author Bio

Adam Rosenblum, Esq. is the founder of TrafficTickets.com, a traffic ticket law firm that practices traffic ticket and criminal law in both New York and New Jersey.

Underage alcohol possession may lead to enabling criminal charge

One of the first questions that law enforcement will ask when they discover someone under 21 years of age in possession of alcohol is how they were able to secure the alcohol in the first place.  None of the standard answers to this question will lead to a good result.

Social Hosting of underage drinking party-7 VSA § 658-Maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and a fine of $2,000 or both.

If adults have chosen to allow underage individuals consume alcohol at a premises in which they control, the adults may be liable for facilitating the consumption and be subject to the criminal penalties as set forth above.

The statute defines enabling as creating a “direct and immediate” opportunity for individuals under 21 years of age to consume alcohol.  This can be the result of directly providing alcohol to an individual under 21 years of age or allowing the use of a venue that is controlled by the adult where underage consumption is permitted.

Serious bodily injury or death resulting from violation of 7 VSA § 658 

In the event that a minor hurts themselves or someone else while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, the adults facilitating the alcohol consumption may be subject to a felony charge that carries with it up to 5 years in prison.

The key element in any enabling violation is determining whether the adult knew or should have know that alcohol was going to be consumed.  This charge in many instances is brought as a result of an adult agreeing to host a party for minors where alcohol is present.  The adult in charge can not plead ignorance that alcohol was present if they were in charge of securing and providing the residence or facility to those under 21 years of age.  However, if there are circumstances that would place into doubt the knowing element, such as the assignment of the rights to the premises to another adult, doubt may be cast as to the culpability of the individual charged.

 

 

Attorney Robb Spensley wins client acquittal in felony trial

Pittsford Attorney Robb Spensley wins acquittal for his client, Eugene Diou, after a full day trial in Vermont Superior Court Criminal Division before Judge Thomas Zonay. Mr. Diou had been accused by his then husband Richard Dayton. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before they found Mr. Diou not guilty of all charges.

Mr. Diou had been charged with Aggravated Domestic Assault in the First Degree, a felony that carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, the state was proceeding on a theory of strangulation. The state also sought the lesser included Domestic Assault charge. Attorney Spensley informed the jury that his client acted in self-defense. “We are obviously very pleased that the jury reached the proper verdict. Mr. Diou acted in self defense after being assaulted in his home,” Attorney Spensley stated from his Pittsford office.

Vermont Attorney Evan Chadwick Successfully Completes Drug Recognition Expert Training

Attorney Evan Chadwick of Chadwick Law, traveled to Alpharetta Georgia in order to participate in a vigorous three day training regarding the process and science behind a Drug Recognition Evaluation that accompanies many Vermont DUI prosecutions.

Attorney Chadwick received a thorough overview in the 2015 NHTSA/IACP DRE Pre-School & DRE 7-Day training curriculum that officers attend nationwide. Emphasis was made on analyzing a DRE case file, to include, the DRE Face Sheet & DRE Narrative report, how to compare the two with one another and with the Drug Symptomology Chart, as well as emphasis on each specific step involved in a 12-step DRE evaluation. Time was also be spent covering the IACP’s rules and regulations that officers are required to follow in order to become certified and to recertify as a DRE.

“The training I received was essential in furthering my understanding of the science behind a Drug Recognition Evaluation and what errors officers make in conducting these evaluations”, stated Attorney Chadwick. “It is a training that anyone who is serious about defending DUIs in Vermont needs to take in order to best serve their clients”.

Will my insurance company know about my Vermont traffic ticket?

One major question many non-Vermont residents ask when they are facing a traffic ticket in Vermont is whether their insurance carrier will be notified of the violation.  There is not a clear answer to this question, as each insurance company’s policy differs with regards to how often they run a motorists DMV record.  However, the State of Vermont has made it incredibly easy for any legitimate insurance company, employer or other agency to quickly gain access to a motorist’s Vermont DMV violation record.

The State of Vermont has partnered with Vermont Information Consortium, LLC to set up a portal that, for a $75 annual fee, allows for most any legitimate business, to check an individual’s driving or criminal record.  There are no cumbersome forms to fill out, or significant lag time between the request and production of the record.  All the company needs is the driver’s name and date of birth and they can quickly review whether that individual has been convicted of violating any traffic laws in the State of Vermont.

Many may believe that if they do not reside in the State of Vermont, that their motor vehicle violation can remain their secret if they just pay the fine and move on.  However, with the ever improving technology of State agencies, no motorist is free from the ever watching eye of those companies who may profit off finding a record of a motorists violations.

How is the Vermont move over law enforced?

moveoversign.png

The Law:  23 VSA Section 1050 states:

(a) Upon the approach of a law enforcement vehicle which is sounding a siren or displaying a blue or blue and white signal lamp, or both, or upon the approach of an ambulance, fire apparatus, a vehicle operated by a volunteer firefighter, EMS personnel, or a motor vehicle used in rescue operations as set forth in section 1252 of this title which is sounding a siren or displaying a red signal lamp, or both, all other vehicles shall pull to the right of the lane of traffic and come to a complete stop, until the law enforcement or emergency vehicle has passed. However, an enforcement officer who is present shall have full power to regulate traffic irrespective of the foregoing provisions.

(b) The operator of a vehicle which is approaching a stationary law enforcement vehicle which is displaying a blue or blue and white signal lamp, or of a vehicle which is approaching a stationary ambulance, fire apparatus, a vehicle operated by a volunteer firefighter, or a motor vehicle used in rescue operations as set forth in section 1252 of this title which is displaying a red signal lamp or a stationary towing and repair vehicle displaying an amber signal lamp shall proceed with caution, and, if traveling on a four-lane highway, and safety conditions permit, make a lane change. (emphasis added)

There are numerous ways Vermont law enforcement officers can selectively enforce the provisions of the Vermont mover law.  As highlighted above, Section (a) of the Vermont Move over law is pretty clear as to a motorist obligations when they see emergency personnel with active lights traveling down the same road: the motorist must pull over and come to a complete stop until the emergency vehicle has passed them by.  

 

Section (b) of the Vermont moreover law however, is a little more vague.  In sum, a motorist must pass an emergency vehicle with caution and if they can do so safely, pull over the next lane if they are traveling on a 4 lane highways, such as the interstate.  On numerous occasions this firm has been hired to defend tickets that allege a violation of section (b) because they either could not safely move over.  This becomes a point of perception if litigated before a Vermont Judicial Bureau judge and is a primary reason why all discovery requests (such as the cruiser video) should be secured to see exactly what the conditions were at the time of the stop to ensure that a motorist’s rights are protected every step of the way.

Is a speed trap legal in Vermont?

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.

 

 

Expanding the Vermont Traffic Stop: Know your Rights

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.