Tag Archives: traffic lawyer mo

A call to put teeth back into enforcing traffic violations

Did the 2015 municipal court reforms for traffic violations go too far?

That is the subject of a great editorial by the Kansas City Star a few weeks ago talking about how too many people with traffic tickets are not paying their fines and are getting away with it. Since the state-wide municipal court reform after the Ferguson uprising, there doesn’t seem to be any punishment for not paying fines and not showing up to court.

In many communities, traffic violators have figured out that they don’t need to show up to court because the effective tools of punishment such as higher fines, warrants for not showing up to court, or suspending a person’s license is not an option.

Maximum fines were lowered from $500 to $225. Many cities coffers are severely depleted and are finding it difficult to impossible to enforce law violators without an adequate budget. This has also carried over to enforcement of residential nuisance ordinances that are designed to keep housing safe, particularly with abandoned properties.

For example, one person who didn’t show up to court in a town near Kansas City had been arrested four times for a $450 ticket from 2015 for driving with no insurance and driving with a suspended license. She still hasn’t paid, and likely never will.

One judge was quoted as saying, “These people just continue to drive, except they don’t drive to court.”

One state senator tried to pass a bill to put some teeth back into law enforcement. His idea was that if a citizen fails to show up for a court date, a judge could order community service, issue a civil fine or put a hold on a driver’s license.

The editorial calls for Missouri to revisit its 2015 reforms with the goal of restoring some authority to its municipal courts to better find a balance between being overbearing on constituency and effectively punishing and enforcing our traffic laws. Because as the editorial states, “As of now, they’ve been effectively defanged.”

Court privacy ruling protects driver of borrowed rental car

Picture yourself driving a rental car that was rented by your friend or a family member. You are then pulled over by the police. The police want to search the vehicle. Do you let them? Do you even have a choice?

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week gave us clear answers. This Country’s high court said that people who borrow rental cars from family or friends are generally entitled to the same protections against police searches as the actual authorized driver who rented the vehicle.

The decision was unanimous. If a person is in lawful possession and control of the rental car they are deemed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car, even if the rental agreement doesn’t list them as an authorized driver. Therefore, the police will have to have probable cause of a crime committed or a warrant to search the car.

The argument by the current administration was that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy of an unauthorized driver in a borrowed car. Therefore, police could search it without the unauthorized driver’s consent. Attorneys who argued against the search stated that around 115 million car rentals occur each year in the United States. And if the government wins their argument, police would be given an incentive to pull over a rental car driver who commits a traffic violation because they would know they have the right to search it if the driver is not on the rental agreement.

The case involved a driver named Terrence Byrd who in 2014 was driving his fiancée’s rental car on a highway in Pennsylvania. A state trooper stopped him alleging he had committed a minor traffic violation. The troopers observed that Byrd was acting nervously during the stop and he went on to admit that he had a marijuana cigarette in the car. The officers then searched the vehicle, telling Byrd that they did not need his consent because his name was not on the authorization form. When they opened the trunk they discovered 2,500 bags of heroin and body armor. Byrd would later admit that he planned to sell the drugs for $7,000. Byrd received a 10-year prison sentence.

Cops need a warrant to get your vehicle’s black box data

Missouri cops will need to get a search warrant before they can access data from your automobile’s black box.

A recent decision in the Western District of Missouri basically blocks law enforcement from obtaining your black box data after an accident, unless you either consent or they get a warrant.

The appellate court took up the case of a man that had been stopped at traffic and was struck by a semi from behind. The Missouri Highway Patrol then downloaded the data stored on the semi’s electronic control module (ECM). Officers did not use a warrant and argued that there were exigent circumstances, therefore, the semi driver had no expectation of privacy of the data. Up to then, obtaining the black box data had been standard procedure for the highway patrol.

The patrol officer claimed that the driver had given him consent, but that box had not been checked off in his police report. The appellate court relied on a recent US Supreme Court case on GPS spying to find the police arguments were insufficient.

Judge Cynthia L. Martin wrote: “Sergeant Meyers’s testimony underscores that ECM data was seized from West’s truck not because there was probable cause to believe that West had committed a crime and that evidence of the crime could be found in the truck, but instead to investigate an accident to determine whether West had committed a crime.”

The court added that to allow warrantless searches on these grounds would “emasculate” the Fourth Amendment to the constitution.

Here is an unofficial summary of the case and should not be used as legal doctrine:

(1) The State’s arguments on appeal asserting error in granting the motion to suppress which were not raised with the trial court are not preserved for appellate review.

(2) Either a reasonable expectation of privacy or trespass on a possessory interest in a Fourth Amendment protected effect will afford standing to assert a Fourth Amendment violation. Here, West was the lawful operator and possessor of the semitruck at the time the police physically intruded into the semi-truck’s passenger compartment to connect a computer to the ECM located underneath the semi-truck’s dash. That physical intrusion into, and occupation of, the semi-truck constituted an actionable trespass into a protected Fourth Amendment effect (a vehicle) which afforded West standing to move to suppress the data downloaded from the ECM.

(3) The automobile exception allows police to search a vehicle and seize
contraband found therein without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband and exigent circumstances necessitate the search. The State presented no evidence during the hearing on the motion to suppress to suggest or establish that the police had probable cause to believe that contraband or illegal items were located in the semi-truck.

(4) While the State presented testimony that ECM data might be overwritten if the semi-truck was moved, the trial court did not find this evidence to be sufficient to constitute an exigent circumstance permitting a warrantless search. The trial court’s finding was supported by substantial evidence.

(State of Missouri v. Anthony West, WD80879)

Watch out for police hotspots when speeding in Kansas City

If you tend to drive fast around the Kansas City area, you may want to check out a listing of traffic hotspots that the Kansas City Star compiled.

The Kansas City Star stated that in 2017 more than 118,000 traffic and parking tickets were issued by the Kansas City Police Department and processed through the municipal court. A good majority of them were on highways Interstate 435 and U.S. 71.

The newspaper took traffic and parking ticketing data from Kansas City Municipal Court for all of last year. They were able to identify where the most tickets were given, who is getting them, and what infractions are producing the most tickets.

Police broke down the locations where tickets were issued two ways: intersections and specific addresses. Intersections were primarily for traffic tickets such as speeding and improper lane change. Specific addresses were primarily for parking tickets.

In descending order, each of the following intersections had more than 500 citations:

10. U.S. 71 and Bannister Road

These were mostly speeding tickets, where drivers average 13 mph over the limit.

9. I-435 and 87th Street

Speeding again received the most tickets at this location with the average over the limit was 15 mph.

8. U.S. 169 and Briarcliff Parkway

Speeding has the most, with average over the limit of 13 mph.

7. U.S. 71 and 55th Street

The most common ticket given was for not properly displaying a state license plate on a vehicle, followed by speeding.

6. I-435 and Eastwood

Speeding again had the most tickets.

5. U.S. 71 and 75th Street

At this intersection, people were given the most tickets for not using designated traffic lanes and not properly displaying a state license plate. Tickets included about 100 seat belt violations.

4. Blue Parkway and South Noland Road

Speeding it is, with average speed 15 mph.

3. I-435 and Missouri 210

Speeding was number one reason for tickets here.

2. U.S. 71 and 39th Street

Speeding wins again. The Star notes that the highest speed recorded was 97 mph in a 55 mph zone.

1. Around the Heart of America Bridge

And to buck the trend, the main reason for some 1,400 plus tickets was for failure to obey signs with a lane change.

For the original article click here.

Tips on sharing the road with motorcycles

Driving safety awareness can vary on our roads and highways depending on what you are driving, whether it’s an automobile, commercial truck or motorcycle. Each type of vehicle requires special awareness. Today, we are talking about motorcycles.

Here are a few tips that the Missouri Department of Revenue’s driving guide suggests when you are sharing the road with motorcycles. Be aware of the following about motorcyclists:
• When you are passing, give motorcycles a full lane width. Do not squeeze past these road users. Wait for a clear stretch of road before passing a cyclist in a lane too narrow to share.
• Motorcyclists change speed and lane position when encountering bad road conditions, such as manhole covers, diagonal railroad tracks, road debris, or in strong winds. So be ready to react.
• Motorcycles are often overlooked by motorists. It is not always easy to judge the speed or distance of a motorcycle. So be extra cautious.
• You should not share a lane with a motorcycle. The motorcyclist needs the entire lane for safety reasons.
• On residential streets, especially those with parked cars, travel at or below the speed limit, depending on sight distance.
• When you are passing, give motorcycles a full lane width. Do not squeeze past these road users. Wait for a clear stretch of road before passing a cyclist in a lane too narrow to share.

Here are a few safety tips for motorcycle drivers that the DOR guide book suggests:

1. The law requires you to wear a helmet. Wearing a safety-certified helmet can prevent serious head injuries or death.
2. Be sure your motorcycle is in safe condition and has all the equipment required by law.
3. Make sure motorists see you. Wear bright colored clothes and stay out of a vehicle’s blind spots. Use proper lights and reflectors when riding after dark.
4. Make sure you signal before you slow down, change lanes or turn. Before merging, changing lanes, or turning, scan behind and in front to ensure that it is safe to make this maneuver. Do so in plenty of time and in cooperation with other drivers who will be affected by your move. If it is not safe, continue on a straight course and scan repeatedly. Only move once it is safe.
5. Be careful when passing to the left of a parked or moving vehicle. You should leave 3 to 4 feet of clearance to avoid suddenly opened car doors or to allow for a vehicle to swerve.
6. Be extra careful at intersections. Do not assume your right-of-way when there is a vehicle approaching. Be aware that motor vehicle drivers may not see you approaching the intersection, or may believe that you are moving at a slower speed than you are.
7. Keep a steady line and be predictable as a courtesy to other traffic and to increase your personal safety.
I

f both automobile drivers and motorcyclists keep these tips in mind when sharing our roadways, needless accidents will be prevented. Safe travels to all of you.

Legislature proposes a bill to curb racial profiling by law enforcement

Lawmakers in Missouri are reviewing a bill that is designed to curb discriminatory policing among law enforcement agencies. The bill, which recently had a hearing before a legislative committee, calls for disciplinary options and procedures that would be a check on discriminatory practices.

The bill places penalties on both individual law enforcement and on their agency when they are found engaging in discriminatory policing or racial profiling. Discipline could include counseling, termination, or training of any officer found to have engaged in discriminatory policing.

If a law enforcement department is found to have a disproportionate number of minority drivers stopped compared to the state average, the attorney general can provide resources to address it. If the problem continues for another three years, the attorney general could remove the agency’s funding by directing the local governing body to forfeit 25% of the police department’s revenue received from court costs, bond forfeitures, and fines.

Additionally, the bill calls for officers to use a consent search policy and requires information to be gathered from every vehicle stop. The data collected will then be analyzed by the attorney general.

The consent search would require that an officer prior to requesting a search would have to clearly state, either orally or in writing, in a language the person being questioned clearly understands that their consent must be voluntary.

Next, an officer would have to get recorded audio or video or written consent from the person who was stopped.

Officers will be expected to collect 11 pieces of information that include a reason for the stop, whether a search was conducted, and whether a warning or citation was issued.

Then by March 1st of each year, the agency must submit its report to the attorney general who will analyze the data and submit a report to the state legislature by June 1st of each year.

MO flunks traffic safety: texting, open container laws cited

Missouri needs to evaluate its traffic safety laws. A recent report by a coalition of safety and health groups rated Missouri’s traffic laws towards the bottom of all 50 states.

According to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), a Washington D.C. group of health companies, insurance agencies and safety companies that encourages the enactment of federal and state laws, the state of Missouri tied for fourth worst in the nation when it comes to safety laws.

The low grading stems from Missouri’s legal code only containing four of the 16 laws the AHAS considers essential for driving and safety.

OPEN CONTAINER LAWS

The AHAS dings Missouri for its open container laws. The state is one of only six states without a statewide open container law. Strict open container laws are said to be helping other states reduce fatal auto accidents.

Although St. Louis and Kansas City do not have ordinances for open containers, the City of Maryville is one of the few that has passed its own. But Maryville does not have a primary seatbelt law.

PRIMARY SEATBELT LAWS

Missouri is one of only 15 states without a primary seatbelt law that would give law enforcement power to stop drivers for simply not wearing a seatbelt. Data suggests that 81 percent of the state’s residents use seatbelts, which is actually 7 percent lower than the national average.

DISTRACTED DRIVING

The state was also marked down for its laws on distracted driving, such as texting. Although the state bans texting for those 21 and younger, safety advocates say it needs to be broader. Word has it that the state may soon be expanding its anti-texting and driving laws to all drivers, not just those 21 and younger.

CAR SEATS

Missouri was also criticized for its age requirements for infants in rear-facing car seats. The American Academy of Pediatrics says infants and toddlers need to sit in a rear-facing seat until they are at least two-years-old, or until an infant meets the manufacturer’s height and weight restrictions. However, state law only requires rear facing seats until the infant is a year old and 20 pounds.

Rehabilitation specialists help extend your ability to drive

As you get older and into your Golden Years, your driving skills begin to deteriorate. Your ability to respond as quickly as you did compared to just 5 years before is noticeable not only to your friends and family but to you. Your confidence to drive at night is diminished. If this is a scenario for you or a loved one, then you may want to consider having a driving evaluation done by a certified driving rehabilitation specialist. This person can help you to adapt new technology to extend your driving years.

Because of new technology, your ability to drive into later years of your life has been extended. Some of these adaptive technologies are as simple as swivel seats for more convenient access or hand controls for a driver to safely operate a vehicle.

But each person and their skill and physical levels are different and require different forms of technology. The NHTSA recommends seeking the help of a driver rehabilitation specialist to help people choose the correct adaptive devices for their automobiles.

A rehabilitation specialist will take into consideration your future equipment needs based on your medical condition and the repetitive stress an adaptive aid may place on a particular muscle group.

Also expect a vision screening as well as testing for muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion; coordination and reaction time; judgment and decision-making abilities; and ability to drive with adaptive equipment. Once the evaluation is done, you should get a report with recommendations for you such as restrictions or requirements and a list of any vehicle requirements and modifications. You will likely also receive a recommendation for on-the-road training to practice using the new equipment and to learn safe driving habits.

To find a qualified driver rehabilitation specialist, you’ll find rehabilitation centers for each State listed on the Websites for the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) and the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA). These associations maintain lists of qualified driver rehabilitation specialists in most states. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has put together helpful information called “Adapting Motor Vehicles for Older Drivers.” See their Website.

FAQs about Missouri’s Chemical Revocation Laws

You are driving home from a party. In your rear view mirror you see the red lights and hear the siren of police car pulling you over. The problem is you had a few drinks, but you’re not sure just how much alcohol you have had. Questions race through your mind. Do I blow in a machine that tests my alcohol content?

You are now being arrested for driving while intoxicated. The police officer asks you to submit to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content or drug level.

While you have 20 minutes to contact an attorney to ask what to do, sometimes you simply aren’t able to get in touch with an attorney. You are confused on whether to say “Yes” or “No.” If you say, “No,” and refuse to blow, the State of Missouri deems you to have consented to such testing under its “implied consent” law. Again, you have the right to refuse to submit to the test but if you refuse to take the alcohol or drug test, your Missouri driving privilege will be revoked for one year. This is known as a “Chemical Revocation.”

The topic of chemical revocation can be confusing. The Missouri Department of Revenue has a helpful Website that provides a lot of information related to the implied consent law and chemical revocation. Here are a few Q&A’s from the DOR that will help answer some of your questions:

Can I have any type of driving privilege while I am under a Chemical Revocation?

You may be eligible for a Limited Driving Privilege (LDP). The LDP may be used for work, your alcohol program, medical treatment, school, etc. You must install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) and file an SR-22 form.

Do I need an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) to reinstate my Missouri driving privilege after I have served my 1-year revocation period?

If your driver record shows more than one intoxication-related law enforcement contact, you are required to have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed on any vehicle you operate. You must maintain the device for a minimum period of six months from the reinstatement date. You will be monitored during the last three months of the six-month period. If you have any violations, as determined by the device manufacturer during the monitoring period, your requirement to maintain the device will be extended until you complete a three-consecutive-month period without violation. Violations are defined in 7 CSR 60-2.010 (refer to “violations reset” language).

What is an SR-22 insurance filing?

An SR-22 form is an insurance filing from your insurance company that shows your motor vehicle has liability insurance.

How long do I need the SR-22 insurance filing?

You must file the SR-22 form for two years from the effective date of your Chemical Revocation.

Why do I need to complete a Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP) if I was not convicted (or, I was convicted of a lesser charge)?

If you have an alcohol offense, such as an alcohol or drug revocation on your driver record, the law requires you to complete a SATOP (or comparable course) as a condition of reinstating your driving privilege in Missouri.

Where can I get information about Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP) courses?

Information regarding SATOP courses is available on the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Division of Behavioral Health website. For a SATOP provider near you check out our list of SATOP providers.

How do I appeal the revocation of my driving privilege?

You must petition the Circuit or Associate Circuit Court in the county where the arrest or stop occurred. A petition for review must be filed within 30 days from the date the Notice of Revocation is issued. If the arrest or stop occurred in another state, you must petition the Cole County Circuit Court, in Jefferson City, Missouri.

When will the Chemical Revocation come off my driver record?

A Chemical Revocation (for refusal to submit to an alcohol or drug test) is a permanent part of the record and can never be removed.

Winter snow and ice driving calls for a cautious mindset

Winter is now upon us. Very soon this season, there inevitably will be snow, ice or some combination of the two. Snow and ice can play havoc upon drivers, often causing travel delays and lots of accidents, many of which can be avoided.

When driving through a snowing or ice condition, it is important to change your attitude about travel. Your number one concern should be safety and not getting home or to the party on time. In fact, it is often better to cancel your plans if you don’t have to be out on the road.

Nevertheless, there will always be times when despite the difficult conditions, you will have to venture out on snow and ice to get somewhere. If that is the case, the Department of Revenue’s Safe Travel Guide offers several tips. Just remember the following rhyme: “Ice and Snow — Take it slow!”

Here are tips from the DOR for safe winter driving:
*In winter, clean all snow and ice off your windows, headlights, and taillights.
*Be sure your windshield wipers and defroster are working.
*No matter how far you are going to drive, never start driving until all snow and ice is off your windows.
*Check your tires. Your vehicle should have tires that are rated for driving in snow. If you do not have tires that are rated for driving in snow, you should have chains ready to put on your tires during bad weather. But even if you have “snow” tires or chains, you cannot drive safely on snow or ice at normal speeds. If there is snow or ice on the road, slow down and do not use your vehicle’s cruise control system.
*When starting on snow or ice, start slowly and smoothly.
*If your tires start to spin, try clearing a path by driving backwards and forwards a few times.
*If that does not help, spread some abrasive material like salt, sand, or cat box litter around your wheels.
*NEVER let anyone stand in line with your wheels. Your wheels may throw up gravel or ice and cause an injury.
*Once you have started, try to get the feel of the road. Gently brake while driving to see how slippery the road is and then adjust your speed for the road conditions.
*Important Note: It will take longer to stop your vehicle when driving on snow or ice. So be sure to leave a safe distance, about 8 to 10 seconds, between your vehicle and any vehicle ahead of you.
*When you want to slow down or stop, apply the brakes gently and smoothly. Never slam on your brakes — this may cause you to skid. On very slippery surfaces, pump the brakes by gently pushing down and letting up on them several times. If your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock brake system, refer to your owner’s manual for proper braking techniques in special situations.
*Remember that bridges and overpasses will freeze and become slippery before other parts of the road, and be aware that even on cleared roads a few ice patches may still exist.
*If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, DO NOT use the four-wheel drive on ice. Four-wheel drive vehicles can easily overturn on ice. If you hit an icy patch in four-wheel drive, take your foot off the accelerator.