You Can Get Away With Anything in Traffic Court, With a Little Patience

ticket_delay.jpgWhat happens after a ticket is issued? For the full flow chart, see page 74 of Executive Order.

To deter dangerous driving, first you need to catch the bad behavior. That’s where Ray Kelly, the NYPD, and Albany legislators (who must grant New York City permission to install enforcement cameras) can make huge strides. But what happens after tickets are issued?

For a moving violation summons to affect driver behavior, it needs to carry real penalties in traffic court. But loopholes abound if a driver knows how to game the system. That’s where the state DMV can make a big difference.

Chapter 3 of Transportation Alternatives’ Executive Order [starts on page 35 of this PDF] explains how reckless drivers can escape consequences even after they’ve been caught violating the law. The big takeaway is that perpetrators can postpone the day of reckoning for their offenses, virtually at will. And the longer they put it off, the less the punishment matters. To understand why, here’s a quick refresher in the DMV point system.

If you’re a driver licensed in New York State:

  • When you get convicted of a moving violation, points are added to your record, varying with the offense. Failure to yield? That’s three points. Exceeding the speed limit by 25 mph? Six points. And so forth.
  • If you accumulate 11 points, your license is suspended. This is the major deterrent in the system.
  • However, the points only count toward a license suspension for 18 months. When the time window expires, that’s that — the points are no longer "active."
  • Here’s the rub: The clock starts ticking on those 18 months as soon as the cop gives you the ticket, but the points don’t appear on your record until you’re convicted.

So, let’s say a driver who already has 8 points gets a ticket for running a red light. That’s an additional three points, putting him or her over the 11 point threshold for a license suspension. But wait — the driver can reschedule their traffic court hearing multiple times. By the time the driver appears in court for the final hearing, 19 months have elapsed since the initial red light violation. The driver gets convicted, but the points don’t count toward a license suspension at all.

For those familiar with the system, the loopholes are inexcusable. Here’s Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick, quoted in Executive Order: "You have to have a consequence fairly quickly after the offense for it to have any real effect. It defeats the purpose if it can go on so long that the points expire before they even get on the person’s license."

Executive Order identifies two steps DMV could quickly take to remedy the situation:

  • Distribute points to licenses from the time of conviction, not retroactively from adjudication. In other words, start the 18-month clock when the driver is done with traffic court. This would ensure that points stay on drivers’ records for the full 18 months and can accrue towards suspensions.
  • Allow violators to reschedule a traffic court hearing only once. Currently, cops can only reschedule a hearing one time, while drivers can postpone multiple times. If, at any hearing, the cop doesn’t show up, the ticket will be thrown out. Advantage: drivers.
  • I’m inclined to say that you should be able to get a first postponement as a matter of right (or some other similarly low standard) and further postponements only on a showing of extraordinary circumstances (bedridden in a hospital, say).

  • Eileen

    #3 Impound the vehicle involved until the matter is decided, one way or the other.

  • clever-title

    I find it odd that we now have a post complaining about drivers gaming the system so soon after a post soliciting ideas for a cyclist to beat a ticket for a violation he admitted he committed.

  • Lee

    While I understand that the objective of this argument is to make our streets safer for everyone – protecting pedestrians, cyclists, and even other drivers from repeat offenders – there are good reasons for the legal system to be setup as it is.

    Unfortunately, the easiest way to protect the genuinely innocent is to make it difficult to judge and punish the guilty. And I honestly don’t think it should be any other way.

    I do think we should adjust the system that already exists by increasing fines significantly, modestly increasing “DMV points”, and adding short/temporary but mandatory suspensions to many offenses that don’t currently carry so much weight.

  • Ian Turner

    Lee, can you explain how any of the ideas presented here infringe upon the rights of the innocent?

  • Ian, Eileen’s comment, “Impound the vehicle involved until the matter is decided” seems contradictory to the Fourth Amendment.

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  • As has been pointed out many times, driving is a right, not a privilege. The safety of the truly innocent requires that the suspect be prevented from driving until the matter is decided. If that were possible without impounding the vehicle, then the Fourth Amendment would apply. Otherwise, impounding seems like a reasonable seizure to me.

  • Cap, assume I and my family own two cars. Sunday I get a speeding ticket, and my Mustang convertible is impounded. Monday morning, I get in my Chevy Cavalier and drive to work.

    So how again does impounding the vehicle keep the truly innocent safe? We agree, I believe, that traffic crashes are more serious than legislators take them to be. I just don’t think that the government taking my things (before my trial) is the right penalty.

  • It’s not foolproof, Jonathan, but it would help. We can debate that, but my main point is that your right to keep your things at all times is not absolute, and the Fourth Amendment does not protect drivers from reasonable restrictions. Do you agree with that at least?

  • Cap, OK, your right to keep dangerous things, like fireworks or noxious gases, ought to be regulated by the government. Autos are dangerous a priori. Unfortunately, autos are also large capital goods. If you take away a large capital good (with certain dangerous uses), you impose a big cost on the citizen. I think Americans, even convicted felons, are allowed to keep small (dangerous) capital goods, like machetes and chainsaws, at home. So how can you justify the government taking something more valuable?

    There’s also the problem of the separation of driver and owner. If you lend me your VW Jetta, and I run down Aaron Naparstek on Prospect Park West in cold blood, and the cops impound the VW, you’re inconvenienced by the impounding, not me (I have other issues).

    What if it’s a common-carrier bus? Should the government take that if the driver runs someone down? “Sorry, commuters: your bus has been impounded.”

    I think there are lots of questions inherent in this issue.

  • I hate to disagree but this loophole does not exist in New York.

    The author is right that points for DMV purposes last only for 18 months from the date of offense and are not assessed until the motorist is actually found guilty of a New York moving violation. However, whenever a motorist is found guilty of a New York traffic ticket (even more than 18 months from the date of offense), DMV will examine how many points that motorist had within 18 months of that ticket. If the motorist had more points than allowed, he or she will be suspended.

    Regardless of what the Executive Order cited above may say, points do not expire regardless of how long it takes to actually go on your license. I have been a New York traffic ticket attorney for over 17 years and have seen many motorists receive “retroactive” suspensions. Conversely, I have never seen a motorist avoid a suspension when he or she was found guilty of a traffic ticket that was greater than 18 months old.

    For a good article on how to calculate New York points, check out “A Guide To Calculating DMV Points” at http://digg.com/d3zS3O

  • Sorry, about this re-post but I inadvertently provided the wrong web address in the above post.

  • APPLE1

    YOUR FACTS ABOUT POSTPONING UNTIL POINTS ARE NOT ACTIVE IS TOTALLY INCORRECT!
    IT IS MY CIRCUMSTANCE EXACTLY…& TIME LAPSE DOES NOT MATTER UPON A REVOCATION OR SUSPENSION…
    DMV STATES QUITE CLEARLY ONCE THE CONVICTION IS IN PLACE…IT REVERTS BACT TO ‘DATE OF VIOLATIONS THAT OCCUR W/IN 18 MOS OF EACH OTHER’ THAT IS THE DECIDING FACTOR FOR REVOCATION OR SUSPENSION!
    THE SYSTEM IS TOTALLY DESPICABLE BECAUSE IT IS ENTIRELY BASED UPON TICKETING & FINING…= MONEY… NOT SAFETY NOT PREVENTION & THAT IS DESPICABLE !!!!

  • Total mis-information!! Even if one were to re-schedule his or her case 19 months, when the guilty conviction is handed down, DMV will look back and determine whether the motorist had too many points within 18 months of the date of offense. In other words, there is no loophole! I’ve been fighting traffic tickets for 20+ years, and have seen dozens of motorists suspended for too many points even when the conviction occurs more than 18 months from the date of offense.

  • JEB1

    I’d appreciate any comments. I rec’d a traffic violation (speeding) on 25 Oct. 12. I was to appear on 19 Feb 12. I postponed to 10 June 2013. Now the DMV has postponed to 19 Feb 2014. More than yr. after the tkt. was issued. Do I have any advantage here. BTW this is in NYC & seriously I wasn’t speeding. Thks.

  • Erik

    I don’t know if you could help but I’m trying everything I can for my family. Basically I got pulled over on a check point inside a state park in Virginia got me for driving suspended heat can I do to help me in court I have a negative 25 points and just took a driving improvement class court is on Aug. 13 2013 thank you

  • Ian Turner

    For the sake of everyone’s safety, including that of your family, please, stop driving.

  • Just sayin

    It reads “UNREASONABLE seizures”. Seems reasonable to me. No Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause – a traffic ticket/court summons is probable cause. Your argument on this doesn’t stand up.

  • Phake Booke (The Eyes of Quest

    Half the tickets are handed out to meet quotas and generate money for the city. They’re bullshit. Not to mention the unjust Driver Responsibility and service fees these scumbags tack on. So anything remotely in favor of the driver is a good thing. Let’s not encourage this corrupt system to abuse their powers anymore than they already do!!!

  • Rezwan

    I had a moving violation ticket in May 2013 , I had rescheduled once then there was another hearing where I deposited a bond of 40$ and hearing is this month, please confirm if it’s lapse (18 months) and won’t get any points on it

  • Denise Lipschitz

    I have a question for you I was convicted of red light 3 points jan 2012 paid my fine (done) in March of 2013 I received a cell phone ticket which my court date is in 2 weeks .
    My driving abstract still shows the 3 points its been 3 years , are they still there because I have a pending violation ?

  • quila

    I have a speeding ticket in coney island, kings county ,brooklyn, ny from over 2 years ago, the court put it off twice, until now, there are 6 points involved and money of course. Is there any sane reason why i should travel 1 1/2 hours through rush hour traffic to appear in court

  • Shashana Mckinney

    I really need to know about driving with no insurance I did pled not guilty I do have insurance at the time of court will this help are there any loopholes this happened in new York

  • Sandy

    I agree. Overtime. Quotas…… I never felt so victimized in my life when the arrogant cop cut me off to give me a bogus ticket, okay he’s robbing me, what’s more, insurance hike……..and I have to stand there quietly while he screws me. WTF is this world coming to? Do the honest ones ever win???

  • Eugene Weixel

    Bycicle fascists believe that they are doing God’s work even when they go against traffic and ignore red lights. They believe that motorists are the devil incarnate. People who drive for a living are especially up against a bunch of smug youngsters with money who remind the powers that be of their own kids, which often enough they are

  • Eugene Weixel

    All of these screwed over motorists are really barking up the wrong tree commenting here. These bycicle fascists hate your guts.

  • Jacob

    Hello,
    I was cited for 85 MPH in the zone of 55 MPH. The ticket says that I can mail the ticket or have to be present by 12/16/2016 at Brewster, NY. I reside in Massachusetts. I have several questions on the process of for PLEADING NOT GUILTY. Would anyone please walk me through the process for Pleading NOT GUILTY.

    I have several questions like can I mail them for pleading NOT GUILTY? After mailing them Plea NOT guilty do i get a chance to defend my-selves in the court for the hearing? Because my concern is once i send them mail for NOT Guilty, will they make decision on the base of the ticket send back to them? If my mail them plea for NOT guilty, do I loose chance to defend my-selves in court?
    To my knowledge, if i mail them pleading NOT guilty, then court will contact me for scheduling of the date for the hearing where the Cop and i will be face to face in the court. ? My illusion is about the date( on the ticket it says return in mail before or in person on 12/16/2016). Does i have to to be present on the date given and the judge will give verdict on that date or I will be given another date for hearings.

    My scenario is very different, I was driving behind two FEDEX trucks. One of the truck which was before me was driving too recklessly and was over all the place. It cut me off couple of times and it was not that good, as I felt it was too near to me when it did overtake me. So, i thought of overtaking me as I felt risk to my life. So i overtook one of the two truck and that put me in between two trucks and at that cop pulled me over for the speeding. I do not think that I was driving at 85 MPH. I do not have any evidence to defend my-selves. What should I do?
    Please someone can help, i would greatly appreciate it.
    Warm Regards

  • Annett Nichols

    I received a nonmoving violation for not having my registration sticker stuck to the window. The old one expired the day before and the new one was directly under it on my dash. I explained that I couldn’t get it off and was going to stop and get a big razor and do it when I got home. The officer advised that I send the ticket in as guilty and it would be either thrown out or the fine would be under $50.
    I sent in the ticket and the charge was $193!!!! I find this absolutely rediculous!
    I wrote the judge a letter requesting it be lowered. He denied my request.
    I would like to know what my next action should be. Who should I talk to?
    It’s infuriating to me! The fine definately does not fit the “crime”

  • sam

    I have been fined for speeding. The cop gave me a court notice and I pleaded guilty mentioning the reason that I was in need for a restroom and as there were none on the parkway, I had to speed (I really needed restroom!). I received a six points on that and court fine. Is there a way that the points / fine can be reduced ? Quick response will be appreciated!!

  • Talk to one of the clerks or get in touch with the officer that gave you the ticket. Maybe he/she can work something out with you.

  • Barbara

    As I entered my parking lot, an unmarked car turned on his lights. After reviewing my info, he told me that I only did a rolling stop(not a full stop) through a stop sign. The intersection is very residential. In fact one side is a dead-end. The intersection is about 3/4 mile from my house. Among other things, my question is why he did not pull me over immediately? There was no reason for anything suspicious-I drive a Prius! I was coming home from grocery shopping. I know this is a quota ticket. I need to know how to argue this at the hearing.

  • simontemplar

    Please help. A friend received a traffic violation in both Queens South and Manhattan. She missed the court date for both tickets. She needs to go to TVB to reschedule the court date and post a bond. The question is can she just go to the Manhattan TVB to reschedule both or does she have to go to TVB in both Queens and Manhattan?

    Thanks!

  • E

    Do to executive order In 1996 no unmarked car can issue citation do to the safety of citizens

  • Adam M. Hammond

    Unfortunately the officer tricked you, in the future always plead not guilty when you recieve a citation, when you get a court date you can then explain yourself to a judge who will either dismiss the citation or at least offer you a reduced fine for the citation, by telling you to plead guilty, which he wasnt legally allowed to advise you to do in the first place, he knowingly screwed you and avoided having to appear in court themselves. I would find out if the officer was wearing a body cam, if they were they would have had to tell you that when they approached you but if so, you might be able to catch the officer telling you to plead guilty, which is a crime itself. Best of luck to you.

  • LaToya Credell

    I have a question. I received a red light ticket from a cop 3 years ago. I was able to postpone it and also the cop rescheduled. It is now over 3 years since the issuance date and I’m scheduled to go to back to court. Will the ticket be dismissed because of the time?

  • Scream NMoan

    I have a question. I received a red light ticket from a cop 3 years ago. I was able to postpone it and also the cop rescheduled. It is now over 3 years since the issuance date and I’m scheduled to go to back to court. Will the ticket be dismissed because of the time?

  • Andrew

    I sure as hell hope not.

  • Dave Santiago

    Tell u all a quick secret. NEVER SIGN THE TICKET regardless when the officer says its not an admission of guilt. You see the ticket is a contract. First you mail the ticket back certified with a letter stating that you do not wish to engage in a contract with them at this time. Most of the time that wirks. If not then u go to court with a friend, when they call your name and case u do not give ur name. U say i am here regarding that situation i do not wish to testify now or ever in these proceedings. I envoke my 5th amendment right. And giving my name would be testimony. You have ur friend do the same thing. Then u go to the clerk and make sure its recorded that 2 people were there for that case but they dont know who. Court takes the willingness of 2 parties. They cant prove who was there and not there. But 2 people were there for it. So cant say u didnt show. U say i went and they never called my case to the bench. Game over for them. They will threaten bench warrant and hope u get one cause when they arrest u then u get paid cause again they cant prove u werent there. It works especially for dui. Reserch it if u dont believe me. Good luck everyone.

  • Andrew

    An alternative approach, which is even more likely to succeed, is to simply not commit the infraction for which you do not wish to be penalized.

  • SmashOnSight

    lol u fucking loser

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