Traffic Law in New York
Traffic law refers to the creation, implementation, and enforcement of New York traffic codes. Traffic violations can vary in severity, ranging from minor speeding tickets to serious DUI charges. The consequences of these violations can include fines, license suspension, license revocation, and even jail time.
In many states, when people fail to disprove traffic offenses, authorities may assess points and add them to a person’s driver’s license. These points can increase your car insurance premium for several years. If you accumulate too many points, it can even lead to a license suspension.
According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), you accrue points on your driving record for most moving violations. If you reach 6 points within 18 months, you must pay a yearly Driver Responsibility Assessment, ranging from $100 to $300 per year. However, if you get 11 or more points, you could face a license suspension. In addition, certain serious violations, such as DUI, can result in automatic suspension, regardless of your driving record. Once your suspension is over, you can reinstate your license by paying a Suspension Termination Fee, ranging from $50 to $100.
If you are currently facing traffic violation accusations in New York, it’s important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. It’s a common pitfall to believe you can represent yourself in court. However, an experienced New York traffic law attorney increases the chances of proving your innocence. You also improve your odds of reducing sentences and getting rid of points.
Legal Strategies to Fight New York Traffic Tickets
Many people don’t realize that fighting a traffic ticket and winning is a common occurrence. You might think paying court and legal fees to fight a ticket just isn’t worth it. On the other hand, keeping costly points off your license can save you more money in the long run. If you hire a qualified New York attorney to fight your traffic ticket, oftentimes the police officer won’t even show up to court and you’ll win. In these instances, you no longer have to pay the ticket and the points get removed from your license.
According to the New York Courts, the location and type of offense determines which court has jurisdiction over a traffic case. For infractions and misdemeanors, you could appear before a Justice Court, a District Court, or a City Court. However, a County Court will handle most felony cases. Keep in mind that New York City has its own separate judicial structure.
If the officer does show up at court, an experienced New York traffic lawyer can make a solid case in your defense. Here are common legal strategies that your lawyer may employ to help you fight a traffic ticket.
Challenge the Officer’s Conclusion in Traffic Law Court
If any New York officer made a judgment on whether you broke the law, your attorney may argue the conclusion they came to was not the right one. For example, an officer might say that you made an unlawful turn, but in actuality, they couldn’t see whether it was unlawful or unsafe.
Challenge the Officer’s Observations in Traffic Law Court
You can challenge an officer’s observation in cases where it’s your word against theirs. To achieve this, your New York traffic law attorney will need to cast enough doubt on the officer. This can prove difficult for a driver to tackle alone because judges tend to agree with officers quite often. However, if you can bring forward evidence that proves you are in the right, then you just might win the case. Here are some examples of evidence that might prove useful:
- Photographs of the scene of the traffic violation
- Witnesses, such as passengers or bystanders
- A diagram showing where your car was, and where the officer’s car was in relation to the traffic violation
- Showing that the point of view from where the officer was made it impossible for them to see what actually happened
Prove Your Conduct Was Legally Justified
If you commit an unlawful driving violation in New York, you can argue that it happened due to the circumstances. In fact, there are countless examples of this. The main goal is to prove to the judge that even though your actions may have constituted a violation, you had good reason to do so. Here are a few of these examples:
- Driving too slowly because you are about to make a left turn
- Swerving your car in a panic after a bump in the road caused hot coffee to spill from the cup in the cupholder
- Driving above the speed limit to get to the hospital because of a sudden medical emergency
Prove Your Conduct Was Necessary to Avoid Harm
Sometimes, you have to violate New York traffic law because you were preventing injury to yourself or others. This would be a viable defense to fight a traffic law ticket. You may believe your conduct is justifiable because you were avoiding harm. Ensure that you can clearly and accurately explain the situation in court. Here are some situations in traffic law where unlawful conduct is necessary to avoid harm:
- Speeding up well past the limit to avoid an out-of-control car
- Speeding up to avoid being rear-ended by an aggressive driver
- Slamming the brakes on a main road to avoid colliding with an animal that was crossing the street
- Swerving your car into the neighboring lane to avoid another car that swerved into your lane
Prove Your Conduct Was a “Mistake of Fact”
If your unlawful traffic violation happens due to a “mistake of fact” this means you simply made an honest and understandable error. When using this angle to defend your traffic ticket, try to have photo evidence of the issue in question for your hearing. The judge can use their discretion to determine if your error was a mistake of fact and can either enforce or drop the traffic ticket. Here are some examples where this might prove applicable:
- You fail to stop at an obscured stop sign.
- The sun was at the exact angle that you could not see the light turn yellow and it was too late to stop when you did see the light.
- An old traffic sign was faded and hard to read so you could not do as it said.
Traffic School Programs
In some cases, going to a traffic school that has state sponsorship or approval can help clear your driving record. A judge may even make this a requirement after you’re found guilty of egregious speeding or a DUI. While this will involve some out-of-pocket costs, it can be worth the time and investment.
New York drivers in danger of a points suspension may be able to lower their total by taking a Defensive Driving/Accident Prevention Course. Although taking this class will not remove points from your record, it can subtract them from the calculation of your total. The course is about 5 hours long, and you can attend in person or online.
If you get a DUI in New York, the court may order you to complete an Impaired Driver Program. In some cases, you may also choose to voluntarily participate in order to get a conditional license. The Program consists of a 7 week, 16 hour educational component and a substance abuse evaluation. Participants must pay a $75 fee to the DMV, as well as program costs of up to $234.
Work with an Experienced New York Traffic Law Lawyer
Going up against New York law enforcement officers when the judge seems more inclined to agree with them than you can feel intimidating. This is especially the case if you have other traffic violations in the past that may reflect poorly on your driving habits. There is never a guarantee of the outcome in the court of law. However, working with an experienced New York traffic law attorney can re-inject objectivity into the discourse and get you the justice you seek.
Are you ready to reach out to a traffic lawyer to get help with your case? We can even help you connect with an attorney across New York state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!