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LegalGround >> traffic court question


12/2/08 12:25 PM
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tourist
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This is an Illinois question related to passing a school bus.

I was following behind a school bus recently, and turned off the road the bus was on and got on a different road. The 2 roads came together in a "v". I estimate that the bus was 140 feet in front of me when I turned off. As I was turning onto the other road, the bus came to a stop.

The driver went in and reported that I "passed" him while he was stopped. A police officer took his complaint and issued me a ticket, even though the officer did not witness the incident. This is in a town that is about 2 hours away from where I live.

I responded to the ticket that I was "not guilty" and requested a trial by judge. I'm waiting on a trial date.

My reasoning that I am not guilty is because Illinois law requires a driver to stop behind a bus when it has it's sign out - but only if you are on the same road as the bus. As I was on a completely separate road from the bus it is not considered a "pass". The road I took is separately named and numbered, and has two way traffic. Any child exiting the bus would have had to go past a sidewalk and greenspace before they would be on the street I took.

A police officer where I live advised me to contact the State's Attorney in the town where the incident ocurred to present my case in hopes that it gets dismissed. I am in the process of doing this.

I'm 49 years old and have never received a moving traffic ticket in Illinois, and haven't receved a ticket anywhere since about 1981 when I got a speeding ticket. That's over 25 years with a spotless driving record.

Any suggestions on things I should do to prepare for trial or to make this go away before trial?

My only court experience was once I sued a tenant in small claims court for past rent due.
12/2/08 4:29 PM
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jbapk
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I'm not even sure how they would plan on winning this. I can't imagine the traffic court attorney is going to subpoena the bus driver for traffic court, through maybe that county has a set up for that. Even if the cop shows up, he can't actually testify to what he saw.

Tell the State's Attorney you intend to go to trial with this, get a road map showing the location, and take a bunch of pictures to show how it's laid out.
12/2/08 5:04 PM
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Fake Pie
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^^^What he said. Sounds like you are doing the right thing.
12/17/08 3:24 PM
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tourist
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It looks like my court date is January 2. I spoke with an attorney in my county today, and he said that the courts are designed to chew up and spit guys like me out. This was a free consultation, luckily.

I spoke with an attorney in the town where the trial will be, and she was willing to take it on for a $500 flat fee, with no promise that she could actually do anything about it. This is in addition to any fines and court costs I might incur along the way.

Another potential attorney is the head of the sleaziest family I've ever met.

I think I'll likely have to go and defend myself in court, will likely be found guilty, and will be fined $150 and have my license suspended for 90 days.

I've always prided myself on being ethical and the good guy, and this crap is making me feel like a common criminal.

Any advice is welcome.
12/17/08 3:26 PM
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tourist
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The traffic attorney for the state's attorney does not seem at all interested in anything I have to say.

I feel a lube-less screwing coming my way.

Hope I'm wrong.
12/17/08 3:27 PM
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tourist
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And court costs...
12/18/08 1:34 AM
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Shaz
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Well the cop can't testify to what the driver told him, that's hearsay - do you really think the bus driver will show up?

-Shaz!
12/18/08 2:00 PM
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tourist
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The bus driver might show up. I'm preparing for this with the expectation that both the policeman and the bus driver show up. I'm currently working on being able to explain my case as clearly as possible without being emotional.

I've been doing a lot of research on this. I've been working on a timeline with illustrations that has proven very helpful to me in understanding the facts. This has helped me in beginning to put together a strategy for how I will present my case.

As it will turn out to be the bus driver's word against mine, I've been concentrating on things that might make the bus driver doubt or be uncertain about a few key moments in the timeline. If the bus driver shows up my strategy will be to charm the hell out of he/she while introducing a level of uncertainty in their thought process. If I can get the driver to question their own recollection of the exact events and their precise point in the timeline I can win this. I am concerned that the bus driver might be the type of person who has tunnel vision and will recollect things erroneously due to some hidden prejudice against "non-bus drivers". That would suck but it's totally possible.

My overall strategy is to portray myself as the solid citizen that I am, while charming everybody I meet. If I tell the truth and communicate effectively I believe I will be OK.

It's a good thing I work at a university with a law school, as I've been able to do some high quality research on the subject. Unfortunately I'm completely ignorant of court proceedings and the formalities that are expected.

I'm still a bit haunted by the lawyer consultation I had - he feels that the traffic court system is so jaded that it's nearly impossible to get a fair shake in a trial and that they are more interested in getting plea deals done than wasting their time listening to all the seemingly "innocent" people that have gotten traffic tickets.

As it is, I've talked this out with my wife and children and we are set to deal with it if I do get convicted. My biggest concern is that I coach a kids' wrestling club and it will be difficult to get to practice and meets if my license is suspended. Many of those kids are underpriveledged and I don't want to be a person who lets them down in any way, as they don't have that much positive stuff going on for them. I usually walk or bike to work, and live close to my kids' schools, so that's not so much of a concern.
12/25/08 6:41 PM
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BarkLikeADog
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^I will be extremely surprised if you:

A: garner more than 90 seconds of the court's time, &

B: are not punished for achieving A,

but maybe your experience with traffic court will be different than mine. Their job is to get through the massive caseload as quickly as possible, not give you your Perry Mason moment. Here in Vegas offenders are called in groups of 4 or 5 & there's usually nothing said from that side of the bench beyond nods, lol.
12/25/08 11:15 PM
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GladiatorGannon
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tourist - 

I'm still a bit haunted by the lawyer consultation I had - he feels that the traffic court system is so jaded that it's nearly impossible to get a fair shake in a trial and that they are more interested in getting plea deals done than wasting their time listening to all the seemingly "innocent" people that have gotten traffic tickets.



that attorney is trying to market herself - if you think you can do it yourself, there is no reason to pay her.

most of these people have a hard time because they drive like assholes, they're guilty as sin, and don't even remotely have a legitimate defense.

you sound like you have a very legitimate argument, would definitely fly in the traffic courts in my city (which aren't very friendly to dickheads either, but try to give justice to decent people).

i think you might be pleasantly surprised.
12/27/08 11:51 AM
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tourist
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I received a call from the Asst. State's Attorney, who is the traffic attorney that would prosecute me.

This guy offered a plea deal where I can pay $200 and plead guilty to the offense. In return, I don't have to go to court and if I don't get a ticket in 90 days it all goes away and nothing gets passed to the Secretary of State. This is called Court Supervision.

Even though I'm innocent, that sounds like a decent compromise. I get to save a decent chunk of my time (the trial would be 3 hours away one-way). I pay the court $200 and if I'm a good boy for 90 days it goes away.

I think that's about the same deal I could have gotten if I had paid an attorney $500+.

I hate to cave in and plead guilty when I think I am innocent, but this seems to be how the system is set up.

I'll have to think about this.

Any advice?
12/27/08 1:51 PM
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GladiatorGannon
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Edited: 12/27/08 1:51 PM
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don't. your case sounds solid, and your average ticket costs $1000 in insurance surcharges over the years.

that $200 ticket is really a $1200 ticket.

make sure you bring proper documentation to court. you can pursue it alone, but even a $500 lawyer is saving you money in the long run.
12/28/08 5:18 PM
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tourist
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The Asst. States Attorney says that nothing gets turned over to the Secretary of State, which is where the insurance people get their information from (I think).

I'll have to find out for sure whether the insurance people can find out about this through normal channels. I've had my current insurance guy for over a decade and have never made a claim. I've got my home, cars, etc. insured with him. It would suck to have to pay more insurance because of this. I've paid that dude lots of cash over the years for no cash outlay from him in return.
12/28/08 5:26 PM
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GladiatorGannon
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personally, i would fight it regardless, just because i hate letting the assholes win.

"All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."
12/29/08 10:59 AM
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tourist
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The only player in this whole thing that may be a bit evil is the bus driver. I actually don't think of him as evil, just confused and on a slight power trip. I think the driver actually believes that what I did is considered passing him, but that he does not understand the legal technicalities of this particular traffic situation.

Will the courts be more likely to believe a kindly old bus driver, who I may or may not be able to show is confused?

Or will they believe an out-of-towner who is arguing that their beloved bus driver is confused about traffic laws?

I'm certainly glad that I've made it to be nearly 50 years old without ever being on the wrong side of the law. Worrying about courts and judges and lawyers is not much fun.

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