How is the Vermont move over law enforced?


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.

Do license points transfer from Vermont to other states?

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.



DUI checkpoints net more than just DUIs


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.

Will marijuana legalization change Vermont DUI laws?

By most accounts, marijuana legalization is now considered a foregone conclusion in the State of Vermont. According to a recent Castleton State College Poll, 56 percent of Vermont adults now support legalization. Further confidence in legalization has been voiced by the Governor Peter Schumlin, Speaker of the House, Shap Smith, and Attorney General, William Sorrell.

With momentum growing, the State elected to commission the Rand Corporation, to conduct a financial analysis of the cost benefits of marijuana legalization to the State of Vermont.

In its recently released report, it was disclosed by Rand that Vermont could generate up to $75 million in tax revenue per year. This figure certainly rings bells in the minds of legislators, as they faced a $113 million budget shortfall by the end of 2014.

With the potential benefits in mind, it should come as no surprise that Jeannette White, D-Windham County and Joe Benning R-Caledonia County, introduced a 41-page bill in December proposing legalization of the possession of up to one ounce for recreational use and cultivation of that totaled 100 square foot or less.   White has long supported legalization, as she led the effort to approve Act 76, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2013.

Despite the optimism of passing a legalization bill in 2016, there remain some headwinds for legalization the strongest of all being the interpretation and enforcement of DUI laws when it comes to Driving while under the influence of marijuana or Driving While High (DWH). If this delay lasts too long, the bill’s approval may outlast Schumlin’s 3rd and final term, causing the bill to be placed on the desk of an unknown governor.

Currently, Vermont law does not give much clarity on the subject of DWH, merely stating that someone is under the influence of marijuana or other drugs if the impairment, is “noticeably and appreciably” affecting a person’s ability to drive a vehicle safely.

“Noticeably and appreciably” certain appear to lend themselves subjective observations that allow for significant discretion by individual law enforcement officers.  However, convictions for DWH have posed significant challenges for prosecutors to scientifically prove that the motorist was influenced by marijuana at the time of the stop due to the lack of a numeric standard for impairment that could be relied upon similar to the current .08 law for alcohol.

Now, with legalization on the negotiating table, reports have surfaced that lawmakers are considering amending Vermont DUI laws to allow for the admission of saliva tests, which could be conducted roadside. These tests are alleged to be able to detect recently ingested marijuana and provide a reading that could give prosecutors further tools to prove DWH charges.

In a 2013 report from the Drugged Driving Coalition, Greg Nagurney, the appointed representative of the State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, stated that a majority of county prosecutors and sheriffs supported an amendment to DUI laws to allow prosecutors to charge motorists with DWH if impairment could be detected “to the slightest degree” (23 VSA 1201(a)(2). If this low standard of proof is approved as part of the legalization bill, it may be difficult for any motorist who has consumed marijuana in the last 30 days to immediately refute law enforcement suspicions of DWH. If these suspicions are supported by other evidence such as smell, bloodshot eyes or confusion, a probable cause arrest could very well ensue even in cases when the high from smoking marijuana has long subsided.




Do you know what the speed limit is?

Proper posting of speed limit signs is a predicate requirement to any speeding violation.  Vermont roads are known to be windy and, at times, closely closed in by foliage.  As a result, speed limit signs at times can be difficult if not impossible to view.

If charged with a speeding violation, the first step in any defense is to go back to where the last speed limit sign was displayed and take a picture.  If the sign is covered by leaves or other debris or is simply in a place that cannot be viewed easily from the road, this can play into a successful resolution of your Vermont speeding ticket.

So before you leave the scene of the stop with that dreaded white ticket in your hand, be sure to capture everything you can about the scene and the road leading up to it.  The circumstances may be just what you need to be able to negotiate your ticket or defend it at trial when your Vermont Judicial Bureau hearing comes around.

Is there such a thing as Vermont traffic ticket probation?

In certain cases, with specific factors an argument may be made that a driver facing a moving violation should be placed on Vermont traffic ticket probation to allow them to prove to the court and the officer that the error they made was not indicative of their overall driving character.  Here is how it works:

1)  The driver must have no other violations in the State of Vermont;

2)  The violation must be relatively minor in nature (i.e. a 2 point speeding violation, failure to use turn signal etc.);

3)  The driving conduct cannot include any kind of accident;

4)  The driver must have been polite and able to acknowledge their conduct, either through their lawyer admitting guilt or through the driver’s own admission.

If the driver meets the following criteria a police officer can agree to dismiss the ticket “with prejudice”.  The officer will conduct a motor vehicle check of the driver in 2 years and if the check comes back clean, with no further violations, the ticket will remain dismissed.  However, if the driver picks up another moving violation in the State of Vermont, the officer can reissue the ticket and the driver must then appear in court to answer to the charge.

Although Vermont traffic ticket probation is a rare occurrence, it may give certain drivers the relief they need to avoid the many financial ramifications that come with a Vermont traffic ticket, beyond what the fine imposes.

Saving your job with the Vermont DUI Interlock Device

Prior to 2010 Vermont had zero laws that would allow a person convicted of DUI to get their license back earlier then the the 90 or 180 day suspension period for a DUI-first offense.  In a rural place like Vermont this law had drastic effects on those who needed to drive from their small town to a bigger one for work.

With average commutes for many Vermonters an hour or longer, a DUI conviction not only meant a permanent blemish on one’s record, thousands of dollars in fines and potential jail time, but also posed a substantial risk for one’s employment.

The Vermont legislation finally took a step in the right direction with the implementation of the DUI Interlock program (IID for short).  Now, those who are facing a DUI conviction may be eligible to pay for the installation of the device to cut their license suspension by up to 75%.

1)  DUI First Offense Convictions:  Can apply for IID after 30 days of suspension;

2)  DUI Second Offense Convictions:  Can apply for IID after 90 days of suspension;

3)  DUI Third Offense Convictions (Felony):  Can apply for IID after 1 year of suspension.

The IID is a great first step for those trying to put their life back in order after a DUI conviction in Vermont.  Although navigating the IID process can pose significant issues, the implementation of this law has given those facing such a conviction an ability to navigate their way though the shorter license suspension period so they can move on with as little collateral damage as possible.

Beware! your CDL could be in jeopardy even when not driving your truck

There are clear cut rules enumerated in Title 23 of the Vermont Statutes that state that operators of trucks requiring a Vermont Commercial Driver’s License may not operate them with a Blood Alcohol Contents of .04 or more.  However, there is also a blanket “influence” provision in the Statute, stating that if the driver of a truck in Vermont is “under the influence” they can still be charged with DUI even if their BAC is below .04.

“Under the influence” is a term used to define impairment “to the slightest degree”.  Which means that if the State can show any form of impairment they have met their evidentiary threshold to secure a conviction on a DUI.

This impairment threshold does not just apply to just CDL DUIs but also those for motorist driving private vehicles.  And, although the holder of a CDL may be driving their own vehicle, not their truck, they can still face serious penalties that will reach not only their regular driver’s license, but their CDL as well.

Beyond a DUI itself, other “major traffic infractions” such a Careless and Negligent Operation Conviction or an Excessive Speed Conviction can, when added together result in suspension of a Vermont CDL, even, like in the DUI, these convictions do not have anything to do with the operator driving their commercial vehicle.

As a result, it is important when facing such charges, to try and mitigate or eliminate the overall exposure that these Vermont traffic infractions may bring.  If ignored, these tickets can lead to serious long term consequences well beyond what many may have contemplated when they took a plea.