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Ask Our Lawyer - December 2009

After 191 Years, Illinois Rules That Lawyers Can't Screw Their Clients

New Rule 1.8 (j) of the Illinois rules of professional conduct for lawyers prohibits lawyers from having sex with their clients. Fortunately for some of them, the Rule does not go into effect until January 1, 2010. One northern Illinois lawyer was overheard saying “How am I to get paid then?”

When a Lawyer Gets a Ticket for Alleged Improper U-Turn

A lawyer I know has learned that many cities and towns have local ordinances that prohibit U-turns in areas the city fathers believe need U-turn prohibition. These ordinances are not well published and relatively unknown to the traveling through public. I believe this to be a violation of the preemption policy of the state, but that is a story for another article. On the day in question, he made a U-turn in an area without a visible U-turn prohibition sign. As most people believe, U-turns are permitted unless expressly prohibited with proper signs. He made that argument as the grinning cop was writing out a ticket – his first in about a quarter of a century. The cop (with an attitude) proceeded to justify his acts by saying that the town had passed a special ordinance barring U-turns in that area and that the lawyer should know the law. The lawyer tried to exonerate himself by saying that it is silly to expect everyone to have copies of the ordinances of every city and town in the state. Silly was not the best use of words and he could see he was getting nowhere with the officer. The officer’s final retort was “take it up with the judge if you don't like it.” He took the officer’s advice and did so. As the old saying goes, “A good lawyer knows the law – a great lawyer knows the judge.” Draw your own conclusions.

No Feet at a Stop? Did You Run the Sign?

Q. I have been an ABATE member and rider for more than 20 years. Last week I was riding and came up to a stop sign. I was able to stop without putting my feet down. The local town cop saw me and arrested me for “running the stop sign.” I thought all you had to do at a stop sign was stop. The cop laughed at me when I used that excuse. Should I fight this or let it go? P.S. I have a CDL license and this could affect my job.

A. FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT. You are a CDL holder and you have no choice but to fight. Serious points will be assessed against your CDL license if you don't. The cop is just plain wrong and needs educated. This case reminded us of a case in Springfield where a bicyclist was ticketed by a cop for running a stop sign when the two wheel operator failed to put his feet down at the sign. The cyclists argued with the cop that he merely balanced the bike at a full stop and then proceeded through the sign. The officer did not buy it nor did the judge, who would not believe that a cyclist could balance a bike at a full stop. The cyclists offered to demonstrate his ability to the court with the bike. To the judge's surprise, the balance was shown and the case was ordered dismissed. Many of us get very good at stopping with no feet. The slow ride at biker events allows most of us to practice this to perfection, but most cops are under the illusion that if you don't put your feet down you did not stop. There is a presumption against us that there is motion unless one foot is on the ground. THAT IS NOT THE LAW. Usually there are two defenses to this type of allegation; 1. I had my foot down and the cop didn't see it or the cop is lying (judges usually don't go for the last one) or 2. I don't have to put my foot down because I can balance the bike. WARNING: be prepared to demo your balance skill to the court. ADVICE: if you are short on time, it is easier to put a foot down.

Old tickets, New Nightmares in Ohio

Q: In 2008, I got a speeding ticket on my bike for 63 in a 35 zone. I recently quit my job for a better paying job driving a semi only to find out at the last minute that most insurance companies only allow tickets for less than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. I have talked to many companies who are interested until they ask about any violations. I have 25 yrs experience and more than 5 million miles. Can anything be done to reduce the speed of that ticket on my record to only 15 mph over? Thank you for any information you can provide.

A: I would immediately get a local lawyer in the county where the ticket was handled. A local lawyer may be able to get the Court to allow some kind of post-conviction relief and do it economically. My standard recommendation to all CDL holders is to fight every ticket they get. You can not afford to let one go.

Concerning Accidents with Bikers

We’ve gotten a number of stories recently about bikers injured or killed by drivers in cars or trucks. Most of them are concerned about the seemingly minor punishments meted out to these drivers by the criminal justice system. A story out of Illinois notes that “Family and friends of an Austin woman killed last month after her motorcycle slammed into a van making an illegal U-turn are expressing outrage after that driver last week was fined $285 and given court supervision.” The prosecutor noted that the incident was “a senseless accident” and emphatically criticized Brown's behavior. He further stated that “we look at the law, (her) maneuver does not meet the requirements for charging a more serious offense.” “We don't take these things lightly,” he added. “If the state's attorney's office had found a way to bring more serious charges, we would have done so.”

Southern Illinois is not immune to the problem, either. The Southern reported that a motorcyclist hit from behind while stopped in a construction zone on Giant City Road was killed, and a flagger at the site was injured. Omar E. Wilson, 28, of Robinson died after the collision. The driver was ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. Gary Pinkham of Carbondale, local rider and member of ABATE, said there seems to be an increase of cars hitting motorcycles this year. “This summer seems to be open season on riders,” Pinkham said. Pinkham reported that there have been several similar accidents in 2009:

On June 13, Thomas A. Bennett, 35, of Lerna and Charity M. Decker, 36, of Mattoon were killed north of Cave-in-Rock when their motorcycle and two others were hit from behind by a pickup truck.

Dennis Tindall, 48, and Laurie Tindall, 45, both of Benton, suffered major injuries Aug. 29 in Carterville, when a passenger vehicle hit their motorcycle and two others while stopped at a traffic light.

These tragedies prove two things: Our mission to educate motorcyclists everywhere on safe riding is not complete, and our need to stay involved in our communities, to make sure that prosecutors follow the law and take biker death cases seriously never ends.

Rider Safety Training Experience – an Eye-Witness Account

A reader reports:

This past weekend I participated in the ABATE course at Shorewood Packaging Company in Indianapolis. I was hesitant to try something so new and extreme, but found it to be an amazing experience. I would like to share what I gained from this experience that you generously support.

Before taking this class, I had no experience riding motorcycles, but sought to become a safe rider. With energy, enthusiasm, and some anxious nerves, I opened myself up for a long and exciting weekend. From the very start, I knew my instructors would make this the best experience I could ask for. They were thorough, patient, and enthusiastic about everything they taught me and my fellow students. With every step we took and skill we practiced, the instructors were by our sides guiding us, but also letting us learn how to do things ourselves. I not only enhanced my skills and knowledge about safe riding, but my confidence grew, too. The instructors saw that growing confidence and had me lead the group in activities to support it.

I had such a wonderful weekend with my ABATE friends. I learned how to be a safe, efficient rider, but developed relationships and met friends, too. I cannot thank you enough for supporting such an amazing cause. Please continue to do whatever you can to keep the ABATE courses running so well. I would hate to see what would happen if the only means of learning safe riding was no longer in existence. Again, I thank you for your continued support!

Sincerely, Megan Cress

ABATE student

Megan: We are pleased to be a sponsor of the Motorcycle Safety Training course and plan to be involved for a long time to come.

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery and expenses as approved by client, consistent with and conforming to applicable state law. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. And, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to ASK OUR LAWYER, at rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2009, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services