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2015 Second Quarter Legislative Update: NMA E-Newsletter #338

Posted on July 5th, 2015 in , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 2015 Second Quarter Legislative Update: NMA E-Newsletter #338

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The NMA continues to advocate for motorists’ rights at the national, state and local level. Legislatures across the country took up a broad range of motorists’ issues in the first quarter of 2015. Here’s a brief summary of the driving-related issues we addressed.

California

Supported Senate Bill 218 which would prevent the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority from operating bogus stop sign cameras on the lands it manages. The bill is currently in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.

Opposed Assembly Bill 1287 which would allow increased photo enforcement capabilities on transit vehicles. The bill passed the full Assembly in is now in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

National

As a supporting member of the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, the NMA worked with the alliance to oppose the expansion of interstate tolling under consideration by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Interstate Highway System.

New York

Opposed Senate Bill 5688 which would allow the city of White Plains to operate red-light cameras. The bill passed the Legislature and now awaits Gov. Cuomo’s signature.

Ohio

Supported House Bill 159 which would make it legal to display only one license plate on the rear of a vehicle. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Pennsylvania

Opposed House Bill 950 as currently written, which would eliminate the sunset clause for Pennsylvania’s red-light camera program, allowing them to operate in perpetuity. The bill is currently in the House Rules Committee.

Opposed House Bill 1300 which would permit local police agencies to use radar and laser for speed enforcement. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation Committee.

Opposed Senate Bill 840 which would create a pilot program to use speed cameras in highway work zones—a pilot program that could eventually lead to the use of speed cameras throughout the state. The bill has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.

Tennessee

Opposed Senate Bill 1128 which was portrayed as restricting ticket camera use, but in reality allowed the use of red-light cameras, as well as manned photo radar vans and speed cameras in school zones. The bill in its original form was essentially a complete ban on all camera-based enforcement throughout the state. The bill was signed by Gov. Haslam.

Thanks to the many NMA members who volunteered their time to send emails, write letters, make phone calls, and work with policymakers and media outlets on these important issues. If you’re not signed up to receive legislative alerts but would like to, use the “Choose Your NMA E-Subscriptions” link in the sidebar of this email.


A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 2: NMA E-Newsletter #337

Posted on June 28th, 2015 in , , , , , | Comments Off on A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 2: NMA E-Newsletter #337

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Here’s Part 2 of our Frequently Asked Questions on ticketing fighting. See Part 1 here.

Can a police officer issue me a ticket if he’s outside his own jurisdiction?

If the violation took place within his jurisdiction the answer is yes. If the violation took place outside his jurisdiction the answer is less clear. There may be interagency agreements that allow police to exercise their authority outside their jurisdictions. There may also be state laws that allow inter-jurisdictional enforcement actions. One point to remember, the officer that observed the violation and issued the citation is the only person that can testify against you. The likelihood that an out-of-area officer would appear to testify against you at your trial is somewhat remote.

What if I don’t believe I was going that fast?

It’s possible the radar or other speed measuring device was being operated improperly. Also, the officer may have mistaken your car for another or made some other error. The burden will be on you to prove the likelihood of that mistake.

But everyone was going over the speed limit. What if I was just pulled out of the crowd?

It may be true, but it is totally irrelevant now. Plead not guilty and go to court. In court, don’t complain that you were being victimized. The judge does not want to hear, nor does he have the time to listen to a claim that is nearly impossible to prove. If the officer shows up in court, cross-examine him by asking questions in such a way as to make it appear he had no idea which vehicle caused the reading on the radar/laser gun.

What if they only ticket people of my race?

Sometimes this has every appearance of being true, largely due to stops for trivial traffic laws like seat belt violations, playing the radio too loud, or having a blown out light bulb. If you believe the officer stopped you because of your race, we recommend making a complaint to the police department and/or city government. If it continues to happen after the complaint, consider a lawsuit.

If I don’t sign my ticket, does that mean it’s invalid?

No. Signing for your ticket, which isn’t required in all areas, merely means that you will pay the fine or plead not guilty and show up in court.

If I prove my speedometer was defective when I was stopped for speeding, will the court dismiss the ticket?

No. The court might consider it a mitigating circumstance, but it’s likely you will still be found guilty.

What if there was more than one officer involved in my stop?

First, the clocking officer must be able to confirm that the car being pulled over was the car he clocked. This confirmation should be made to the officer that does the stop. The officer that does the stop is responsible for identifying the driver to whom the ticket is issued. Both the officer that clocked the vehicle’s speed and the officer that issued the ticket must be at the driver’s trial. This also applies to situations involving the use of airplanes to clock vehicle speeds.

Can I write the court and tell them why I’m not guilty?

Some states allow a “trial by declaration”, which is, in a sense, a written explanation or defense you can send to the court. In general, we doubt the fairness or effectiveness of such a defense. There is very little incentive for the court to find the defendant “not guilty.” However, if it is your only option make the best of it. Know the law you are accused of violating, provide a clear description of the key events, and lay out your proofs and arguments as to why you are “not guilty.”

What will happen if I just ignore the ticket?

Ignoring a speeding ticket may result in a suspended license and/or a bench warrant being issued for your arrest. This is true even if you received the ticket outside of your home state. What about that “ex-traffic cop” that has a guaranteed system to get people out of any speeding ticket? No one can guarantee the outcome of your case and you should be skeptical of anyone claiming otherwise. Fighting a traffic ticket will involve some effort on your part, but the benefits are worth it.

When the officer was writing the ticket I admitted that I was speeding. Does that mean that can no longer fight the ticket?

It doesn’t mean you can’t fight it, but you did shoot yourself in the foot. The cop will have recorded that you admitted to speeding. However, you can still go to court and explain some special circumstance as to why you were exceeding the speed limit, or be very contrite and ask for a break, or stick with a not guilty plea, go to trial and hope the cop doesn’t show up allowing you to make a motion for dismissal.

I was asked by a court clerk if I was representing myself as “Pro Se” or appearing in court “Pro Se.” That simply means that I am not using legal representation and I am representing myself in court, right?

Yes, the term Pro se means you will be representing yourself.

You can find these and other FAQ’s in the NMA’s e-book “Fight That Ticket!” which is available as a free download for supporting NMA members and available to non-members for only $9.95.


NMA Pennsylvania Alert: Lawmakers Quietly Extending Red-Light Camera Program

Posted on June 26th, 2015 in , , , | Comments Off on NMA Pennsylvania Alert: Lawmakers Quietly Extending Red-Light Camera Program

Your state legislators are trying to put one over on you. They’ve added a provision to an existing bill that would eliminate the ending date for Pennsylvania’s red-light camera pilot program. That means the cameras could operate in perpetuity without any further action from lawmakers. It’s a sneaky trick and will make it that much harder to get rid of red-light cameras if it gets passed.

The bill in question is House Bill 950 and was originally intended to allow vehicles to proceed through signalized intersections that are inoperable or malfunctioning. The NMA has no issues with the original bill but the inclusion of the language to eliminate the sunset provisions for the red-light camera program are unacceptable and must be eliminated.

HB 950 is currently under consideration in the House. We encourage you to contact your House member and ask him or her not to vote for HB 950 as it is currently written.


NMA New York Alert: Keep Ticket Cameras out of White Plains

Posted on June 24th, 2015 in , , , | Comments Off on NMA New York Alert: Keep Ticket Cameras out of White Plains

The New York State Assembly has passed a bill to allow the city of White Plains to install and operate red-light cameras. Senate Bill 5688 now awaits Gov. Cuomo’s signature to become law.

There still time to stop it. We encourage you to contact the governor’s office immediately and tell him to veto this measure. Red-light cameras are about raising revenue on the backs of motorists, not about improving intersection safety. (Learn more here.) Cities across the country are abandoning red-light cameras as ineffective and unfair to motorists.

White Plains is following a trend of communities outside of New York City seeking to operate red-light cameras. Yonkers and Mount Vernon have already installed cameras, and more cities will follow if we don’t stop the momentum now.

You can send a message to Gov. Cuomo here, or call his office at 1-518-474-8390.


A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 1: NMA E-Newsletter #336

Posted on June 21st, 2015 in , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 1: NMA E-Newsletter #336

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Helping NMA members fight traffic tickets is foundational to the NMA mission. Over the years we’ve collected lots of tips and suggestions for getting the best results in court. We recently came across this list of Frequently Asked Questions and thought it would provide a good refresher on some basic ticket-fighting principles. Look for Part 2 in an upcoming e-newsletter.  

Does the officer have to show me the radar/laser reading?
This is not required in most jurisdictions. Also, whether the officer allows you to see the speed reading has virtually no bearing on your case. Officers can lock in radar readings and leave them on to display to any hapless victim, even though it was not his or her vehicle that registered the displayed speed. 

Can radar clock the speed of one vehicle in a group of vehicles?
The radar operator is unable to determine which vehicle in a group of vehicles is responsible for the speed he sees on his radar gun display. 

Can the police send me a ticket in the mail, even though they didn’t stop me at the time of the alleged violation?
Yes, but the officer who observed the violation must attend your trial and testify that it was your car he observed violating the law and that you were the person operating that car. 

If my car was clocked from an airplane do the officer(s) in the plane have to attend my trial?
The officer that clocked your car and the officer that gave you the ticket must appear as witnesses against you. 

How often do radar guns and laser guns have to be formally re-calibrated and checked for accuracy?
This varies from state to state. Some states have very specific requirements and many states have no standards what-so-ever. It is not uncommon for enforcement agencies to produce calibration certificates for a radar gun, any radar gun, regardless of the radar gun that was actually used to issue the citation. 

Where do I send a Request for Discovery?
A Request for Discovery goes to the District Attorney/Prosecutor responsible for your case. 

Where do I send a Public Information Request or Freedom of Information Request?
These requests should be sent to the agency or office that holds the actual record you are seeking, most often the police department that issued you a ticket. 

What is a “Defense of Necessity?”
This is a legal defense where the defendant claims it was necessary to violate the law to prevent or avoid serious harm such as loss of life or personal injury. 

Can police officers operate speed traps while parking on private property?
Yes, but they must also vacate the property if asked to do so by the property owner. 

Will the court automatically dismiss the charges against me if the officer does not show up for my trial?
Not usually, you often have to make a motion to have the charges dismissed. Generally, a judge will grant your motion, but it is up to his/her discretion. 

Am I entitled to at least one continuance?
No, but most courts will grant at least one continuance without seriously exploring the reason. It should be noted that requesting a continuance can eliminate the right to a speedy trial, at least in those states that have a “speedy trial” statute. 

Do I have a right to a jury trial?
About half the states allow jury trials for traffic law violations. Most states allow jury trials for DUI defendants. However, the US Supreme Court has declared that the US Constitution’s clear mandate for granting jury trials, in the Sixth and Seventh Amendments, does not apply if the possible punishment is less than six months in prison. 

Will errors on the ticket result in the charges being dropped?
Courts will often excuse minor errors on a ticket. A misspelled name, incorrect address, or difference in opinion on whether your car is aqua or green in color will not result in a dismissed ticket. Conversely, a major error such as citing the wrong statute, radically misidentifying your vehicle or listing the wrong highway as the site of the violation should provide justification to dismiss the ticket. However, it may be advantageous to say nothing about the errors until your trial. Let the officer use the ticket to describe the violation, location, and identification of your vehicle (they all do). After he/she has sufficiently buried him/herself with perjured testimony, you can document the errors and any legitimate court will dismiss the charges.

You can find these and other FAQ’s in the NMA’s e-book “Fight That Ticket!” which is available as a free download for supporting NMA members and available to non-members for only $9.95.


NMA New York Alert: Sign Petition to Ban Photo Enforcement in NYC

Posted on June 18th, 2015 in , , , , | Comments Off on NMA New York Alert: Sign Petition to Ban Photo Enforcement in NYC

New York City has become one of the most oppressive places for drivers in the entire country. It’s no accident that officials blanketed the city with speed cameras and then shortly thereafter dropped the default speed limit to 25 mph, in the name of safety.

You CAN fight back against abusive photo enforcement, deliberately mis-engineered roads and overbearing traffic enforcement. Voice your opposition by signing this online petition, created by one of the NMA’s most active New York members. It only takes a second, and you will be making a powerful statement on behalf of all motorists throughout the city.


Urgent Threat – Interstate Tolling Expansion

Posted on June 15th, 2015 in , , , , | Comments Off on Urgent Threat – Interstate Tolling Expansion

As a supporting member of the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, the NMA just received this urgent alert regarding the expansion of Interstate tolling. Please take a few minutes to review this and respond.

ATFI has learned that the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), which has jurisdiction over the Interstate Highway System, is considering expanding interstate tolling at its June 24th bill markup. Please join us in urging the EPW Committee and its Chairman, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), to protect interstates from the burden of new tolls.Tell the EPW Committee “NO TOLLS” in just 15 secondsOver the past seventeen years, the Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRP) has served its purpose and demonstrated the unviability of tolling existing interstates. Six states have pursued tolls via the ISRRP, and all failed primarily due to the widespread public outcry over tolling’s negative consequences, which in some cases even triggered legislative action to protect interstates from tolls. Pilot programs are meant to be temporary. Approaching twenty years, the ISRRPP has run its course and should be repealed, not expanded or made more flexible.

We all know that tolling existing interstates would have serious negative consequences. Businesses would face higher operating expenses and pass those costs on to consumers. Commuters and travelers would face steep cost increases and hourly employees might have to work an extra hour per day just to pay the toll to and from work. Traffic diversion around tolls onto secondary routes would cause congestion, increased accidents, higher road-wear and repair costs for local governments, and slower first response times. The cost to drive will be dramatically higher.

Additionally, our Founding Fathers gave Congress the responsibility to regulate commerce; this now includes funding and maintaining the Interstate Highway System, and passing the buck to states is an abdication of duty and violates the spirit of the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. It may be politically expedient to frame it as a “states’ rights” issue, but this ignores the safety, equity, and interstate commerce implications. Most importantly, it will not solve the highway funding problem.

Please take action by sending an email to Senator Inhofe and the Senate EPW Committee – it only takes 15 seconds and your voice could save the interstate from new tolls.

To learn more about AFTI and join the Alliance please visit www.tollfreeinterstates.com. In addition to joining ATFI you can stay connected by following the Alliance on Twitter at @No2Tollsand Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TollFreeInterstates.


Gut-Check Time: NMA Newsletter #335

Posted on June 14th, 2015 in , , | Comments Off on Gut-Check Time: NMA Newsletter #335

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For many motorists, it is tough to remember what driving an automobile with pure gasoline in the tank was like. E10—gasoline cut with 10 percent ethanol—has been commonplace for well over a dozen years, and E15 is also available for light-duty vehicles of 2001 and later vintage.

Ethanol for fuel use reached about 13 billion gallons in 2014, about 10 percent of the gasoline pumped into cars and trucks that year. What do drivers have to show for it? For starters, less fuel economy and power. Ethanol contains about one third less energy than pure gasoline. There also is the question of potential engine damage caused by gasoline spiked with alcohol. Ethanol can hold more moisture than gas and if not handled properly in the transport and storage phases, the extra water content can cause corrosive damage to engines.

We wrote the following in an August 2010 e-newsletter:

The NMA has long criticized the federal ethanol mandate as a huge public policy farce. We weren’t alone, but thoroughly ignored. 

We argued that ethanol does not make the air cleaner. Ethanol will not reduce our dependency of oil, foreign or domestic. Ethanol is a net negative for the environment. The subsidies for ethanol steal funds that could improve our highways. The prices for food grains are increased. And, ethanol is harmful to many forms of non-automotive internal combustion engines. The kicker is that any rational expert, right-wing, green, or capitalist, on the subject, does not seriously disagree with our arguments!

So why now, after another five years have been added to the timeline and ethanol use is more prevalent than before, is it gut-check time? The answer lies somewhere between 14 and 20. That is the number of main party presidential candidates that have declared for 2016 and the handful who will probably declare in the near future. (See the chart below.)

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Will any of these candidates have the intestinal fortitude to call for a roll-back in ethanol use, particularly when a weak showing in the Iowa caucus has kept many a campaign from getting off the ground? There are three sure things that Americans face: death, taxes, and political candidates who will do anything to not get crosswise with voters.

The Iowa caucuses are a scant 7-1/2 months away. The question is whether the collective voice of the motorist will be louder than that of the Iowa corn growers. Regardless of your political persuasion or your candidate preference, use the intervening months to let each campaign know how you feel about ethanol-blended gasoline. The critical questions haven’t changed since the 2010 e-newsletter:

  • How can ethanol reduce our dependence on foreign oil when it takes as much, or more, energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the energy a gallon of ethanol can deliver?
  • How can ethanol help clean our air when its production puts more pollution in the atmosphere than the oil it is supposed to replace and makes no difference in the emissions of fuel-injected vehicles?
  • How many billions of dollars could be invested in our highways and bridges if the subsidies for ethanol were eliminated?
  • With water becoming an increasingly valuable commodity in many parts of the country, why aren’t you speaking out against a mandate for a fuel that uses three gallons of water to produce one gallon of that fuel?

NMA Pennsylvania Alert: Lawmakers Up to their Old Tricks

Posted on June 10th, 2015 in , , , , , , | Comments Off on NMA Pennsylvania Alert: Lawmakers Up to their Old Tricks

Your state lawmakers seem determined to stick it to motorists one way or another, so they’ve resurrected two well-worn, anti-driver proposals: one to allow local police agencies to use RADAR/LIDAR and one to put speed cameras into highway work zones.

Pennsylvania is the only state (or commonwealth) in the country that prohibits municipal police from enforcing speed limits with RADAR. Since 1961, only state troopers have been allowed to use RADAR and laser for speed enforcement.

Now, House Bill 1300 would permit local police agencies to use RADAR and laser for speed enforcement. The NMA opposes the use of RADAR and laser devices. Both technologies have inherent flaws making them unreliable for speed enforcement, and their use encourages the proliferation of speed traps, which are fundamentally unfair to motorists.

HB 1300 has been referred to the House Transportation Committee. We encourage you to contact committee members to ask them to vote against this bill.

In addition, Senate Bill 840 would create a pilot program to use speed cameras in highway works zones—a pilot program that could eventually lead to the use of speed cameras throughout the state.

The NMA opposes photo enforcement of any kind. Speed cameras have proven to be unreliable and are an ineffective way to enforce speed limits. They put revenue generation ahead of public safety, to the detriment of motorists’ rights. (Learn more about the NMA’s objections to speed cameras.)

SB 840 has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee. We encourage you to contact committee members to ask them to vote against this bill.


The Helping Hands of Highway Safety: NMA E-Newsletter #334

Posted on June 7th, 2015 in , , , | Comments Off on The Helping Hands of Highway Safety: NMA E-Newsletter #334

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Summer is almost here and that means you’ll be sharing the road with more motorcycles in the months ahead. We encourage you to stay sharp and to follow the safety tips we’ve previously published here.

To help with that, we’d like to share an interesting graphic we ran across from ABATE of Wisconsin, the statewide motorcycle riders organization. It shows some common hand signals riders use to communicate with each other, especially when riding in groups. Observing and understanding these hand signals may help you anticipate what a group of riders will do and keep everyone safer on the road.

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Speaking of safety, the NMA’s “7 Sensible Signals” for communicating important information to other drivers may come in handy this summer as well.

1.  Apology

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In a brief lapse of attention or judgment, you unintentionally inconvenience, irritate, or endanger another motorist. You feel embarrassed and the other driver is angry. Neither state of mind produces safe, courteous driving.

The “Apology” signal can defuse the destructive anger and frustration that follow these unfortunate encounters. To signal an apology, hold two fingers in a “V” position, palm out.

2.  Slow Down, Danger Ahead

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You see an obstacle in the road and would like to alert other motorists to the potential danger. The “Slow Down” signal will warn others of an accident, obstacle, or any dangerous condition.

To alert traffic approaching from the opposite direction, turn your headlights off and on.

To alert traffic approaching from the rear, activate your brake lights or extend your left arm and motion downward.

If you see the “Slow Down” signal from another motorist, heed the warning.

3.  Lane Courtesy (Please Yield Left Lane)

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While traveling on a multilane highway, you wish to pass another vehicle that is in the left “passing” lane. The “Lane Courtesy” signal will alert the other motorist of your intention.

Signal your intention by turning the left directional light on and off, 4 to 6 Lane courtesy blinks at a time. If the slower vehicle does not respond to the left turn signal, briefly flash your headlights to gain the attention of the other driver.

If you see the “Lane Courtesy” signal from the motorist behind you, check the adjacent right lane, pull over when it is safe to do so, and let the faster vehicle pass.

4.  Pull Over For Problem

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You come across a vehicle about to have a flat, or lose luggage from an outside rack or litter the highway with skis, bicycles or furniture. The “Pull Over For Problem” signal helps you alert the other driver.

To alert another motorist of a problem with his or her vehicle, first point in the direction of the problem (up for loose roof rack, back for trailer problem, etc.), then signal “thumbs down.”

If you receive this signal from another motorist, pull over and check your vehicle.

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5.  Light Problem (Check Your Lights)

The directional lights on another vehicle have been unknowingly left on. You see a vehicle with a burned out headlight or taillight. You would like to alert the other driver of the problem.

To signal a motorist to “check your lights.” open and close your hand touching the thumb and fingertips together.

6.  Need Assistance

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You are pulled over to the side of the road and need help. Most passersby are unsure what help, if any, is needed. You need to signal for help without conveying panic.

To signal for assistance, make the sign of a “T” by crossing one hand above the other.

If you see the “Need Assistance” signal, you must make a decision whether you will stop, phone for help, or ignore the appeal.

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7.  I Understand (Thank You, I Understand)

To acknowledge another motorist’s signal…an “Apology”, “Light Problem” or “Pull Over for Problem” signal, for example, or to thank another driver for courtesy, use the well-understood “thumbs up” or “OK.”





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