Once upon a time, the Family Feud surveyed 100 people for the top answers on who to call when you are in trouble. Number 1 on the board? The police, of course. Number 3? Lawyers. What has yet to be discovered is a Family Feud survey asking for the top 10 adjectives used to describe lawyers (or police officers for that matter!) Over the years, this article does a fine job holding the feet of policeman and truckers to the fire. Now it’s time to dig into our other member occupation – lawyers.
A previous ITEA article was written regarding the lack of knowledge by police supervisors and why it is important for the ITEA to serve as a point of external accountability for truck officers. As a defendant travels down the road of criminal justice from roadside to jail, the knowledge of truck laws does not improve from the police station to the courthouse.
Do local prosecutors or state’s attorneys have a solid understanding of truck laws? Rarely. Do the judges, who were once the attorneys standing on the floor prosecuting or defending truckers have any clue? Again, rarely.
Similar to the career trajectory of police officers, few attorneys can fully devote themselves to truck defense. They need to represent clients charged with other types of crimes or take on civil work to pay the bills. This is not to say police officers or attorneys with other responsibilities cannot be masters of their craft. However, becoming a subject matter expert is difficult if the workload is thin and stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.
The cultural view of attorneys is a love/hate relationship. While most Americans will typically demonize defense attorneys with the words coming out of their mouth, they will not hesitate to call the phone number on that little card in their wallet when they are in trouble. Americans may call lawyers “liars” and denigrate them at every turn, yet TV shows and movies about legal work is a massive genre which never grows old.
Just as all police are seen as the enemy to the criminal element of society, in the eyes of law enforcement defense attorneys have the reputation of being the low of the low. They tear policemen apart on the stand. They introduce arguments to distract from the case at hand. They conduct themselves in loud and boisterous ways to turn the courtroom into a circus.
The unfortunate reality is attorneys like that are the exception to the rule. The same police officers who are quick to cast a wide net of judgment over all lawyers are the same police officers who quickly condemn the citizenry beating them up on social media. It’s the “few bad apples” argument.
The problem for police officers is wrapping their justice-seeking minds around the fact people, even those who are bad and deserving of consequence, can be professionally represented to beat the charges. What is aggravating to law enforcement is uninformed attorneys taking credible police work to task. What is infuriating is a court system which buys into it.
The reason the ITEA membership is open to lawyers is to prevent bad lawyering. This association works tirelessly to bring wayward truck officers to the middle. Similarly, the ITEA spends an inordinate amount of time training and resourcing truckers to be complaint with the law.
Does it not make perfect sense to do the same for the profession which serves as the third arm of the criminal justice system? Would it not be better for all parties involved to have competent prosecutors and defense attorneys rather than foolish ones?
No truck officer likes a defense attorney who beats them in court. The quality truck officer will look deep and ask if he beat himself by doing sloppy police work, or did he lose to an attorney who exploited the system? If the later, welcome to the real world. If the former, do better next time.
ITEA truck officers recognize they need good defense attorneys out there to hold them accountable for doing their job with excellence. When police officers cross all their T’s and dot all their I’s, it’s a tough case to beat.
The next three weeks, this blog will look at three aspects of lawyering typically seen in truck enforcement world…and it is going to get interesting!