One recent Ohio commercial trucking case demonstrates the importance of details in defending against a criminal or traffic charge.
Here, the trucker was charged with a local ordinance prohibiting an overweight vehicle on a local road. However, at trial, the only testimony regarding the weight of the truck came from the officer’s estimate of how much he thought the truck probably weighed. Because the prosecutor did not follow the proper channels introducing this evidence and establishing the truck’s weight through testimony, the charge was ultimately dismissed.
Officer Cannot Testify Regarding Estimates of Commercial Truck’s Weight Unless Legal Foundation is Laid for Officer’s Experience & Training with Commercial Vehicle Weight
An Ohio officer pulled over a commercial truck after observing the truck turn off of a State Route. The driver was unfamiliar with the area and was following the route suggested by his GPS. The truck turned because, unbeknownst to the driver, the state route was closed.
The driver turned into a driveway to turn the truck around. Just beyond the driveway was a “no trucks” sign. The truck was cited for operating an overweight truck on a local street in violation of a local ordinance, which stated:
“…no person shall operate any truck, commercial tractor (with or without a semitrailer attached) or other motor vehicle, being a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more upon any street or highway within the City, other than U.S. routes or state routes or the intersections thereof, unless the weight limit for any particular street or highway is otherwise modified by the City. When a semitrailer is attached to another and separate motor vehicle,
then the gross weight shall include the motor vehicle, semitrailer and load for determining gross weight.”
Thus, the driver argued at trial that the prosecutor was required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that his truck exceeded a gross weight of 10,000 lbs.
In prior cases, courts have held that testimony by an officer that the defendant was a “semi” or a “Fed Ex Truck” was insufficient to establish the truck’s weight. The question for the judge here, then, was whether a veteran officer can testify, through his training and experience, that a particular truck is in far excess of 10,000 pounds.
Here, the officer testified that, based on his training and experience, the minimum that a similar truck would weigh is in the high 20,000 pounds to low 30,000 pounds without a load. The court found this “in my experience” testimony to be insufficient to prove the actual truck’s weight. The court refused to accept the officer’s unfounded statement about the truck’s weight.
The prosecutor could have had the officer testify that he checked the registration or load weights, but the prosecutor failed to present this testimony. Furthermore, the prosecutor might have tried to establish that the officer had the proper specialized knowledge to estimate a truck’s weight. But again, the state failed to present this testimony.
Thus, the overweight truck conviction was overturned and dismissed.
If you have been charged with an overweight truck violation in the Columbus area, contact our CDL attorney today regarding advice on what to do next in your case.