Beating a Speeding Ticket: This is TERRIBLE advice.

If you are looking for a video with some absolutely horrendous legal advice, I have just the thing for you. You can thank me later. Here it is:

Please don’t watch it. I did. If you watch it you’ll be less likely to have any idea what to do in court. I watched it and now I’m not even sure I know what I’m doing in court. Over 111k people who aren’t me have also watched it.

America, you scare me.

Going no farther than the preview image, give me 3 minutes (or less) of your time to explain why this video will hurt your chances in court:

  1. Be Nice

This is actually good advice. Be nice to the clerks, the bailiffs, the front door security… no matter how grumpy they are to you. Being a jerk will never help.

2. Talk to the police before your trial.

OH. HELL. NO.

Look, it’s very possible you could have a good, constructive dialogue with the cop. It’s also very possible you’re about to admit things to the cop you shouldn’t and that will be used against you if the case goes to trial.

Think about it like this: You already talked to the cop when you got the ticket. How did that work out for you?

Yes, she/he was nice. Yes, they are probably still nice. No, the case isn’t going away because the nice person was nice to you and you were nice back.

Have you ever thought about the fact that that trained, nice officer can probably use that niceness to talk you into taking a deal that might not be your best deal (and make you feel good about it in the process)?

Am I saying they’re manipulative? No. I’m saying they know their way around the system. You don’t. You won’t talk them into doing something they don’t want to do.

Am I saying to ignore or be a jerk to them? No. See point 1. above.

Don’t believe me? Google search “should I talk to the police” and let a million other lawyers explain it to you.

3. Dress nicely.

Won’t hurt. Could possibly backfire if you’re dressed too nicely. Better to look good than not good, though.

4. Pleading guilty early will reduce your fine.

YOUR WHAT HURTS?

Look, I know there are situations where mailing in a ticket with a plea of guilty might result in less financial pain, but this is TERRIBLE advice. In Illinois, anyway, mailing in a plea of guilty will also result in your having to do a minimum of 4 hours of traffic school, or taking a conviction (which will likely effect your insurance rates).

Often times you can avoid that minimum 4 hour traffic school and/or conviction in court.

Am I telling you to NOT plead guilty early? Not at all. I’m telling you that the blanket advice to plead guilty early to avoid higher fines is terrible.

(especially if you go to trial and win, in which case the fines are zero- a number likely lower than you’ll get on an early plea)

5. The police officer can remove counts.

Are you guys even seeing this crazy nonsense? The officer’s chance to remove counts happens when she or he writes you those tickets. Did those tickets already end up in court? Yeah? They did? Cool.

Now that officer is going to waive a magic wand for you? Gotcha. Keep on believing. Forget that the judge and prosecutor have any say (the final say).

6. If you’re going to go to trial don’t confess.

I changed his language on this but it’s not terrible by itself. Although you’d be better off if you didn’t confess to anybody at any point.

7. Delaying Court.

If you watch the video he talks about how delaying things may end up with the officer switching departments, moving away, etc and being unable to testify at your trial. That’s true.

Since we’re talking about traffic tickets, how much of your own time do you want to waste waiting for an officer who may work there another 20 years to not work there? How many vacation days are you willing to burn playing this game?

All of them? Cool. Odds are the judge will tire of your requests for delay before the officer disappears. Maybe not. Take your shot if you’re feeling lucky (and don’t value your own time enough to think sitting in a courtroom for half a day, several times, is a waste of money).

8. Police officer not present.

The case might get dropped (depending on the type of ticket) if the cop is unavailable to come to the trial. If it’s not set for trial the cop doesn’t have to be there.

None of this is really advice. If you know how to make a cop have better things to do than to show up at your traffic ticket trial, good for you. Most officers like their jobs and won’t randomly miss trial dates. And most traffic court dates aren’t for trial.

9. Be prepared.

Be the best little boy scout you can be. Not totally terrible advice.

10. Request documents.

This is a great point. You can use something like FOIA to get the legal documents for your case. You can also ask the prosecutor, who might (but doesn’t always have to) give them to you.

You can also look at the ticket the cop gave you because unless you REALLY screwed up the only document there is to get is the ticket.

Get those documents that are going to look exactly like the documents you already have. Go nuts. You be you, Perry Mason.

On the other hand…

Here’s some legitimately good advice: there are a lot of “how to beat your ticket” videos on Youtube. If they’re made by a current/ex police officer or some random dude that went to traffic court one time, click past them and waste you time watching Defense Lawyers Watching Videos.

On the Street Value of Ketchup and Cocaine.

Today I want to talk to you about Ketchup. And Cocaine.

This miscellaneous rambling is spurred on by this terrible tweet from the US Attorney’s office:

The U.S. Attorney’s office is very proud to announce the United States Government has acquired a BILLION dollars in cocaine before it was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. Good for them. Had our war on drugs not driven up the price of narcotics so much, it’s very doubtful we could brag about such expensive cocaine. So, good for us, too.

Now let’s talk about Ketchup.

If I were to buy a personal-use amount of ketchup to use, personally, it wouldn’t be much. I can get a 31 ounce bottle of Heinz Ketchup on Amazon right now for $3.48. 31 ounces is a good amount. A bit for me, and maybe a little for my friends if they happen to be around.

That comes out to a little over 11 cents per ounce of ketchup. Not bad to soothe my ketchup habit. I’ve developed an affinity for ketchup and actually met others who love ketchup, though. I got a guy. He can get me more ketchup and that will last me a little longer. Since I know and trust him AND because the per-ounce price is a little better, I’d rather get it from him when I can.

His name is Walmart, and the street value of his ketchup comes out to about 6 cents an ounce. Nearly half!

I probably shouldn’t know what I’m about to tell you, but I do and I’m going to share it with you. I know where everybody is getting their ketchup. They’re getting it from wholesale outlets- and they’re getting it cheap.

If I cut out the middleman I can actually get 60 gallons- or 7680 ounces of ketchup! At a price of of only $457.20 it comes out to a street value of…

…how would I even know? What am I going to do with 60 gallons of ketchup? I couldn’t eat it all before it went bad- that’s nasty. I couldn’t repackage and sell it to my friends- I don’t have anywhere to store it, I can’t ship it, and I definitely don’t have “60 gallons of ketchup” worth of friends.

There is no street value to 60 gallons of ketchup. There’s only wholesale value. And that wholesale value is A LOT lower per-ounce than the personal use bottles I buy.

Ketchup is gross, though. In reality I don’t even like it. I don’t want to buy it in 16 ounce, 31 ounce, or 60 gallon lots. The per-ounce value to me is even lower than what Amazon gets for it… which means I hardly every buy it (but likely pay more per ounce when I do).

Some people love it though. I’ve heard there are even disgusting people who put it on bratwurst. They probably also have friends who love it and probably even have parties where people get together and use ketchup in groups.

Those people probably buy ketchup in bigger batches than I. They probably pick some up for their friends when they get it. Because they’re passing it around you might call them ketchup dealers, although I don’t think they’re ketchup “dealers” any more than a person who buys a round of beers at the bar is a beer distributor.

Those ketchup power users are going to pay less-per-ounce than I am because an ounce doesn’t last them as long and they don’t want to buy it (for them or their friends) every day. So, they buy in bulk but they still aren’t buying wholesale.

The street level cost of “an ounce” of ketchup is really hard to accurately pin.

But we’re not talking about Ketchup here, we’re talking about how there’s no way that cocaine bust was actually a billion dollars of coke.

Is “LivePD” really live?

I managed to get my hands on a copy of the LivePD production contract. I didn’t like LivePD before. I still don’t.

Is it Live?

If by “live” you mean it’s shot as it’s happening and beamed directly to your television where, Funyons and beverage in hand, you watch things unfold in real time the answer is “no.” At a minimum the “live” segments are delayed 10 minutes and they may even be delayed up to a half hour.

But is it live?

If by “live” you mean that it’s shot in real time, straight to final product, without any editorial input and beamed in raw form to your television where, kitten on lap and stew-on-the-stove, you quietly take in your favorite show the answer is still “no.” LivePD allows police departments to have a representative in the control room. That representative has the opportunity to weigh in on what is and is not shown for a host of reasons (including, my favorite, “privacy”) and possibly kill segments entirely.

To make matters worse the “earlier” or “previously filmed” segments are sent to the police department for approval days before they air.

Ok. But is it live?

If by “live” you mean unscripted, off-the-cuff, police work in its daily form from the mean streets of Lake County to you in you, feet-on-the-coffee-table and Twizzlers in had, the answer is still no. LivePD focuses on “key characters” who, not-so-conveniently, are often pulled off of mundane matters to drive the camera crew miles away to other calls in order to give the appearance of “constant action.”

LivePD isn’t live. At best it’s “almost live.” LivePD isn’t unedited. It’s edited to give “the appearance of” being unedited and give you “the feeling” that it’s contemporaneous police work coming to you in real time.

If you’re wondering why I put some of the above in quotes, it’s because that language is straight out of the LivePD contract. I didn’t make up the lies, they did.

LivePD is little more than a one-sided public relations tool for the people the Bill of Rights was designed to protect us from. And here’s another video of Defense Lawyers watching that nonsense and responding in real time.

PS- If you’re wondering what departments get paid to be on LivePD, Lake County, Illinois received $2,500 per week.

Videos the world doesn’t need, but videos the world deserves right now.

You don’t want to see defense lawyers watching Live Police TV clips ranting about men in sandals doing field sobriety tests but, well, maybe you deserve to. I’ve got you covered right here.

What started as a bit of a not-for-public-consumption test video that The Boss decided to put on Facebook (I don’t know why) has “evolved” into two guys spitting Jimmy Johns at a computer screen while yelling about breath tests being inaccurate. (But don’t fret, the test video is still on there).

Defense Lawyers Watching Videos is, unfortunately, here to stay. It should probably be renamed (“I see ‘not guilty’ everywhere,” or “Please. Don’t. Do. That. Test…. ARGGGHHH” might be better names), but we’re stuck with that for the time being.

Until then, grab yourself a sub and feel free to watch the nonsense.

I Believe in Causation, Not Coincidence.

In August 2015 I teamed up with two awesome lawyers (Ray Flavin and James Kelly) and filed a class-action lawsuit against the McHenry County Clerk of the Circuit court. Our beef was with the way court costs were tacked onto fines in criminal courts. Most of the “costs” the clerks added after the judge set the fines were, in fact, not costs- they were fines. Because of this when you were told what the fines were by the judge, you stepped away with absolutely no idea what the actual total would be.

Then the clerk would do a little math. On a DUI the increase was thousands of dollars.

Us vs. The World.

Bringing the suit as a class-action was tricky. We’d have liked to sue the judges, but you’re not allowed to do that. We had to sue the clerk because the clerk was the only person we were permitted to sue.

The clerk didn’t sign the sentencing order specifying that “court costs” should be paid, though. The clerk also was also doing what she was ordered through various (confusing) state laws and administrative orders

Plus bringing a class-action lawsuit when your “class” of defendants is convicted criminals is never politically popular. Some might call it crazy.

I couldn’t give a damn about that, but it certainly does stack the deck against you.

How Much Money Are We Going To Get Back?

Many people have asked what’s going on with the class-action suit now.

We filed in Federal court in Rockford. Before the first motion had even been argued every criminal courtroom in McHenry County had changed the way it dealt with costs. The clerk had purchased a fleet of brand-new printers and would print a sheet outlining the total cost of fines plus (what they called) fees- complete with an automated judges signature printed on the form as well.

It really wasn’t how things should be done, but it was better. More importantly, it was an official sign that our suit had teeth. The clerk spent a lot of money and it disrupted “business as usual” in every courtroom. That’s a win in itself.

So, How Much Money?

Not long after, we heard that the Supreme Court of Illinois had started a commission to look into the issue of court costs. Who did they tap to be part of the commission? The McHenry County Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Funny how that works.

I’m not saying we caused the Supreme Court to form the commission. There has been a small-scale war brewing over court costs for some time (mostly in the 4th District). Our issue was new, however. The way McHenry County was assessing fees as a practice was different than anywhere else. It was not a coincidence that the clerk ended up with a voice in the matter.

So, We’re Getting Millions Back, Right?

By 2016 court costs and fees had caught the attention of the Illinois State Bar Association. Writing first about how fees and costs were rising too fast and then, over the next three years, a series of articles about the imposition of fees and proposed regulation of fees.

Then, a crazy thing happened in 2019. Effective March 1, 2019, the Supreme Court passed rule 452. Rule 452 requires a sentencing judge to enter an order “imposing the sentence and all applicable fines, fees, assessments, and costs against the defendant and specifying applicable credits.”

Rule 452 clearly tries to end the days of not knowing what you owe on a case when you step away from the bench after your sentence has been pronounced- exactly what we complained about in our class-action suit.

And, the Action Coming Back Our Way On That Is What, Exactly?

We won. You won. The criminally accused won. Not just a spiritual or moral victory, either. A real making-changes-in-the-way-courts-across-the-entire-state-can-operate victory. The Supreme Court agrees with us. Game over.

That’s it. If you want to know what happened with our class-action lawsuit, read rule 452. There is now a supreme court rule telling judges they can’t do what we said they could not do. We were and are right. If you were a part of the “class” we thank you for your participation.

What did we end up getting out of it? The satisfaction of knowing that our “outside the box thinking” was on the mark. That we weren’t crazy. That we were right despite the government fighting us every step of the way in court.

You want to know how much money we made? Look, you spend money and it’s gone. You pick up the Illinois criminal code from now until eternity and that rule will be there.

You can thank us later.