I left messages with the other two-wheeled Defendants that I was given contact information for by the Defendant Potomac Peddler ride co-leader. I cut our vacation short and returned to Virginia, getting to my office Monday evening to review the ticket, photographs and other evidence that had been left for me. By this time I had spoken with several other riders who had been charged June 7th, and advised that while my practice is primarily helping injured cyclists, runners and other victims, I would appear on their behalf and help them in the Leesburg Court the next morning.
On Tuesday morning, I and several of my staff met with the bikers, Commonwealths Attorneys (the prosecutors in Virginia), officers and other Loudoun County criminal and traffic defense lawyers. By the time our cases were called, the count was “2 Strikes and 2 Outs.” The court already had prepayment by a cyclist who plead guilty. Strike one. One of the bikers I had called chose to “go it alone.” He valiantly argued his case, and was found guilty, given a fine and court costs of several hundred dollars and FOUR POINTS on his DMV record. He may also face repercussions, depending upon his point balance, when it comes to getting car insurance and umbrella coverage. Strike two. The officer was not at all happy to see me there as counsel for the Defendants. After several hours, a substitute judge came on the bench and I indicated to the prosecutor that we were ready to try the remaining cases. No cyclist had avoided conviction and there had been no stop sign or signal acquittals for motorists either that morning.
I had discussions with three different Assistant Commonwealth Attorneys, debated the merits of our cases, demonstrated our photographic and documentary evidence, my clients “+5” DMV records and even the use of a “trackstand” and Idaho (rolling) stop. I also discussed the fact that my own wife shattered her arm coming to a complete stop on the W&OD Trail near Belmont Ridge Road. While I felt our case had strong merit, not everyone likes cyclists like I do. As one of my clients said, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.”
The prosecutor offered to dismiss the the failure to stop violation if we would agree to a non moving equipment charge. There would be no points, major fine or court costs and no appeal. I discussed this with my clients, staff and family members present, and it was decided to accept. This action would not prejudice the other cyclists I spoke with over the holiday weekend who requested continuances or sought to fight the charges another day. Then I was treated to lunch by my fellow cyclists, which was an unexpected treat. Little did we think that our actions in court would stir up so many additional questions ! So the question to those who felt they would have done better or differently, I ask 3 questions:
With 2 strikes & the pitcher throwing “heat,” do you swing for the fences or get on base ?
Should a lawyer try a case because he wants to (and put the client at risk) or should he follow his clients’ instructions ?
Once a problem is identified, wouldn’t exploring a systemic solution help achieve “the greatest good for the greatest number” of bikers outside of the criminal court context ?
Tomorrow, I will address specific questions relating to the Code, points, crimes and punishments.