Do not plead guilty to a traffic ticket. You can do something about it.
Too often, people receive a traffic ticket and view it as a minor annoyance. Then they simply mail in payment for the fine. By doing so, these people are pleading guilty to the violation without even attempting to negotiate a better deal. Do not fall into this trap. Traffic violations in New York can have painful consequences:
- Fines and surcharges
- Driver’s license points
- License suspension
- Higher insurance rates
New York’s Point System
The “Driver Violation Point System” assigns “points” to your driving record upon conviction of certain violations. These points can add up.
- If you accumulate 6 or more points within an 18-month period, you must pay a Driver Responsibility Assessment fee. The fee is $100 per year for three years, plus an additional $25 per year for each point over 6.
- If you accumulate 11 points in an 18-month period, your license may be suspended.
Also, your auto insurance company will see the violations on your record and will likely increase your premiums based on their own “points” system. Insurance companies use a separate “points” system and each company’s system is different. These companies do not make their systems public, so you will need to monitor your rates to understand the consequences in your individual situation. However, do not just call your insurance company and inadvertently report yourself—it may take a while for them to notice your record and increase your rates.
Common Traffic Violations
- Speeding (Vehicle & Traffic Law 1180): Any speeding violation will result in at least 3 points.
- More than 10 mph over the speed limit is 4 points.
- More than 20 mph is 6 points.
- More than 30 mph is 8 points.
- More than 40 mph is 11 points.
- Reckless Driving (VTL 1212): Not only will this offense result in 5 points, but it is also a misdemeanor. Conviction of this offense will result in a criminal record.
- Passing School Bus (VTL 1174): If you fail to stop for a school bus, you will receive a fine of $250 and receive 5 points.
- Following Too Closely (“Tailgating”) (VTL 1129(a)): This offense prohibits following another vehicle more closely than is “reasonable or prudent.” 4 points.
- Inadequate brakes (VTL 375(1)): More serious than it sounds. Not only 4 points, but also a misdemeanor, conviction of which will result in a criminal record.
- Failure to Yield: Failing to yield the right of way at an intersection (VTL 1140), for oncoming traffic while turning left (VTL 1141), for emergency vehicles (VTL 144), or for pedestrians (VTL 1151) will result in 3 points.
- Disobeying a Traffic Control Signal (VTL 111): Running a red light will cost you 3 points.
- Disobeying Stop Signs or Yield Signs (VTL 1172): Running a stop or yield sign will cost you 3 points.
- Improper passing (VTL 1123-24): Improperly passing another vehicle, such as leaving the payment to pass on the right, or passing on the left despite a double-yellow line, is 3-point offense.
- Improper or Unsafe Lane Changes (VTL 1122 & 1128): Changing lanes unsafely is a 3-point offense.
- Child safety restraint violation (VTL 129-c): If your child is not in an appropriate child car seat, it is a 3-point offense.
- Cell phone violations (VTL 1225-c, 1225-d): 5 points–more below . . .
- Any other moving violation: 2 points.
Cell Phone Violations (“Texting While Driving”)
Police in New York are vigilant about drivers using their cell phones. For good reason—traffic fatalities are on the rise due to an increasing use of electronic devices on the road. If the police see you using your phone or other electronic device while driving (yes, taking selfies counts), they will cite you for violating VTL 1225-c for use of a “mobile telephone” or 1225-d for use of a “portable electronic device.”
A conviction of one of these traffic violations results in painful consequences. Not only are you looking at a maximum fine of up to $200 for your first offense and a surcharge of up to $93, but these violations are 5-pointers. In other words, you’re almost halfway to a suspended license. And if you have any points at all on your record in the last 18 months, a conviction will result in your requirement to pay a Driver Responsibility Assessment fee each year for 3 years.
Don’t plead guilty to this offense. Hire an experienced attorney to fight to reduce the ticket to a lesser violation, possibly one carrying 0 points. It will be well worth the relatively minimal expense given the potential ramifications: fines, points, higher car insurance premiums, and possibly a suspension.
Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle
Vehicle and Traffic Law section 511 mandates some harsh penalties for driving on a suspended license. My office handles these cases frequently and can achieve an outcome that minimizes the consequences. The degree of this offense dictates whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony, and the maximum punishment.
- AUO in the 3rd degree: Driving on a suspended license. A misdemeanor with a maximum $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
- AUO in the 2nd degree: Driving on a suspended license when you’ve been convicted previously of AUO 3rd, or your suspension is related to certain previous or pending alcohol-driving related offenses, or you have in effect 3 or more suspensions for failure to answer a summons or pay a fine. This misdemeanor carries a maximum $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail. There is also a mandatory sentence of imprisonment or probation.
- AUO in the 1st degree: Driving on a suspended license while intoxicated, or while you have 10 or more suspensions, or while your license is permanently revoked. This Class E felony has a maximum fine of $5,000 and a possible jail sentence of 1 to 4 years.