Should I Pay The Fine Now And Fight The Ticket Later?
Unfortunately there is no such thing as paying a fine and then fighting it later – at least not without going through a bigger process at a later date and paying much more money for counsel to draft and file a written motion to vacate your previous plea. And, if that motion is successful, you are right where you would have been if you had just pleaded “not guilty” from the start.
A fine is paid when there is a conviction; there is no way to pay a fine to a court without first pleading guilty to something and having been convicted. Some people might encourage you to do so by telling you it would be easier to just wrap up the case without having to go to court – bad advice. The majority of Court Clerks would responsibly warn you when you try to pay that it means you’re pleading guilty to the offense “as charged” and that some points could be added to your record (however many points the alleged offense carries).
Still, some people do not fully understand what they’re agreeing to and later on they find out that the reason they paid a fine is because they were convicted. This guilty conviction likely means there will be an increase in their insurance premiums because they now have a speeding or other moving violation conviction and points on their record. In a case such as this, they usually call the clerk and want to know what happened. The clerk will simply remind them that they were informed of exactly what was going to happen once they pleaded guilty and that’s pretty much that.
At this point they will call me and say, “I’d like to fight this ticket.” Well, the time to fight the ticket was before you pleaded guilty and officially admitted “I did it.” This brings up another point I’d like to talk about. Pleading “not guilty” is NOT saying “I am innocent”. The plea is merely a necessary procedural first step to allow either the motorist or their counsel to defend the charges against them. Some people do not want to plead not guilty because they feel like that would be akin to lying. They feel they did something wrong and they do not want to say, “I didn’t do it.” This, however, is not the case – pleading not guilty simply makes it possible for you to challenge that ticket – which you have every right to do. It is totally proper to plead “not guilty” and no one should feel badly about doing so.
Notwithstanding, in the event you did decide to plead guilty as charged and pay the fine, but then later realized the consequences were going to be more severe than you were expecting, there is a mechanism to withdraw your guilty plea. It is called a Motion to Vacate, but the courts don’t generally like these applications because they want closure too.
The important thing to remember is if you plead guilty, you will be convicted and have consequences, such as points on your record. The court will not be able to answer any questions about how the consequences will affect you specifically because everyone has a different driving record and circumstances; but no matter what the case, there will be negative consequences attached to every guilty conviction.
Therefore, you should either plead not guilty yourself or hire counsel and ask them to plead “not guilty” before anyone sets foot in the courtroom. If you intend to hire counsel, the time to do so is before you have gone to court yourself which could potentially make your situation worse and create more obstacles for the lawyer to overcome. The prosecutor may not want to give the impression that the deal they offered to the motorist directly will improve if they hire counsel after that negotiation. That’s why the best thing to do is to let counsel get in there first to bring up any issues that could help your case. And, importantly, many courts do not want negotiations once the matter has been set down for trial, so the best time to get a good offer is before the trial schedule is locked up. Obviously, best for the case and peace of mind to seek legal counsel early to avoid the foregoing conundrum.
What Happens if I Don’t Do Anything After Receiving the Ticket?
That little ticket can become the proverbial “mountain out of a molehill.” You as the motorist may want to forget about it, and you may succeed in forgetting about it, but I can assure you the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles does not forget about it, and they never will because it’s in their computer system.
Once a ticket is in their computer system, only authorized personnel can remove it. This means a ticket can sit there in perpetuity until it’s resolved. I often get calls from people in other states who have moved away from New York some time ago, and when they apply for a license in their new home the other state won’t license them because they have a scofflaw suspension pending in New York State.
The motorist may not realize they were suspended in New York, and of course they need the license in their new state, so they call my office to get the matter resolved. At this point I would need to review their driving history and find out what happened. Was it really them driving? Did they get notice of the ticket or not? If they didn’t get notice, why not? If they did get notice, why didn’t they respond? With a little cooperation and effort, we will figure out what happened at that time to best develop our theory of the defense for the case.
Typically what happens in a case where somebody forgot about a ticket or moved and didn’t get the notice is that they’ll call me up and say, “I was just pulled over for speeding”, or for failing to stop at a stop sign, and the “officer ran my name and told me I was suspended.” The problem is that they were legally suspended whether they knew it or not. It’s a strict liability statute meaning that the only elements the state needs to prove is that you were suspended on that date and you were driving. They do not need to prove that you knew you were suspended – only that you should have known.
The officer in most instances would place you under arrest and have your motor vehicle towed. You can’t drive the vehicle away because your license is suspended and you just committed an offense in that vehicle. They have it towed away to a yard and you must pay for said towing and its storage to get the vehicle back – which is typically between $300-400 (some cases even higher). The police officer will either issue a desk appearance ticket telling you when to appear in court on the misdemeanor charge of driving while suspended or they will actually take you into custody and bring you to the station. You would be released without bail, but with a court Notice to Appear on a certain date. In this case, you’ll have to appear for the criminal court calendar because it’s actually a crime — it’s an unclassified misdemeanor to be driving while suspended.
Moreover, the underlying ticket that the police reasoned to pull you over needs to be addressed too. That ticket may be dealt with in the criminal court with any other tickets on the same docket, or it could be severed and moved to the traffic calendar. As you can see with the benefit of forethought or counsel, you do not want to ignore any traffic ticket no matter how seemingly small it is – as it only gets worse with compounded interest!
For more information on Paying The Fine & Fighting The Ticket In NY, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (914) 301-7500 today.