The U.S. Department of Transportation works to ensure that the nation’s entire transportation system is accessible, efficient and safe. Toward that end, USDOT establishes regulations and enforces them. DOT violations can range from something as serious as driving under the influence to something more benign, such as being slightly over capacity for a particular road. In the event you are subject to a violation, there are five steps you should take.
1. Write Down Everything
Create a log of the entire event. If you can begin this as the event is unfolding, do that. Even details that you may think are irrelevant, such as the last billboard you saw before being pulled over, can matter later. Take photos as well particularly if there was an equipment or similar violation.
2. Be Polite
Be polite throughout the entire process. Your lawyer will have access to the video later. Since non-moving DOT violations can not be plead down, if you have a relatively clean record, then your behavior on camera will go a long way toward having the charges dismissed.
3. Contact All Relevant Parties
Perhaps the worst thing you can do in this situation is not be forthright about it. Everyone who should know about the DOT violation should know about it as soon as possible. That can include employers, contractors, insurance companies and so on and so forth.
4. Contact a Lawyer
Many truckers will already have a relationship with a relevant attorney. If you do not, you may get recommendations from your employer or fellow drivers. Initial consultations are often free. If you do need representation, attorney fees do not have to be exorbitant. You can often offset your costs by doing the legwork yourself and simply relying on the attorney for his or her expertise.
5. Appear in Court
It is important to protect your CDL. Appearing in court helps you do that even if you are guilty of what the police officer charges and will be penalized. The fact that you were there and prepared will be on your record, but do not defend yourself.
Consulting with an attorney who specializes in DOT violations in particular is often the most important step you can take. These consultations are often provided at no charge and without obligation, and you may not need the representation in the end. But at least you will have that peace of mind.