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Blog & News

May 7, 2009

Ask the Attorney-May 2009

Filed under: Columns from Our Towne Magazine, General — Paul Czech & Associates @ 3:57 pm


My wife ,my 17 month old son,and I were on our way out of town recently when we realized we needed to pick up a prescription from Wal-Mart.  We were feeling the usual stress of getting on the road before a long drive, mostly connected to hitting traffic, getting gas, coordinating meeting up with the folks we’re travelling to see, etc.  So, since Wal-Mart was on our way to the highway, we simply fit a quick detour to their pharmacy into our schedule.  And my wife, who was driving, decided that to save time, she would simply pull up in front of the store and leave the kid and me in the vehicle while she ran in to get the pills or whatever it was that was so necessary to get.  This meant putting the car in the fire lane, clearly marked as a “No Parking” zone, with the blinkers on.  I never do that but my wife will leave me like that all the time and, in spite of my protests, which she blatantly ignores,  I usually spend a few very tense moments waiting for her to return.

And this time was no different.  Except that after about a minute of me keeping the kid happy and wondering if everyone was staring at us as they came and went from the store, throwing invisible hate bombs our way for violating the protocol of the Wal-Mart parking lot,  a police car pulled up and stopped about a car’s length in front of me.   He didn’t move, didn’t get out of his vehicle, didn’t so much as blink his lights – he just sat there.  I immediately got out of the car and started to move to the driver’s side to get in.  And on my way around the vehicle, I waved politely to the officer and said, “I guess you want me to move.”  I was surprised when he said “no” and was even more surprised when he added, “you can move it after I give you a ticket.”

Now I’m telling you this story because I think everyone needs to be aware that Townships, Municipalities, and Counties get affected by bad economic times just like everyone else.  And one of the ways they try to add money to the local treasury in times like these is to become more aggressive about issuing tickets.  That means that you’re going to be seeing more and more officers out there trying to catch speeders and violators of all kinds.  Now, that’s not to say that they haven’t been aggressive about this already because they have.  So think about this for a second – how, exactly, can they possibly issue more tickets than they already have been issuing?  Well, one way is to enforce laws that they haven’t really enforced in the past.  Like, for instance, cell phone violations.  I have had a bunch of friends come to me lately about this – friends who have gone a long time without getting a single driving/cell phone use ticket until recently when they suddenly got 3 in a two week time span.  Time to plug in that earphone or splurge and get one of those wireless Bluetooth units that sits on your ear.  Or with speeding tickets – law enforcement officers can change the parameters that will get them interested in stopping you so that more tickets can be issued.  What does that mean?  Well, I’ve had police officer friends tell me in the past that you usually have to be more than 5 miles over the speed limit before they will make a stop.  Or, if you’re on the highway, I have been told there is a 10 mph cushion zone before you anger the highway patrol enough to pull you over.  But when the government needs money, discretion becomes a thing of the past.  So forget those cushion zones I just mentioned.  Travelling even 1 mile over the limit is illegal so the police officer is perfectly within his or her rights when they ticket you under those circumstances.

And don’t forget, you can always contest and have your day in Court.  I usually recommend this method when you’ve got points on your license or, if convicted via the ticket, you will have points on your license.  If you don’t know, for each moving violation you get, a certain number of points are assessed against your driving record.  Each time you get points on your record, you are likely to face an increase in your insurance rate.  If you get enough points assessed against you, you can have your license suspended or revoked.  A Lawyer can help you navigate your way through such a mess and, in the long run, save you a significant amount of money.

Or, maybe you’ll get a ticket like the one I got at Wal-Mart.  The fire lane said “No Parking” not “No Stopping” and since I was capable of and ready to move the car, my wife and I were “Stopped” and not “Parked”.  Makes sense, right?  If there was a fire, the fire department needs to get close to the building with their trucks and emergency vehicles.  “Stopping” in the fire lane doesn’t prevent that from happening because someone is there to move the car when needed.  And of course the Wal-Mart is private property - the township police officer had no jurisdiction to write such a ticket  anyway (when I stated this to him, he simply said, “Wal-Mart doesn’t want you parking here” implying that he takes his orders from the store manager as opposed to the town counsel members whom he actually gets paid by and for whom he patrols.)  So be more careful out there and, if you get a ticket that you think is just weird,  don’t argue with the officer at the scene since that’ll only make things worse.  Instead, exercise your right to a day in Court.

-Paul Czech,Esq.

May Edition of Rensselaer ‘Our Towne’ magazine

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