The Town is Cheating

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Q: A police car collided with my vehicle.  Within days of the accident, my attorney submitted a written request that both vehicles be preserved in their immediate post-accident condition.  Despite this, the town towed the police vehicle to a remote, outdoor site in another part of the city.  There, the vehicle was vandalized: the lights and siren were removed, and the wires were cut, precluding a meaningful examination of its immediate post-accident condition.

Meanwhile, I was charged with and pleaded not guilty to two traffic violations related to the accident, disputing that the officer’s sirens or lights were activated at the time of the accident.  I went to trial on the traffic violations and was convicted on one of them.

A: In appropriate situations, an issue decided in a criminal proceeding may be given preclusive effect in a subsequent civil action.  However, petty infractions below the grade of a misdemeanor, such as traffic violations, are not held conclusive in later cases.  The brisk and informal way in which these matters are tried, as well as the relative insignificance of the outcome, afford you neither opportunity nor incentive to litigate as thoroughly as you might if more were at stake.

While the disposition of a traffic ticket may be admissible in a subsequent civil case for limited purposes, a determination concerning a traffic violation is not deemed conclusive in a subsequent negligence action.

In addition, you may well be entitled to an ‘adverse inference’ jury charge as a penalty for the town’s negligent spoliation of evidence.  This charge instructs the jury to determine whether the town has given a reasonable explanation for the destruction of evidence and, if not, whether an inference adverse to the town may be drawn in the wake of its destruction.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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