Cindy Speaker: Afternoon, and welcome to our show today. My name is Cindy Speaker, and I have with me today attorney Karen Byrnes-Noon of Michael J. O’Connor & Associates. Karen, thanks with being with us today.
Karen B.: Well, thank you, Cindy, for having me.
Cindy Speaker: Absolutely. Well, Karen, we’re going to talk today about getting pulled over by the police, which is just scary in and of itself, but let me ask initially, what should someone do if they do get pulled over by the police?
Karen B.: Well, the first thing that we tell people is, never give the police a hard time. I understand that you might think that you didn’t do anything wrong, or you might think that whatever indication that the officer says you did wrong, you don’t believe that. You have rights. There’s no question about that. You do have rights, but the police also have a say, basically, into what’s going to happen to you down the road. It’s called discretion, and if you give the police a hard time, that’s one of the things that a judge might take into consideration when you’re in front of a judge later on, so we always tell people, “We understand. You have rights. Don’t give the police a hard time, and if you don’t, then it makes it, quite frankly, easier to, number one, present your case in front of a judge at some later point in time, or negotiate your case at some point later in time.” That’s the number one thing we always tell people is just, “Don’t do that.”
Then the other thing is that if you do get pulled over, before you do anything, before you sign anything other than acknowledging the fact that you are receiving a citation, then you need to talk to an attorney.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. That’s interesting, so even if it’s just a speeding ticket, you still need to talk to an attorney?
Karen B.: Yes. We believe so for a variety of different reasons. First of all, in Pennsylvania, there are other, how can I say, collateral consequences that can happen to you depending on the amount of speed that you are clocked at going over. If you are over a certain amount, you can lose your license. You can get points on your license. There are so many different things that can happen. If you don’t give the police a hard time, and you call us, many times we are able to negotiate with the police officer to get it to a point where there are no points, there’s no license suspension, and it’s a fine. I’m not saying that’s a good thing that you have to pay money. I’m certainly not saying that, but it’s certainly better than not, than having points on your license or a suspension.
The other thing, too, is that perhaps you had witnesses. If you have witnesses that were with you and it’s not like a speeding ticket, some other type of summary, there very well might be a defense to this. If you call an attorney right away and we give the court notice that you’re going to defend this, we have been successful in that, so it’s important to, no matter if it’s a speeding ticket, no matter what type of summary ticket it is, we always tell people they should call, talk to an attorney before they file any type of guilty plea.
Cindy Speaker: Okay, and how much does it cost, like if they call you, how much is that going to cost them?
Karen B.: Well, the initial consultation is always free, and it obviously depends on where you’re going to … We do go to a variety of different counties, so it does depend on which county you are in, but it also depends on the severity of your particular situation. If you have one speeding ticket, then it is perhaps one price, but if you have three or four violations, then obviously you’re facing more research. You’re facing more arguments from, that we have to get ready for and prepare for, so it does depend on the citation, and it depends on what you’re allegedly charged with, and it also depends on where you are, where you received the citation from, what county.
Cindy Speaker: Well, Karen, is there anything else we should know about? Speeding tickets, that’s probably, I would guess, the most common thing you run into.
Karen B.: We do run into quite a number of speeding tickets, but one of the things that I did want to mention is that a lot of times, people call here and they’ve already pled guilty to a particular citation and they haven’t, they did talk to an attorney before they pled guilty. When they do that, as I mentioned, there are collateral consequences, as I had mentioned earlier, and if you don’t appeal something within a certain amount of time, then your appeal rights are gone, so we have … We tell people you have to worry about the underlining conviction. For instance, if you are convicted of an offense that has a license suspension, and they call us when they get the letter from PennDOT, saying, “My license is going to be suspended starting February the 13th, which is two days from now,” and I’ll say, “Well, the problem is that the underlining conviction, your timeframe for appealing that is over. You can-”
Cindy Speaker: Wow.
Karen B.: “You can try to get an extension from PennDOT, but my answer is, did you ever try to call PennDOT? Did you ever try to deal with it? It’s a bureaucracy, and it’s very difficult to get that done.” We tell people that, going back to one of the first things I said, is if you get a ticket before you plead guilty, you should review that with an attorney because of the fact that, as I mentioned, you can have other, we refer to them as collateral consequences such as a driver suspension or points, and we’re trying to avoid that for you. We’re trying to see what would be in your best interest. Not always do people say, “I’m not pleading guilty to this, I want a hearing,” and that’s fine. That’s fine. You are entitled to that hearing, but we have to try to get as much information about your case from the officer prior to the hearing date, and that is why it’s important to call us pretty much right away, as best, as soon as possible.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Let me understand. Are you actually saying that there are instances where these collateral consequences may be unknown to the person that committed them until it’s almost too late?
Karen B.: Yes, and the thing is, is that, one, if you walk into, and anybody, and I hope that people have never been to a magisterial district judge, but most people have, and they’ll see on the window, or the police officer, they don’t, are not supposed to give legal advice. They can’t tell a person who’s pleading guilty to something … The judge might say, “Oh, did you check to see whether there is a license suspension? Did you check to see whether there’s other … ” Of course, they’re so nervous that they just plead guilty, because they think they want to get it over with, but sometimes, it just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, there are other things that are going to happen to that person, such as a license suspension or the points on their license, and nobody …
I mean, the judge doesn’t specifically have to say that. He can say, or she can say, “There might be other consequences here,” and they’ve performed their obligations, and the officer is certainly not, doesn’t have to tell the person that, so that’s the reason why we say the only person who’s really working for you in your behalf is your attorney. That’s why it’s so important … I mean, I cannot tell you how many times we’ll get phone calls from people who say, “Well, my license suspension begins in two days,” and there, unfortunately, there really is very little we can do to help them.
Cindy Speaker: Wow. Wow. Well, the moral of the story is, check with an attorney.
Karen B.: Absolutely. That is definitely the moral of the-
Cindy Speaker: That’s-
Karen B.: … story, is to check-
Cindy Speaker: … scary.
Karen B.: … with an attorney very soon after you’ve received the citation.
Cindy Speaker: Okay.
Karen B.: As I said, I understand that people get upset when they get pulled over. It’ll happens to all of us, but it’s best not to give the officer a hard time. Do whatever he or she says. Now, within limits of the law, because I understand that there are certain things that are totally inappropriate, but that’s a whole other … It’s a whole other Cindy Speaker type of-
Cindy Speaker: Episode.
Karen B.: … legal analysis. I’m sorry?
Cindy Speaker: Episode.
Karen B.: Yes, it’s a whole other episode, but just as I said, to make sure that they do call an attorney within a very short time, because if not, then you do have rights, but they are only within a very short time window.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Yeah. Well, Karen, if someone wants to reach out to you and your office, how can they do that?
Karen B.: Well, they can either call us, which is at 570-874-3300. We also have, and I do have to check, it’s, because I don’t normally call the 1-800 number.
Cindy Speaker: Of course.
Karen B.: It’s 1-800-518-4LAW, 1-800-518-4LAW, and we also have a website, which is www, OConnorLaw.com, and we have, very fortunate here, we have intake individuals who will initially take some information from them, and then we set up a phone conference with the attorney who is best suited to handle this type of inquiry.
Cindy Speaker: Excellent. Well, Karen, thanks for being with us today.
Karen B.: Well, thank you. I appreciate your time.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. To those of you that are watching either live or by replay, feel free to leave your questions, comments right on this page. We’ll get them answered for you and respond to them. Thanks, everybody.
Karen B.: Okay. Thank you.
Cindy Speaker: Have a great day.