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.
  • Anthony

    I have a question. How can I prove to the court I had no cell phone when the officer said I had a cell phone in my hand?

  • Anthony

    Same here I’m fighting and hope to GOD i win cause its a he said and he said situation. Trial is today.

  • SneakyNuts_Jedi

    Tone- How did you make out with that?.. I got the same S*** going on.. Court on 7/17 in Manhattan. Pk, LMK.. Good Luck if you havent dealt with it yet,,

  • Moe Emeesh

    Anthony, I got the same situation going on…. Please share how it went down. Thanks!

  • Jon

    Hi and thank you all in advanced.

    I received a my first ever ticket today — speeding 20-30 over — 6 points in NYS. I am looking to avoid paying a driving assessment fee. Mind you all, the cop had a motorcylist pulled over, and when I speed by at about 68-70 mph, he turned his lights on and came after me. I just need to reduce by one point, should I just show up at court and hope for the best?

  • Jack

    I certainly wish for the best, namely that your license gets revoked permanently so you’ll stop endangering people with your reckless speeding. We are talking 20-30 mph over here, not just a technicality.

  • Angela

    I got a ticket for running a red light. I was moving in the intersection behind a huge bus. While behind him the light was green but a a point I could no longer see the light and it turned red. When the bus pulled forward…I pulled forward but in true NY fashion…people were blowing the horns for me to move and when I did I noticed the light was red after the bus pulled forward. I was already in the intersection but the horn blowing got the police officers attention and he gave me a red light ticket.

    My questions are one…is it worth it to fight the ticket. And second, the court date is almost 19 months after I received the ticket…will the points go on my license? How can I avoid getting the points if found guilty or just decide to pay online?

  • Mike

    I want to smack people like you with that stupid comment

  • PurpleHills

    interior dash cam.

  • PurpleHills

    you can take a defensive driving course approved by NYS DMV

  • PurpleHills

    This is horrible advice. Please do not attempt to follow the legal advice of sovereign citizens, especially those with blatant spelling errors.

  • PurpleHills

    of course not. You adjourned the hearing.

  • PurpleHills

    it is not a crime for police officers to lie to you, unfortunately.

  • Joe

    NYC has a 50 mph speed limit you Nazi

  • dmynor

    So, a relative got a ticket about 27 years in Queens, New York. That relative lives in FL since then, over 27 years! and says there was a court appearance and the issue was resolved, yet since it’s that old there is no proof available, only the ticket number is known. How can one check what is the status with the courts regarding such ticket, if there was an appearance and what was decided? Is there a place online where one can obtain the details/records linked to such ticket violation? It’s extremely hard to prove something took place once you have misplaced or lost the paperwork from such a long time ago and now the DMV is coming about that your license is bound to be suspended unless you pay the ticket and the penalty fees, something you can’t prove was already done; yet they also never caught or mentioned such violation payments were missing or being pursued during two prior license renewals!!! That even sounds fishy that such bureaucracy, which has one’s address in the license ID, allowed so much time without communication that such violation still existed.


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