When an author you emailed unexpectedly phones you back

6544301It is not every day that you get to chat on the phone with an author of a book. Let alone an author of one of the most interesting books (to a nerdy lawyer like myself) on a topic that is new to you and you love to learn about.

The author is Mark D. Sutherland, Esq. and his book, ‘Traffic Ticket Defense’ is pictured on the left. The book is available on Amazon for a mere $1.19 for a used copy (a fraction of the price of having such a valuable treasure to include in your law library.)

The book, although written by an attorney, is not geared towards the attorney reader — but the layperson. In it are helpful defense tips and strategies on how to defeat your traffic ticket in court. Including tips about trial strategy, customizing your defense, what to expect realistically from the judge and the prosecutor, and Mr. Sutherland even included a chapter on some very unexpected results to some of his cases (dismissals of course) for what one might think to be “run-of-the-mill.”

Initially, I read the book in early August, about a week after taking the Kentucky Bar Exam.
Now that I have my first traffic ticket case coming up this month, I decided to pick the book back up and recap some of the defense strategies as it does include some helpful cross examination techniques that attorneys can apply.

And then I had a thought. (Scary.)

What if I were to email the author with some legitimate questions I had developed over my time in law practice and the re-reading of his book? Including some questions about my upcoming case.

A simple 3-second Google search yielded his firm’s website, and I got to work.

Reproduced below is the email I sent to Mr. Sutherland in its entirety.

” Dear Mr. Sutherland,

[I apologize for the long email, and understand if you do not have the time to read it all — the reason it is this long is because law is very dear to my heart and I am passionate about it, thus I love consulting with other experts in the field.]

My name is Larry Forman and I am a solo practitioner with his own firm – Larry Forman Law, PLLC – in Louisville, Kentucky. I have had the great pleasure of reading your book a few months ago and it really struck a cord with me. I have narrowed my practice to mostly dealing with DUIs (a much more complex area of law) and traffic tickets and citations.

Your book opened a new world to me – the world of traffic ticket dismissal.

Here in Kentucky (and I am sure California is similar), the majority of attorneys in town (>95%) go about tickets the run-of-the-mill way:
1) Best case scenario (aside from dismissal): get diversion (no points, but $134 court costs and if no new offenses, gone in ~6 months. Woe be to the defendant if s/he gets another violation in that time as the ticket comes back atop the new offense.)
2) If diversion is not available, then we are looking at state (or county) traffic school; thus still avoiding the points but still paying $134 court costs plus school costs.
3) If both are denied by the prosecution or are not available as an option, then one seeks to get the case amended down to defective equipment (still avoiding points, but the fine equals 4 times the number of miles over speed limit, with the additional $134 court costs.)
(As you can see, all 3 options involve court costs.)

However, obviously there are ways to dismiss the case — and some of them you have discussed in your book:
1) Most officers stack all of their tickets for one specific day, so a continuance may result in a no show thus winning the case by default.
2) Pointing out an obvious screw up in the citation to the prosecutor who then voluntarily dismisses the case.
3) Last resort – take it to trial, and hope for a prosecutorial screw up or win it fair and square. (I especially enjoyed reading the “unexpected” section of your book.)

Now, with all of that being laid out on the table, I posit the following question: What is the most optimal way of dismissing a traffic ticket?

I do not like one bit the idea for a client to come through my door, pay me $X, then after I handle their case, they end up paying a fine, court costs, and/or traffic school costs. You’ve stated yourself in your book: “By writing traffic tickets, local and state agencies are not only upholding the LAW, they are also getting money — lots of it — from people who usually don’t complain about having to pay a fine” (emphasis in original.)

But if my client wants to pay the fine, they don’t come to me. They just pay their damned ticket and go about their day. They come to me to get results.

So, I seek your expertise on the matter. You have stated in your book and your website that you only handle traffic citations. On 12/18 I will be handling my first traffic ticket for a client and want to prepare accordingly. I do not want to play into the system’s hands.

If necessary, I will take the case to trial. However, I wanted to ask you, mano y mano (as the book is written to primarily lay persons and is devoid of any specific defense attorney maneuvers), what sort of guidance would you be willing to provide to a young, ambitious, and aspiring attorney such as myself?

I thank you very much for your time and assistance, and pray that everything is going well in your California practice with your partner Farris.

Sincerely,

Larry Forman, Esq. “

Naturally, you don’t expect a reply to a lengthy email like that.

You are certainly not expecting a phone call.

But that is exactly what I got.

The following day, not even 12 hours after I sent that email, I received a phone call from a California area code. Now, at this point in my career (especially after some Craigslist postings about my services), I am used to receiving phone calls from unfamiliar area codes and am no stranger to spammers and scammers.

However, this phone call was a little different and the beginning of it went something like this:

– “Larry Forman speaking.”
– “Hi Larry, this is Mr. Sutherland.” [His voice was a little muffled initially and I could not make out what he said.]
– “I’m sorry..?”
– “You emailed me about my book, ‘Traffic Ticket Defense?’
– [After getting some nervous laughter and a mild pleasant surprise out of the way.] “Oh! Oh, hello, Mr. Sutherland. How are you doing?”
– “Haha, OK, good. We’re on the same page. I got your email and wanted to thank you for the kind words. I have had the book out for a while [20 years to be exact], and this is the first time anyone has really come forward to me about it.”

What a pleasure it was to hear those words. He wrote the book over 20 years ago and I am one of the first people to reach out and thank him for sharing his knowledge.

Not only that — I came with questions.

I really did not know it was such a rare occurrence to reach out like that.

I remember one of my law school professors who taught me everything (and more than I’ll ever need) to know about negotiable instruments, Professor David J. Leibson (who is actually getting roasted for his retirement this Friday, December 13), wrote a letter to Richard Posner, a currently sitting judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.

Prof. Leibson requested via a written letter (this was before email was even close to being invented — sorry if I am aging you, professor) a few books on a particular topic — presumably negotiable instruments. Judge Posner responded by sending him back a box! It was filled with informative books on the topic Prof. Leibson requested. They proceeded to become pen pals after that (if I recall the story correctly.)

I guess my scenario is turning out to be somewhat similar. Mr. Sutherland and I proceeded to talk for almost 20 minutes. He explained to me the realities of practicing law in the traffic ticket defense arena — in sum, it’s pretty harsh and outright dismissals turned out to be granted rarer than I expected.

I got a little reality check about my upcoming case and thanked him for the unexpected, but of course very pleasant, phone conversation. He asked me to give him a buzz if I ever needed any additional help or had more questions.

What a great man. A stranger became a friend and a mentor with one email and a phone call. Now that’s a real lawyer.

Mr. Sutherland has handled (literally) thousands of traffic tickets (his California firm exclusively handles traffic offenses) and had more trials than I (or any other lawyer, for that matter) will ever dream of having.

And now he’s in my network.

As my law school friend Luis Cartaya would say, “Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.”

**A final note before I end this lengthy blog post. I know that at this point some of you are thinking. “You just gave away all the lawyer secrets in this blog post! Harty har! All I got to do is buy the book, and follow the advice you presented in your email and I won’t need an attorney ever again! Sucker!!”

Well, you are about half right. Which is probably worse than you expected.

You see, a cursory Google search will yield most of what I wrote above from countless sources. The lawyer’s strategies may appear simple, but the trick is how to use them, when to use them, why to use them, and, let’s be honest, the prosecutor would much rather hear arguments from someone who is trained in law rather than someone who thinks they got the “ultimate defense” from The DUI Guy’s blog. Your chances of winning and getting a good deal are much greater when you have a lawyer on your side.

So, save yourself the trouble, hire me to handle your ticket.

The expense is a minor one and will save you a lot of wasted time, energy, nerves, and headaches. Instead, use the time saved from going to court and developing a defense towards growing your business, being with family, or just goofing off reading posts on my informative Facebook page and Kentucky Law page on my website.

If you would like assistance with a DUI, traffic ticket, or some other criminal charge, please contact me or call me at (502) 931-6788.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to seeing you again… Figuratively speaking.

The DUI Guy.

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Email: larry@larryformanlaw.com