Just the mention of traffic tickets conjures up all kinds of fears and phobias. If you received one, you need to know all the information that can help you achieve the best results.
Traffic court can for many people be the only time in their lives that they have to deal with a court, but no matter if you are a first-time offender or a long-time repeat ticket recipient, this is what you need to know.
So, you received a ticket. Your first question is: What should I do with it? That’s a really loaded question.
Should you just plead guilty and accept the consequences?
Everyone’s situation is unique and requires individual consideration, so here are some points to ponder:
- How many points will they put on my license and how much of a fine or assessment will this impose on me? Remember, at 11 points most judges will suspend you and upon reaching 6 points the NYS Drivers responsibility assessment is imposed and starts at $300.00.
- Will I be suspended or revoked as a result of the ticket? That depends on your driving record and the seriousness and nature of your violation. Excess points, excessive speeds, and multiple tickets can result in a suspension. Tickets like uninsured operation can result in a revocation.
- Will this increase my insurance rates? The insurance companies are itching to increase your rates if you have tickets or accidents on your record.
- Will future or past tickets impact this one? The DMV conglomerates points. If you get 11 points in an 18-month period, your driver’s license may be suspended.
- Will I be rethinking my driving habits and avoid tickets? This one is impossible to predict. You hope you learned your lesson, BUT, you never know.
Moving violations in NYS carry points.
Speeding (MPH over posted limit):
1 to 10 3 points
11 to 20 4 points
21 to 30 6 points
And so on…
Reckless driving 5 points
Failed to stop for school bus 5 points
Improper cell phone use 5 points
Use of portable electronic device “texting” 5 points
Railroad crossing violation 5 points
Failed to yield right-of-way 3 points
Red Light 3 points
There are many more violations that can get you points.
With all of these serious consequences, what can you do about points?
Everyone is so worried about points. But if you get them what can you do to mitigate their consequences?
The DMV sponsors a “defensive driving class” through independent educators that offer perks like a 10% insurance reduction and a reduction of up to 4 points (you can’t bank extra points) for tickets issued within the 18 months preceding the class date… Note I said 18 months preceding the class date. So the ticket must have happened within the 18 months preceding the class. If you wait to take the class until the court date that might be more than 18 months after the violation date and then the class will be ineffective for the 4 point reduction.
Many class providers and insurance brokers claim the class must wait until the points “hit the record”, but that is a misconception. As long as the ticket was issued the class will cover up to 4 points for any ticket issued within the 18 months preceding the class.
The best way to avoid points is to avoid tickets, but, if you did receive a ticket, don’t be so quick to pay that ticket.
The next question should be what court am I supposed to be attending. I am often asked why are there so many courts? Why is this important? Each court has different rules, procedures, and obligations. Knowing the when and where can be just as important as the how.
In NYC there are several different courts that handle traffic and driving-related offenses:
- Criminal court– Handle misdemeanor and felony matters like DWI, driving while suspended and lesser violations like commercial trucking tickets.
- Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB)– DMV’s traffic court that handles moving violations and overweight trucks
- Safety Hearing Bureau – DMV hearing office that handles chemical test refusals, fatal accident hearings and licensed business violations.
- OATH – NYC agency that handles “knock down” pedestrian accidents. They also handle some environmental issues
- Parking violations – NYC agency that adjudicates parking tickets.
Outside NYC there are several possible courts or court systems you might need to concern yourself with.
Your court can be a town, village, or city court and can also be The Traffic Violations Agency in Nassau or Suffolk. The name and address of that court should be at the bottom of the ticket.
The difference in the court system will dictate the process.
People who receive traffic tickets will often want to make a deal. For example, if they can get their 6 points speeding ticket reduced to a parking ticket, or a lesser points non-speeding ticket, it’s a very desirable result.
I am often asked, “I was able to previously negotiate my ticket so why can’t I negotiate a ticket in NYC traffic court?”
In NYC the traffic court (TVB) is controlled by the DMV, at an administrative agency called the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB). Because TVB is an administrative agency it can only act within its rules. The rules of the TVB do not provide for negotiating or plea bargaining tickets.
In the TVB, all contested tickets go to a hearing. The issuing officer is expected to attend and testify at the hearing. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who works for the DMV is assigned to determine your guilt or innocence.
Outside NYC, the courts do have the authority to arrange a plea bargain, but many courts have specific rules and limitations as to what they might be willing to offer. Thorough knowledge of the courts is needed to keep track of all these limitations.
Of course, you might not agree with or desire a plea bargain offer, which can sometimes be foolish, as the offer often saves you points and other consequences. However, a trial in the local court might at some point be appropriate. But be forewarned, the local officer and local judge are far more familiar with the streets and local rules than you are so I like to say that while you have a right to a trial, the likelihood of success can sometimes be remote.
Trials in the TVB are nothing like those stories you hear about. There is no cliffhanger moment when some amazing piece of evidence suddenly materializes at the 11th hour and saves the defendant. In fact, the officer’s testimony is the most important element. The quality and quantity of the officer’s testimony frequently are the lynchpin to a victory or a conviction. But, I have successfully cross-examined an officer after she/he testified to a sterling case, only to find the nugget of a hole in their story and secure a victory for my client. So, knowing the right questions and more importantly the “wrong answers” is an important tool for achieving a victory.
The TVB judge is an employee of the DMV who is answering to the commissioner of motor vehicles, and much like the local court judge, they are very familiar with the roadways and rules of the community where they work.