Monday, March 10, 2014
My client made the unfortunate choice of speeding in excess of 90 mi./h while on the capital Beltway. He made the further unfortunate choice of having tinted windows. What was not his choice but his birthright was his skin color. After being stopped in a normal manner for speeding by a Maryland state trooper the trooper rushed up with his hand on his gun but demanding that my client show his hands. My client is a young African-American male. He is also a gainfully employed electrical engineer. He has no criminal history. The trooper took my client license and registration and returned to his unit (police talk for a police vehicle).
My client began keeping track of the time and from the time that he was first stopped and the trooper approached until the time that the trooper came back one half hour elapsed. At that point two other troopers came on the scene. They ordered my client out of the car for safety reasons. My client had a substantial pile of cash which was to be used for purchasing a birthday present. I suspect that based on the cash they thought him to be dangerous. They handcuffed him and began searching his pockets. He objected and told them he did not consent. They began searching his car and again he objected. They did not seem to care. They searched the passenger compartment, the glove compartment, the trunk, the gas cap and underneath the battery under the hood of the car! All the while my client is telling them that he is an engineer and that he goes to the gym. They found absolutely nothing incriminating. They broke the battery cover and a portion of his seat. After approximately one hour from stop to the release they let him on his way with the five points speeding ticket.
He went to court on his own and attempted to put the above information into evidence to alert the judge what was going on in her jurisdiction. My client reports that this fell on deaf ears and he was convicted of the five point offense.
When my client came to me he had appealed the case to the circuit court. I am sympathetic to what happened but it does not negate the speeding offense. The trooper was ready to prove my client's excessive speed. Even my client, should he have chosen to take the stand, would've testified that he was speeding. I did not see how I could win the case even with this egregious treatment of a decent tax paying engineer. I referred my client to the ACLU as well as the NAACP and left the politics out of the case (at least on the record). I negotiated with the prosecutor to reduce the case to a two point offense and if my client completed driver improvement they would strike the conviction and he would have no points. I did advise the prosecutor of the back story. I am not certain if I was able to generate any sympathy for my client.
In front of the judge I spent tops 60 seconds and said very little about the case. The judge did not know the back story but the five points were reduced to zero points.
Although I am satisfied with the results in the traffic case, the fact that "driving while black" is a real situation in Maryland and probably other jurisdictions and does not seem to be improving.
I represented a gentleman with two prior convictions for drunk driving. In 2013 he was charged with his third drunk driving as well as driving while revoked, driving while suspended, fraudulent tags, no insurance, failure to produce registration among other traffic charges. Total points would be 12 points and he had exposure, in theory, to several years in jail.
After speaking with my client I reviewed the police alcohol incident report. He was apparently stopped because the police scanner showed that his license plate was suspended. Further investigation after the stop was that the license plate did not go to his vehicle. Further investigation revealed that his license was not only revoked because of points for alcohol convictions but also suspended for failure to pay child support. The officer had my client perform field sobriety test which were not done to his satisfaction. My client took the breath test.
It was important to my client to remain out of jail and win as much as he could. He was the foreman on a work crew and people were relying on him. If he was in jail not only would he likely lose his job but his crew would have problems. He was also a father with four children.
On the trial date I was able to successfully negotiate a guilty plea to one count of driving while suspended for failure to pay a ticket which is a three point offense with a maximum jail sentence of 60 days. My negotiation tactic was to give more jail time to get rid of more charges. This jail time was actually pretty easy jail time. Montgomery County has a weekend work-release program. In that program you show up Saturday morning and work all day and go home. You show up on Sunday morning and work all day and go home. You actually never see the inside of a jail. Each weekend counts for two days. Negotiation was for five weekends.
Based on the successful negotiation my client keeps his job, he only has an additional three points on his driver's license and he does not go to jail.