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.
It is no secret that a holiday weekend brings an increase in traffic driving through the Green Mountain State. This increase is especially felt on the two major highways which cross the State; I-89 and I-91. As a result, Vermont Law Enforcement has made it clear that they will be increasing their presence on the highways in order to detect and deter unsafe driving behavior, with an emphasis on investigating DUIs and speeding violations.
According to the Valley News, there has been an expected dramatic surge in the number of vehicles on the road, including on I-89, which sees traffic counts of about 41,000 near the Vermont/New Hampshire state line on an average day. This surge of traffic resulted in 100 motorists being issued tickets for speed violations and 8 for the use of hand held electronic devices during a joint task force of Vermont and New Hampshire Law Enforcement officers along the Connecticut river valley on Friday.
The interstate’s are customarily Vermont State Police turf. Do not be surprised to see numerous green cruisers in the median along the highways this weekend. Although safe driving is always the best defense to avoiding traffic tickets, in the event you find yourself with blue lights behind you, it is important to remember the following:
- Be polite;
- Be efficient in producing your license and insurance to the officer;
- Do not interrogate the officer; and
- Keep that PBA care in your pocket at all times and make no mention of it.
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.
No attorney has a magic wand to make cases disappear. What they do have is a set of skills and knowledge that help them leverage each case in a fashion that gives their client the best possible chance to avoid significant consequences for their traffic ticket. Does the knowledge and acumen of a Vermont traffic ticket lawyer always lead to a dismissal? I would be a straight out liar to say that it would. However, with the specialized knowledge of the process, the officer and the presiding judge, it is reasonable to conclude that a motorists’ chances of reaching a favorable resolution (dismissal or amendment to a lessor charge) in their Vermont traffic ticket increases the better one knows the rules of the system and the players involved.
So what knowledge is needed to best prepare for a traffic hearing in a Vermont Traffic Court? That heavily depends on the officer and the judge who will serve as the other parties in the matter. Certain officers and judge’s rely on specific documentation a client can provide to assist them in determining what type of offer they are willing to give in a traffic ticket case. A motorist’s driving record from the their home state is a good first step in achieving the necessary documentation. Some States, such as New York, (https://dmv.ny.gov/dmv-records/get-my-own-driving-record-abstract) allow driver’s to quickly secure their DMV record online. Other States ,such as New Jersey, require a more extensive process that can take up to 14 days to complete.
Beyond a DMV driving abstract there are other discoverable materials that the officer may be required to produce if requested by the defense prior to the hearing taking place. Requesting evidence such as the cruiser dash cam, body-camera, radar calibration certificates and other pieces of evidence relevant to the charge to only provide the defense with additional evidence to present their case, but also may allow for further leverage in plea negotiations if the requests are not fulfilled in a timely manner.
There is no way to guarantee a result in a Vermont traffic ticket case. However, by preparing the case properly and presenting the best facts possible both to the officer and, if need be, the judge, a motorist is putting their best case forward and increasing the likelihood of a favorable result in their Vermont traffic ticket case.
As a lawyer practicing extensively in traffic court, I have had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of law enforcement officers regarding the circumstances of their stop of an individual for a traffic violation. Most of the time these interactions are pleasant and professional. However, from time to time, officers will relay to me important information as to the conduct of the motorist they issued a traffic ticket to, which goes directly toward their disposition in settling the case fairly. Below are a few of the most important things not to do as relayed directly from the officer.
- They begged me to not write them a ticket: Being pulled over by an officer can be a stressful situation. The officer, who has written hundreds if not thousands of these tickets, knows that this interaction may be less then cordial. However, when they are forced to defend themselves because a motorist is pleading with them not to write them a ticket, it puts them in a very difficult situation. Thus, in response to the begging, a law enforcement officer may just put on their professional face and go through the motions of writing the ticket to avoid excessive contact with the motorist. Tip: Take your medicine on the roadside, be polite, accept the ticket and then see what can be done to reduce or dismiss the ticket at a later time.
- Asking to see the radar: An officer is not obligated to show a motorist their radar gun at the roadside during a Vermont speeding ticket stop. This would prolong the stop and put the officer and motorist at further risk. Especially on the highway, but also on winding Vermont roads, officers do not want to be exposed to oncoming traffic for any longer then they have to. Requesting to look at the radar may only put the officer on the defensive, which may hurt your chances of catching a break later on. Tip: If you feel the radar was inaccurate, save the argument for the courtroom, not the roadside.
- Aggressively denying that you were speeding: If an officer is pulling you over, its because they believe that they have reason to do so. If they are pulling you over for speeding, it is nearly a certainty that the officer has a reasonable belief that you were in fact speeding. 99% of Vermont law enforcement officers are good people, performing a tough job to the best of their ability. Thus, if a motorist sits on the roadside and vehemently denies that they were speeding, this will not help their chances, as an officer may take it as a statement against their professionalism without just cause. Instead, to protect your rights, it is better to not answer at all or to simply state that you were not sure how fast you were traveling. Tip: By the time the officer goes back to his cruiser after gathering your identification documents, it is likely that they have already made up their mind as to whether they will be writing you a ticket. Do not expect that you will get a break by making your case on the roadside.
The issuance of a Vermont traffic ticket is only the start of the legal process if a motorist chooses to contest the charge. Thus, it is important to not paint yourself in a corner by performing acts that are contrary to resolving your case. The above three examples are just a few of the acts motorists have committed that have effected their chance are receiving a favorable disposition to their case.
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.
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.
For Vermont police officers, speeding on a local road is one thing, but speeding at over two times the legal limit brings about a totally other set of circumstances. In many cases, those motorists who are found to have been driving 30mph or more over the posted speed limit can not only face a hefty fine and up to 9 points issued on their license, but also a criminal citation to appear in court to answer to the charge of excessive speed.
In these such cases, it is important to contest both the ticket and the criminal charge, as there may be a way to resolve both for something far less than what the law prescribes.
The most common places for these double penalties to occur are in the following areas:
1) Town center with a speed limit of 30mph or less;
2) School zones;
3) Hospital zones;
4) Dangerous roads that have a series of sharp curves.
A police officer holds some discretion in determining whether or not to arrest a motorist while also issuing them a ticket. If the speed is close to the 30mph over threshold, they may cut the motors a break if the motorist is polite and their record shows few previous traffic violations. However, do not be shocked if the officer asks you to step of your vehicle and handcuff you for this type of Vermont traffic violation.
According to a recent Forbes article a motorist can expect as much as a 22 percent rise in their insurance premium after just one traffic violation. However, determining just how much of an increase you should expect to pay varies widely on the Vermont traffic infraction you are being prosecuted for.
Reckless driving and DUI hold the biggest risk of insurance hikes with an estimated 22 and 19 percent increase respectively. However, even for less severe offenses, such as traveling 1-14 miles-per-hour over the posted speed limit, motorists can suffer an 11 percent insurance hike or more.
Vermont motor vehicle laws state that it takes two years for a driving violation to be cleaned off a motorists’ record. This means, that any further driving violations can result in further increases to one’s insurance as well as the risk of license suspension if the issued points reach 10 or more.
The only way to combat insurance increases as a result of a traffic violation or DUI charge in Vermont is to fight back and thus the expense you must pay upfront to defend yourself, may be a worthwhile investment for both the short and long term.
Need to reduce or eliminate the damage a Vermont traffic ticket or DUI will have on your financial well being? Email or call Vermont traffic ticket attorney Evan Chadwick, for a free initial case analysis.