1 Trucking Law Admissions of Guilt By Brian Del Gatto and Michaelle Jean-Pierre The Boomerang Effect of Traffic Citations The general idea of cause is that without which another thing, called the effect, cannot be. The final cause is that for the sake of which anything is done. George William Howard, 7th Earl of Carlisle, Lord Morpeth The laws of cause and effect govern the universe as we know it. A cause is the basis for an action or response, whereas the effect is what happens as a result of the cause. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This fundamental law established by Sir Isaac Newton is visible in every aspect of life including the disposition of traffic citations. According to Florence Shinn, The game of life is the game of boomerangs. The boomerang is a curved device that can be used as a weapon or for sport. Boomerangs are believed to be one of the first heavierthan- air flying machines ever invented by human beings. Once thrown, the boomerang travels in an elliptical path and eventually returns to its point of origin. Although not curved, a traffic citation issued as a result of a vehicular collision may eventually return in the form of a subsequent civil litigation for personal injury, cargo or property damage. The citation may have little effect or prove disastrous when defending a civil action related to the accident. Generally, when an accident occurs, one of the parties is issued a traffic citation (usually the big, bad, tractor- trailer). The citation demands a response within a certain time frame. The cited party will have to decide in which manner to respond to the ticket: pay the fine, plead guilty or contest the ticket. Not uncommonly, a longhaul driver or a transportation company would rather pay a fine than fight a citation. We suspect that law enforcement officers are aware of this and give the benefit of the doubt to the non-truck driver during an accident investigation. Statutes of limitations for personal injury, cargo or property damage expire at various points after the date of an accident, depending on the state involved. Thus, in almost all scenarios, the cited party would have to respond to the traffic citation well in advance of a notice of civil litigation. Here is where the boomerang effect comes into play. Depending on the state, evidence of the disposition and a guilty plea to a traffic citation may be admissible and utilized as a weapon against a transportation company and driver at trial. A jury may view the citation and guilty plea as an n Brian Del Gatto is the managing partner of the Connecticut office of Wilson Elser, an executive committee member, and chair of the Motor Transportation and Logistics Practice Group at the firm. He has a nationwide Transportation Practice and is a member of TLA, TIDA, DRI and other transport organizations. Michaelle Jean-Pierre is a transportation team associate in the Wilson Elser Connecticut office. She graduated from University of Pittsburgh in May, 2002, and Pace Law School in May n For The Defense n February DRI. All rights reserved.
2 indication of fault, which may ultimately result in a verdict for the plaintiff, and possibly support a punitive damage award. In the words of Stephen R. Covey, While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions. Consequences are governed by natural law. Once issued, a client must respond to a traffic citation. The cause is the issuance and disposition of the traffic citation. The manner in which a plea to the traffic citation plays out in a subsequent civil litigation is the effect. Depending on the type of plea, evidence of a traffic citation and its disposition may become a legal boomerang. Every transportation attorney responding to either an accident or defending a serious trucking mishap well after the event has come face-to-face with the laws of cause and effect. It is of the utmost importance in this situation that a transportation company, its driver, and under certain circumstances, the insurer, collaborate on how to respond to a citation. In our opinion, transportation companies should address pleading to a traffic citation much as they would address issues of post- accident drug and alcohol testing under the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations, which requires testing after accidents on drivers whose performance could have contributed to the accidents, as determined by a citation, and for all fatal accidents, even if a driver is not cited for a traffic infraction. 49 C.F.R Therefore, trucking companies should establish internal policy regarding pleadings to traffic citations. This article will focus mainly on noncriminal traffic citation issues surrounding the disposition of traffic tickets and their potential effect on subsequent civil litigation. Traffic Violations Traffic laws are generally adopted for the public s safety, to regulate the conduct of motor vehicle operators on state and local roadways and to protect against injuries from automobile collisions. State and local police issue traffic violations after motor vehicle accidents to drivers whom the police believe have caused or contributed to these accidents. Generally, a traffic citation states which law a driver violated and may contain a description of how the driver violated the law, as well as statements of the facts surrounding the incident. The citation also contains guidelines on how to respond to the citation. Normally, a driver may enter a plea by mail, pay a fine, or schedule a court date to appear before a judge, magistrate or hearing officer in connection with the traffic citation. Failure to respond to the citation may lead to a default judgment, an arrest and, in some cases, a suspended license. A traffic court s proceedings are usually short, and generally result in a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a negotiation between the prosecution and defense and sometimes the judge, depending on the jurisdiction that settles a dispute regarding an infraction. An example of a plea bargain is when a defendant pleads guilty to a traffic offense in exchange for payment of a fine. Often, transportation companies and their drivers accept plea bargains because of their convenience, for example, when faced with litigating at distances, or to avoid conducting trials. If a transportation company does not accept a plea bargain, a trial over the traffic ticket might ensue, and the penalties may be greater than the fine offered as part of the plea bargain. During a traffic citation trial, the prosecution and defense are permitted to introduce evidence to support their claims, such as issuing police officer testimony or witness testimony. The focus of traffic court trial is whether or not the accused did in fact violate the traffic ordinance. During the proceeding, generally the issues of negligence and damages are not litigated. Depending on the method of disposition and the nature of the plea that a defendant enters, a traffic court verdict may boomerang, years later, in subsequent civil litigation for personal injury arising from that motor vehicle accident. Guilty Plea as an Admission In every civil case, each party attempts to introduce evidence that causes prejudice to the other party or tends to prove its case either directly or circumstantially. Generally, all relevant evidence is admissible in trial unless there is a sound reason to exclude it. Evidence is relevant if it tends to make the existence of a fact that is consequential to determining an action more or less probable than would be the case without the evidence. Fed. R. Evid However, not all relevant evidence is admissible. Relevant evidence may be deemed inadmissible if its probative value is outweighed by the danger that it will unfairly prejudice the other side. Fed. R. Evid Typically, a party s assertion or conduct that is inconsistent with that party s position at trial may be offered into evidence A driver or the company that controls decision making should think twice prior to pleading guilty to a traffic citation as a knee-jerk reaction. against that party as an admission. Fed. R. Evid The admission can only be used against the person who made the statement. Basile v. Huntington Utilities Fuel, 400 N.Y.S.2d 150 (N.Y. App. Div. 1977). Further, an admission must appear to be against the interest of the declarant at the time of trial. Admissions are generally admissible in court because it is improbable that a party will admit anything adverse unless it is true. Cox v. State, 3 N.Y.2d 693, , 177 N.Y.S.2d 818 (N.Y. 1958); Reed v. McCord, 160 N.Y. 330, 54 N.E. 737 (N.Y. 1899). Depending on the jurisdiction, a guilty plea in response to a traffic infraction may be admissible against the declarant in civil litigation arising from the same occurrence as an admission against interest or as an admission by a party- opponent. Beale v. Speck, 127 Idaho 521, 530 (Idaho Ct. App. 1995). While some courts find traffic citation pleas unreliable evidence, several courts have admitted guilty pleas as evidence to support an issue. In Ryan v. Westgard, the Washington Court of Appeals held that guilty pleas for traffic offenses were admissible in subsequent civil litigation as statements against interest. Ryan v. Westgard, 530 P.2d 687 (Wash. Ct. App. 1975). For The Defense n February 2010 n 19
3 Trucking Law The court in Ryan stated that a plea of guilty to the negligent driving charge could be brought in to show the defendant s admission of negligence on his part at the time in question. It is true that the defendant faces a hard choice in whether to plead guilty to a charge that may be presented later in a civil case as an admission against himself or face the possibility It is not uncommon for people to plead guilty to traffic charges for reasons of convenience or expediency. 20 n For The Defense n February 2010 of conviction of a charge that may expose him to greater penalties. The choice is his, however, to be made in the face of the risks involved; and he must face the consequences of his choice. Id. at *695. There, the defendant was able to explain his reasons for pleading guilty and the jury was free to accept or reject his explanation. In Jacobs v. Goodspeed, the defendant, a driver who pled guilty to a citation for following too closely in violation of Connecticut Statute , also admitted to the same conduct in his motor vehicle accident report. Jacobs v. Goodspeed, 429 A.2d 915 (Conn. 1980). In Jacobs, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the defendant s guilty plea to the traffic infraction was an admission tending to prove his negligence, as was his statement in the motor vehicle accident report. Id. However, such admissions are not conclusive on the issue of negligence. Id. See also Beale v. Speck, 127 Idaho 521, 530 (Idaho Ct. App. 1995). As the court stated in Beale, The party against whom the evidence is offered is free to explain the circumstances under which the guilty plea was entered, and the jury, as the trier of fact, shall determine the weight to which that explanation is entitled. Beale v. Speck, 127 Idaho 521, 530 (Idaho Ct. App. 1995). In Jacobs, the defendant was able to minimize the boomerang effect by offering evidence explaining his position. In addition to the defendant s admissions, the jury considered evidence of adverse weather conditions, conflicting testimony regarding speed and allegations of third-party negligence. Fortunately for the defendant, the jury was able to weigh the guilty plea against all other evidence and enter a verdict for the defendant. Notwithstanding Jacobs or Ryan, evidence of a guilty plea may be interpreted as an admission of negligence, thereby undermining a defendant s introduction of circumstantial evidence when defending a case. Even though a defendant has the opportunity to explain the reasons for entering a guilty plea, it is up to the jury to determine the weight of the evidence. Thus, a driver or the company that controls decision making should think twice prior to pleading guilty to a traffic citation as a knee-jerk reaction. Guilty Plea as Evidence of Liability In New Jersey, evidence of a defendant s traffic offense- related guilty plea is admissible in a civil suit to establish liability arising from the same accident. Eaton v. Eaton, 575 A.2d 858 (N.J. 1990). However, it does not conclusively prove an offense. The party who entered the plea is allowed to present evidence to persuade a jury not to interpret the guilty plea as evidence of negligence. A defendant may want to present carefully crafted evidence that a plea was merely a compromise or entered for expediency or convenience to avoid the cost of contesting the charge. Regardless, a guilty plea coupled with circumstantial evidence surrounding an accident, may afford a plaintiff a basis for a favorable ruling on a motion for summary judgment. In McGraw v. Ranieri, for instance, the plaintiff moved for summary judgment citing the defendant s guilty plea to a traffic infraction. McGraw v. Ranieri, 608 N.Y.S.2d 577 (N.Y. App. Div. 1994). The New York Appellate Court in McGraw noted that the defendant s guilty plea was evidence of negligence and an admission that the defendant did act as charged. McGraw is an example of a case in which a plaintiff used a defendant s guilty plea as an evidentiary weapon in a summary judgment motion, cutting off the defendant s opportunity to rebut or explain the circumstances surrounding the guilty plea to a jury. Id. However, in New Jersey and some other states, a defendant can plead guilty with a civil reservation, or something similar, during traffic court proceedings, to prohibit a plaintiff from introducing a guilty plea as evidence in subsequent civil litigation. A civil reservation is a specific reservation made on behalf of a defendant opposing the use of a guilty plea in a civil suit. On a defendant s request, a court can order that a guilty plea will not serve as admissible evidence in any civil proceeding. N.J. Court 7:6-2(a)(1). This procedure allows a defendant driver to offensively combat the effect of pleading guilty to a traffic infraction in the event that a plaintiff subsequently files a civil suit. Guilty Pleas in Open Court In states such as Arkansas, Maryland and Texas, when a driver physically appears in court and knowingly and voluntarily pleads guilty to a traffic infraction, this evidence may be admissible in a subsequent civil litigation arising from the same occurrence. In addition, transcripts of the proceedings may be used. The reasons for admitting this evidence varies by jurisdiction. For example, in Dedman v. Porch, the Supreme Court of Arkansas held that evidence that a motorist had been cited for failure to yield the right-of-way and that he paid the ticket rather than appear in court, was not admissible as a statement against interest in a subsequent property damage action. Dedman v. Porch, 739 S.W.2d 685 (Ark. 1987). The court reasoned that the only proper evidence relating to a traffic violation conviction is a party s guilty plea in open court. Similarly, in Cox v. Bohman, the Texas Court of Appeals, held that unless a plea of guilty to a traffic offense was made in open court, according to law, evidence of such guilty plea is not admissible in a civil suit for damages arising out of negligence giving rise to the charge. Cox v. Bohman, 683 S.W.2d 757, 759 (Tex. App. 1984). In Maryland, an admission of guilt in open court is admissible as evidence in civil litigation arising from the same accident. The probative value is deemed to outweigh the potential, prejudicial effect of a guilty plea on a jury. Maryland courts
4 have consistently held that admissions of guilt in open court are far more probative than a questionable acknowledgment of culpability that might be inferred from paying a preset fine in lieu of going to court. Briggeman v. Albert, 586 A.2d 15, 18 (Md. 1991). Hence, like a boomerang, a guilty plea in open court may return as evidence of negligence or as an admission against the declarant in a subsequent civil proceeding. Withdrawn Guilty Plea A defendant can later withdraw a guilty plea based on due process grounds; however, the withdrawn guilty plea could still resurface as evidence in a civil trial. In Cohens v. Hess, the defendant received a traffic infraction citation for failure to yield the right-of-way while making a left turn. Cohens v. Hess, 92 N.Y.2d 511 (N.Y. 1998). Approximately two weeks after the incident, the defendant pled guilty in Geneva City Court in New York for failure to obey a traffic- control device and was fined 75 dollars. Nearly three years after the defendant entered his plea, and six months after the plaintiff commenced a personal injury action, the defendant returned to Geneva City Court accompanied by his attorney and successfully moved the court to allow him to withdraw his previously entered guilty plea, and the court vacated the conviction. In support of his position, the defendant claimed that his earlier decision to enter the plea was not made with the advice of legal counsel. Because the defendant s motion went unopposed by the local district attorney, the Geneva City Court permitted the defendant to withdraw his plea and vacated the conviction. During the civil trial, the plaintiff tried to use the vacated plea to impeach the defendant s testimony on cross- examination. However, the trial court did not permit the plaintiff to introduce evidence of the vacated plea, shielding the defendant from the boomerang effect. Despite the trial court s ruling, the Court of Appeals of New York held that the withdrawn plea was admissible but that the defendant could offer his reasons for the withdrawn plea. The court reasoned that because a guilty plea to a traffic violation is admissible as proof of negligence in a subsequent civil litigation, a similar rule could apply in this case. The Cohens decision suggests that guilty pleas vacated on constitutional or statutory grounds would be inadmissible. Conversely, in other jurisdictions, such as Colorado, evidence of a plea of guilty, later withdrawn is not admissible in any civil or criminal action, case, or proceeding against the person who made the plea or offer. Colo. R. of Evid Guilty Pleas to Impeach In New York, a non- criminal traffic infraction and the penalty or punishment imposed cannot be used to affect or impair the convicted person s credibility as a witness. Ando v. Woodberry, 168 N.E.2d 520 (N.Y. 1960). However, a plaintiff can use the fact that a defendant pled guilty to a traffic offense as a prior inconsistent statement to impeach testimony concerning negligence. Cohens v. Hess, 705 N.E.2d 1202 (N.Y. 1998). The defendant is permitted an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the guilty plea. Then the jury will evaluate the testimony and decide the weight of the plea. This may have a detrimental effect on the defense of the civil action. Guilty Pleas Governed by Statute Each state has its own procedures regarding admissibility of traffic citations. In Colorado, Florida, Maine, Minnesota and Oregon, statutes govern the admissibility of traffic infraction guilty pleas. Under Oregon statutes, a guilty plea in response to a criminal traffic citation is admissible as an admission against interest, whereas when the offense is a noncriminal traffic infraction, a guilty plea is inadmissible. Ryan v. Ohm, 593 P.2d 1296 (Or. Ct. App. 1979). In Maine, evidence of a defendant s admission to a traffic infraction of imprudent speeding is precluded by statute, which renders it inadmissible as an admission by party- opponent in subsequent civil litigation. Theriault v. Swan, 558 A.2d 369, 370 (Me. 1989). Under Florida law, no one can introduce an admission of guilt to a traffic infraction as evidence in any other proceeding. Carter v. Rukab, 437 So. 2d 761, (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1983). Similarly, the Minnesota statute excludes pleas of guilt in traffic matters from being admitted into evidence in civil litigation. Within these five states, transportation companies, their drivers and the attorneys who defend them may be relieved to know that pleading guilty to a non- criminal traffic infraction will not boomerang, prejudicing cases. Courts will not admit a non- criminal guilty plea as evidence during subsequent civil litigation. Nolo Contendere Pleas A plea of nolo contendere permits the accused to neither admit nor deny committing the crime or infractions charged. Instead, he or she can simply consent to a punishment. Generally, a court will not permit a plaintiff to use evidence of a plea of nolo contendere as an admission of guilt in a subsequent civil trial. However, not all states offer the accused the option of pleading nolo contendere. Some courts have argued that a plea of nolo contendere should be admissible as an admission by conduct. As a form of circumstantial evidence, an act inconsistent with a party s trial claim may be shown as an admission. It is argued that the payment of a traffic fine is an implied admission that the defendant committed the act charged and, therefore, should be admissible. Conversely, it has been noted that pleas of nolo contendere may be entered for reasons of expediency or convenience and without much regard to guilt. Even though a plea may be regarded as an implied admission, its inconclusive and ambiguous nature dictates that it should be given no currency beyond the particular case in which it was entered. Lawrence v. Kozlowski, 372 A.2d 110 (Conn. 1976). Various jurisdictions have held that a plea of nolo contendere is inadmissible as either an admission by conduct or a verbal admission, even if followed by a finding of guilty and the imposition of a fine or other penalty. Casalo v. Claro, 165 A.2d 153 (Conn. 1960). Similarly, the mere payment of a fine without proof of a plea is not an admission, either verbal or by conduct. Id. Courts take into consideration the fact that most people tend to pay traffic fines by mail without intending to admit guilt. Accordingly, in those jurisdictions, the payment of a traffic fine is not considered a guilty plea or an express acknowledgment of guilt, but is considered equivalent to a plea of nolo contendere. La Rue v. Archer, 130 Idaho 267, 270 (Idaho Ct. App. 1997); For The Defense n February 2010 n 21
5 Trucking Law Admissibility of the Disposition of Traffic Citations Selected States Depending on the jurisdiction, the disposition of a traffic citation may ultimately affect the resolution of a civil action arising out of an accident. Below is a summary of certain state-specific rules regarding the admissibility of the disposition of traffic citations. State Alabama Arizona Arkansas Connecticut Delaware Georgia Maryland Michigan Nebraska New York Ohio Pennsylvania Tennessee Admissibility of Traffic Infractions in Subsequent Civil Litigation interest or an admission by a party opponent and creates rebuttable presumption of negligence, which may be explained at trial. A guilty plea to a traffic infraction is generally not admissible in a subsequent civil action. Evidence of guilty plea to traffic citation is admissible as some evidence of negligence, but a driver may explain reasons for guilty plea to jury at trial. A guilty plea to a traffic infraction is generally not admissible in a subsequent civil action. Hannah v. Ike Topper Structural Steel, 201 N.E.2d 63 (Ohio Ct. App. 1963). For instance, in Maryland, courts do not consider traffic fines paid either by mail or personally as the evidentiary equivalent of a guilty plea in open court. Instead, Maryland courts consider this consent to conviction. It is a well established rule in Maryland that a conviction, even by consent, is not admissible to prove liability in a subsequent civil action. Briggeman v. Albert, 586 A.2d at 17. The probative value is outweighed by its prejudicial effect, because a jury could possibly substitute the opinion of the issuing police offer or the traffic judge for its own. Other states, such as New Mexico and Oklahoma, have held that evidence of a traffic fine payment is inadmissible without an affirmative showing that a traffic fine was paid because the defendant believed him or herself guilty. Turner v. Silver, 587 P.2d 966 (N.M. Ct. App. 1978). In Turner v. Silver, the New Mexico Court of Appeals held that a traffic citation for obstructing traffic was admissible because the defendant understood that he was guilty of the charge. Id. The court also held that a party who is charged with a traffic offense and pays a fine because he or she understood or thought that he or she was guilty, is akin to a party who pleads guilty. It constitutes an admission against interest and is admissible evidence. Id. Additionally, in Walker v. Forrester, the appellee received a traffic citation for failure to devote attention to driving, which she paid by mail. Walker v. Forrester, 764 P.2d 1337 (Okla. 1988). The Supreme Court of Oklahoma stated that the case record did not contain proof that the appellee pled guilty to the traffic citation. To the contrary, in the appellee s deposition, she stated that she simply mailed the fine to the municipal clerk. Her deposition testimony was similar to a plea of nolo contendere. Accordingly, the court held that this evidence was only admissible in a subsequent civil proceeding when the defendant voluntarily and knowingly entered a plea of guilty to the traffic citation. Id. Collateral Estoppel Collateral estoppel is an affirmative defense used when an issue of ultimate fact has been determined by a valid and final judgment. Consequently, the issue cannot be relitigated between the same parties or their privies in subsequent litigation. Stevenson v. Wright, 273 Neb. 789, 793 (Neb. 2007). Collateral estoppel generally requires that: (1) the cases have identical facts and issues; (2) a court issued a final judgment on the merits in the previous case; and (3) the party against whom the plea is asserted must have been a party to or in privity with a party to the prior adjudication. Hadley v. Maxwell, 27 P.3d 600, 602 (Wash. 2001). Most jurisdictions have held that it is inappropriate to apply collateral estoppel to minor traffic offenses because of the little incentive to vigorously contest cases with small or nominal damages at stake. Id. It is not uncommon for people to plead guilty to traffic charges for reasons of convenience or expediency even though they may believe that they are innocent. The best example is the long-haul transport driver who would lose more wages contesting a traffic citation than the fine is worth. Needless to say, expediency wins out. Furthermore, traffic court proceedings often end in conviction by consent rather than by trial, thus depriving a defendant of a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issues involved in a traffic citation. For example, in Stevenson v. Wright, the Supreme Court of Nebraska noted that the traffic court proceedings only adjudicated whether the defendant operated his vehicle in a careless, reckless or negligent manner, whereas the civil trial raised issues of negligence and contributory negligence. Stevenson v. Wright, 273 Neb. 789 (Neb. 2007). 22 n For The Defense n February 2010
6 There, collateral estoppel was precluded because the issues were not identical, and the defendant s prior conviction did not derive from full and fair litigation. See also, State v. Gusman, 874 P.2d 1112, 1117 (Idaho 1994) (refusing to give collateral estoppel effect to license suspension hearings because they lack a full and fair opportunity to litigate); Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 329 (1979) (holding disincentive to vigorously contest cases with small or nominal damages at stake could be a reason not to apply collateral estoppel); Beale v. Speck, 903 P.2d 110, 119 (Idaho Ct. App. 1995) (holding collateral estoppel for convictions on misdemeanor traffic offenses generally inappropriate except perhaps for guilty pleas in open court); Rice v. Massalone, 554 N.Y.S.2d 294 (N.Y. App. Div. 1990) (holding that collateral estoppel was inappropriate after an administrative determination of liability for a traffic accident); Byrd v. People, 58 P.3d 50, 55 (Colo. 2002) (holding that the lesser consequences and procedures involved in infraction proceedings simply did not warrant the reliability necessary for estoppel to apply); Render v. City of Southfield, 2007 WL (Mich. Ct. App. 2007) (holding that evidence of a conviction on a charge of a traffic violation was not proof of civil liability because the elements of proximate causation and comparative negligence, which are fully examined in a civil action, are not adequately considered in traffic violation proceedings); Marotta v. Hoy, No. 8232, slip op. at 3, N.Y.S.2d 415, 417 (N.Y. App. Div. 2008) (holding that a determination concerning a traffic violation should not have collateral estoppel effect in a subsequent negligence action). As the procedures used to adjudicate traffic infractions are informal, most courts refuse to apply collateral estoppel, which would limit a full and fair consideration of the issue in a civil action. Regardless of whether a defendant was found guilty or acquitted during traffic court proceedings, the issues surrounding the traffic infraction may be re- litigated in a subsequent civil action. Thus, a traffic court verdict does not bind the parties in a subsequent civil action for personal injuries, and the defendant will have an opportunity to relitigate the issues surrounding the traffic infraction. Conclusion It is an enduring truth, which can never be altered, that every infraction of the Law of nature must carry its punitive consequences with it. We can never get beyond that range of cause and effect. Thomas Troward Regarding transport accidents, defense counsel will want to consider whether evidence of the disposition of a traffic citation will be used against defendants in subsequent civil litigation for personal injury. With proper planning and by offering sound legal advice, counsel can limit or eliminate the effects on trucking companies and drivers in civil actions. Advise clients that they will want to review applicable state statutes and common law prior to responding to a traffic citation. If we can take away the cause guilty pleas in turn, the effect will cease. It is imperative that defense counsel and trucking- related clients consider the civil ramifications preceding a traffic citation payment or before entering a guilty plea. As each jurisdiction maintains its own specific laws, advise clients to consult with an attorney regarding possible civil liability prior to responding to traffic citations and that transportation companies would be wise to establish a consistent policy on responding to both criminal and non- criminal citations. For The Defense n February 2010 n 23