Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Speeding Tickets in New York

Just some thoughts on speeding tickets. Got a call this morning. I get calls like this regularly. The caller, from New York City, got a speeding ticket in the Town of Bethlehem. She wanted to know how much to pay. Unlike other states, New York traffic tickets do not list the fine.

Here's how it works in New York traffic courts. First you plead -- guilty or not guilty. While the ticket says to appear in Court on a particular date, it is far more sensible to plead by mail. You don't have to go.

A side note here - that date is not rigidly enforced in most courts. In general one needs to be careful about court dates, but this one is far less important. If you're late, don't ignore it. Just send a letter to the Court stating your plea. If you are late enough, you will get a notice from DMV that if you don't appear, your license will be suspended. This is a good time to hire a lawyer, if you're that late, to make sure your license is not suspended.

Back to the process. If you plead guilty, the judge will set a fine and send you a notice. You will also get points on your license (if it was a moving violation), and you may get an extra surcharge from DMV if you get 6 points or more within 18 months. You also may lose your license if you get enough points or speeding tickets.

If you plead not guilty, the Court will set a trial date. In many courts a lawyer can negotiate a reduction for you by mail. You don't have to go to Court, and neither do we. In almost all courts a lawyer can appear for you, so you don't have to go. Or you can go yourself. In some courts they will not negotiate with someone who does not have an attorney. And in general, a lawyer should get you a better deal than you can get for yourself. A good lawyer knows what kind of deal to ask for.

Contrary to popular opinion, in most courts if the cop does not show up for trial, the ticket will not be dismissed. I did get one dismissed last night for this reason, but many courts will just adjourn for a new date. Not fair? Correct, but life isn't fair.
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