Conduct that won’t help you in a Vermont traffic stop

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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.



Have a PBA card? Keep it in your pocket in Vermont


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.


Vermont law bans handheld devices while driving

Hands off or pay up! Photo by Jeramey Jannene

Hands off or pay up!
Photo by Jeramey Jannene

Effective October 1, 2014 any motorist driving in the State of Vermont who is caught with a handheld device in their hands while driving can be pulled over by a Vermont law enforcement officer and be subject to a fine of between $100-$250 for the first violation and $250-$500 for a subsequent violation within two years.

There is no issuance of points for a violation of this law.

This law not only subjects motorists to fines, but also gives grounds for a Vermont police officer to initiate a stop based solely on their witnessing a motorist with a handheld device in their hands.  This “reasonable and articulable suspicion” required for a traffic stop as defined in the United Supreme Court case of Terry v. Ohio can subject motorists to a wide range of other potential charges, if a police officer finds sufficient evidence to support an expansion of the stop, a more extensive investigation including a potential search of the vehicle can arise, all as a result of using you handheld device while driving.

The bottom line, Vermont police now have another arrow in their quiver to stop motorists and charge them with traffic violations or crimes.  So when you cross  over the Vermont boarder, keep your hands off that mobile device, that text message or phone call is not worth the penalty.