While sitting around in a Westchester County courtroom waiting for my client’s traffic ticket case to be called one morning, I noticed a young Marine in uniform sitting close by holding some documents. Like most non-attorneys, he looked uncomfortable being unfamiliar with the procedure and the inevitable “hurry up and wait” that is endemic to court appearances. It can get quite frustrating waiting around long after the announced start time before speeding ticket and similar cases are finally called. The rooms are often crowded and the seats are uncomfortable. No one waiting is in a good mood.
Negotiating with the Prosecutor
The procedure followed in most traffic ticket cases in Westchester or Rockland County is to have the driver’s attorney meet with the prosecutor and attempt to negotiate a plea bargain to a lesser charge. For example, if the person received a speeding ticket, the attorney will try to get the charge lowered to a non-moving violation, or failing that, to a lesser speed with lower points. The case is then sent to the judge to either approve the deal or if not, to explain what charge the Judge would accept.
Disobeying a Traffic Control Device
My client’s case was a simple traffic infraction. My client was charged with disobeying a traffic control device in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law 1110. A conviction under this section would lead to the imposition of 2 points on my client’s license, along with a fine and state surcharge. My job was to appear in court and see if I could arrange for a plea bargain to a zero point offense. By hiring me, my client was spared the long wait in court and lost time from work.
Finally, the court began. The clerk called the attorney represented cases first–much to the chagrin of the rest of the audience. The conference was held and the prosecutor agreed to reduce the charge to the zero point offense that I had sought. Mission accomplished.
My turn to serve a Marine who is serving our Country
I then told the prosecutor that there was an active duty Marine whose case was on the calendar and asked that his case be called next. The prosecutor agreed. The Marine seemed surprised when his name was called. I introduced myself to the Marine and offered him my services. I told him that it would be my privilege to represent him pro bono. I negotiated the same deal for the Marine that I had just obtained for my client. We were then sent down to see the judge and have the plea placed on the record.
While waiting for the Judge, I learned that my newest client had just learned that he was to become a father. He had served one tour of duty overseas and was going to re-enlist for another tour. He had traveled up from his base in North Carolina to deal with this situation and was returning that same day. You could see in his eyes and by the tone of his voice that he was so proud that he would be a father. I told this Marine how much I appreciated his service to our country. The least that I could do in return was to provide my services and no, I was not going to accept any payment.
We appeared before the Judge and placed the disposition on the record. The disposition was accepted and the matter was concluded. We shook hands and wished each other well. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to help out a member of our country’s armed forces.
Two Happy Clients
Back in my office, I contacted my client to report what had transpired. My client was pleased with the result, but even more pleased that I had assisted the Marine. My client saw the silver lining in the misfortune of having received a ticket. It was mornings like this that make me really enjoy what I do.