Lawyering Part 4: Scruples
Every great artist gets their start somewhere. Some start out as gang members tagging walls and railroad cars. Others start out at the carnival drawing big head caricatures of visitors. When real people conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the stereotype of their profession, they are a caricature of what the good people in their career field represent. Just like there are bad apple police officers and truckers, there are unscrupulous trucking defense attorneys out there too.
In Illinois, the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission oversees all attorneys practicing law in Illinois. If lawyers are dirty, it’s the ARDC who will take action. Not all bad behaviors and complaints will be decided by the ARDC, but attorneys are required to conduct themselves according to their rules and regulations.
It’s the American dream and the right of every citizen to work as hard as they want to earn as much as they can. The problem is how people earn their success, not the mere fact they are successful. Many people take shortcuts to the top, and typically those are the people who fall the hardest. Some find a golden parachute without much effort, but the vast majority of successful people labor to the top.
Hats off to the lawyer who is out there pounding pavement each day drumming up work. Similar to how the public expects the police to work hard (according to the law), the public should expect the same from officers of the court. Unfortunately, some attorneys take shortcuts to find clients.
There’s nothing wrong with a defense attorney who wants to defend overweight citations. It’s perfectly okay for him to go to the courthouse, look up every overweight vehicle defendant cited and contact them reference their legal services. This is common practice is criminal defense world.
What the same defense attorney should be never do is solicit work in this manner using bold faced lies and fear mongering tactics. Below is the text of a solicitation letter by an attorney, sent to an ITEA trucking member, after they received an overweight citation:
“My name is (name deleted), and I am a local traffic violation defense attorney. A recent review of public traffic records indicates that you were recently charged with Overweight on Bridge which is a moving traffic violation. Depending on your prior offenses, this could be considered a Class C misdemeanor or petty violation under the laws of the State of Illinois and is a moving traffic violation. In addition to your fine, you could also receive five (5) to fifty (50) points on your driving record.”
This one paragraph is the handiwork of an unscrupulous defense attorney using fear, lies and blatant disregard for the plain language of law to solicit clientele. Who knows how many truckers he bamboozled to make a quick buck. It’s a disgrace and here’s why:
• Overweight is a “moving traffic violation”: First of all, there is no legal definition of a “moving violation” which you can read about in previous articles by the ITEA by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE. In the case of Catom v Chicago, the Appellate Court ruled overweights are a moving violation, but that does not mean overweights have a negative impact on a driver’s CDL. Quite the contrary.
• “…prior offenses could be considered a Class C misdemeanor”: This is a straight up lie. Only once in 625 ILCS 5/15-10, the size and weight section of the Illinois Vehicle Code, is the word misdemeanor ever mentioned. This is in reference to load securement for steel coils. That’s it. There is no such thing as a misdemeanor overweight for multiple violations.
• Drivers could receive “five (5) to fifty (50) points” on their record: Again, flat out lie. Apparently this attorney has never read the Illinois Vehicle Code or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. In both of those authoritative codes regulating CDL holders, overweights are never once mentioned as serious traffic violations which receive points. In the ACD (AAMVA Code Dictionary), which is used by every state licensing agency (Illinois Secretary of State), overweights are not assigned points.
If you are a lawyer reading this, the ITEA hopes you would never stoop to the disgusting level of this attorney. Don’t be the stereotype or caricature of your profession. There’s better ways to earn your living. If you are the trucker, don’t believe everything you read.