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Driver Wins Case After Getting Charged For Illegally Passing A Stopped School Bus

    “I once represented a guy who was charged with illegally passing a school bus. The school bus drivers were given the duty of watching for cars that passed them while they were loading or unloading. Instead of watching, you know, the kids.

    What the drivers would do was make as good of a description of the car as possible and get as much of the driver’s license as possible, and then turn that information into the police. The police would then run that information through the drivers’ license/registration database and would then charge the owner of the car. The prosecutor’s office had a special grant from the state to enforce these tickets and was pressured to get a certain number of convictions, so there was NOTHING you could tell them ahead of time to get them to drop a charge.

    So we were at trial. My client was a tall, clean-cut guy in his mid-50s. The school bus driver testified that a car of a certain make/model and with a particular license plate number passed her bus at a certain place and time while she was unloading kids. She didn’t get a good look at the driver, but she did believe the driver to be a young female who had a ponytail. On cross-examination, I had her confirm that my client did not resemble a young girl.

    I moved for judgment of acquittal at the close of the state’s case because the only evidence it presented linking my client to the incident was the fact that he owned a car of that make/model and with a license plate close to the one cited by the bus driver. It was a no-go. Our judges were elected by popular vote, and he wasn’t going to toss this case.

    I put my client on the stand. He had a HUGE binder with him. He testified that he has been a commercial airline pilot for 30 odd years and that his binder contained his flight logs for the last number of months. He explained that these flight logs were required by the FAA. I asked him if he had flown on the day of the incident.

    He said he had.

    I asked him how many hours he flew. I think he said 10. I asked him if his flight logs indicated where he was at the time the school bus driver saw this car pass her bus. He noted that he was at around 30,000 feet in the air, about 230 miles northeast of Guam.

    I asked, ‘Any chance you were driving that car?’

    He laughed. ‘I don’t think that would have been possible.’

    The prosecutor was going to cross-examine him but literally couldn’t think of anything to ask. The judge seemed inclined to ask him some questions but also couldn’t think of any (these tickets were a BIG deal at the time because there had been a couple of fatalities). The judge reluctantly found him not guilty. I tried maybe five or six of those tickets that summer, winning all of them until the grant money ran out and the prosecutor stopped caring about them.”