Not long ago, Rick Silverman sat next to a woman on a plane. She asked him what he did for a living. "I'm a lawyer. I fight traffic violations," he told her. "You mean tickets," she said. "Don't you just pay those things?"
The vast majority of people do. A cop stops you and writes you a citation for going 52 in a 35. You did it, and you know it. You might plead your case to the officer, ask for a break, give him a sob story, even argue with him. Almost always, you drive away with that piece of paper in your hand, get home, toss it on the counter, look at it and gulp at the hefty three-figure fine.
But just because it appears you've been nailed dead to rights on the road doesn't mean you have no options. You can represent yourself in traffic court (it's not like you're being tried for arson, after all): present photos, diagrams and other evidence, cross-examine the officer who wrote the ticket, explain to the judge why you did (or didn't) commit the offense. You can also ask for leniency.
Or you can retain Rick Silverman, or someone like him who specializes in fighting traffic violations. You are forgiven if you didn't know that such an animal existed. In fact, Silverman, 45, is just one of a dozen or so traffic ticket lawyers in the Bay area. (His website is floridatrafficguru.com.) He represents citizens who choose to contest citations for speeding, running red lights, fender benders and other moving violations. He stands up for as many as 60 clients a day, most of them not in court, and questions police behind the scenes and in front of a judge, argues the driver's side of the story and works to whittle down the penalty — to get the points tossed out, the fine reduced or save someone from taking the dreaded defensive driving school.
All for $99, if you get cited in Tampa. (Going to court for you all the way out in Plant City will cost you double. A Pinellas ticket, $250.)
He offers no guarantee of a satisfactory resolution but routinely comes away with one.
"If you have a lawyer, he's going to be able to organize the way you make your arguments," Silverman says, "throw out arguments that don't mean anything, pick the ones that do, and the lawyer knows the procedure of the court."
In particular, lawyers know how to challenge police documentation of any electronic devices that may have been used to measure your speed.
It has be a rigged game, right? A police officer stands at the podium and says he clocked you speeding and produces the radar number. Open and shut.
But watching a few hours of traffic court presided over by hearing officer Bill Foster dispels that notion. About 70,000 cases cross Foster's bench in a big, featureless courtroom in the Floriland Office Center off Busch Boulevard. He dispatches them like an ace short order cook, flipping through papers, multi-tasking, processing information, hearing testimony, issuing instantaneous decisions.
Foster has a poker player's demeanor: not an iota of flamboyance; he speaks in a monotone, swearing people in with Evelyn Wood efficiency.
"Tell d' truth, nun'b'd'truth?"
A woman stands up with her teenage daughter at one podium, the police officer at the other. The cop testifies that he caught her going 68 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone and that he was 258 feet away. She counters that no way she was going that fast — maybe five, 10 mph over the limit at the most; the flow of traffic wouldn't allow it.
"You're aware that you're admitting that you were speeding," Foster says flatly. The woman returns a blank look. "I'll give you the 45 to 50," Foster continues. "I won't fine you for the 68."
Foster's ruling has reduced the woman's fine from about $300 to $125 and probably shaved her points from four to three.
Tyrece Bennett, 31, does a lot of driving for his job as an installer. He's been accused of making a left turn from the right lane on Kennedy Boulevard. Bennett stands at the podium with his attorney, Mark Stallworth, and explains to Foster that he had no choice, that he was heading directly into a construction site and had nowhere else to go. The police officer's version of events comes off as a bit hazy. Foster listens to it all and then weighs in: "I live near there and know about that construction. I'll let you go this time. But next time if there's any doubt, don't make that kind of turn."
Bennett says later that he paid his lawyer $99, money well spent. "It's you against the law officer," he says. "The lawyer brings a reputation with the law. It's not just you against the judge and the officer. It evens the playing field."
Letter to an author whose article I didn't read all the way through: Because it…
When you see panhandlers this young, just remind yourself that foster kids age out of…
Don't go to gaspars cigar shop unless you know sign language or have an interpreter…
Scott u tickle the shit out if me and i thank you...when u gonna start…