How To: Appeal legal mistreatment

Squelch the impulse to rage at the inspector for rude conduct or at the trooper for an unfair citation. Instead, stick to a professional response and you might end up getting the upper hand. Whether you think you have been unfairly treated or ticketed without breaking a law, the method for filing a complaint is similar in both cases.

On the roadside
· Record the name of the officer who’s writing you up.
If it’s not clear what law or regulation you’re charged with violating, get an explanation.
· Check the citation or ask the officer for the name and phone number of the agency issuing the violation.
· If the infraction does not involve a court appearance, contact the agency to request a hearing. Record the name of anyone you talk to and the date.

Prepare for court
· A complaint or an appeal must be made in the county or city where the incident occurred.
· Confirm by letter or telephone with the municipal or county court the time of your hearing or court date.
· On matters of interpretation regarding Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations or to report a grievance, contact a state FMCSA office, says agency spokesman Duane DeBruyne. State FMCSA contacts are at www.fmcsa.dot.gov. Click on “About FMCSA,” then click on Field Offices underneath “Contact Us.”
· Gather documents for evidence, such as weight records from a certified CAT scale. If you plan to dispute a charge, hiring an attorney can make a big difference.

In the courtroom
· Arrive looking clean and neat.
· Hearings are often rescheduled, says Jim Klepper of Interstate Truckers legal service. If this happens, decide whether to accept a dismissal or continue the grievance.
· When it’s your time, be respectful and concise. Judges often decide cases in seconds.
· If you’re found guilty, decide if an appeal is worth the expense. From a municipal or county court to a district court, the expense may be affordable, but higher appeals can run $10,000-plus, Klepper says.

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