Why Should I Fight My Traffic Ticket In New York?
Generally, speaking, you should always fight a traffic ticket. If you receive a citation of any kind, the best thing to do is to plead “not guilty” or better yet, allow your attorney to do so on your behalf. If you were to instead just plead “guilty,” then the result is a definitive conviction as if you went to trial and lost. In that case, the prosecutor will simply ask the judge to impose a fine and you pay it. Easy? Yes. Best move? Absolutely not.
Unfortunately, this is often the scenario which occurs because many people are guided by feelings or fear, guilt, shame, and doubt, or simply do not want to get involved with a court. That defendant or Principal of the Case doesn’t consider or are unaware that when they plead guilty to a traffic offense they are putting a mark on their driving record (permanent on lifetime abstract), which, consequently, often comes back to cause problems for the motorist at a later time. I was hired once by an attorney who was facing a permanent loss of their license for a current plea of guilty to a cell phone ticket, but that conviction on his plea for a Serious Driving Offense (SDO) triggered a lifetime revocation based on events 24 years before! In that case, after exhaustive motion practice I was able to vacate his plea of guilty and negotiated a zero-point plea instead and saved his driving life.
It’s clear that the best course of action is prevention. You should challenge every ticket which affords a motorist the opportunity for counsel to appear in court for them and optimize their chances for outright success or mitigate the consequences of their situation and spare them an astonishing amount of trouble.
If you decide to plead not guilty yourself and not seek counsel, then you will have to wait for the court to send you the notice for a date to appear in court personally. If you are not familiar with the court process, then navigation on your own can be difficult and ineffective. Every charged offense, pertinent legal elements, motorist’s driving history, their needs, as well as, the fact that each Court, Judge, Court Clerk, and Prosecutor interacts differently – and all of these variables are genuinely important factors in defining the presentation of your theory of the defense from start to finish.
If that’s not enough metrics, in New York there are a number of law enforcement agencies writing the ticket: New York State Police (Troopers), Deputy Sheriff, County Police, local police departments, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP – watersheds, etc.), or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA – said public transportation jurisdiction). The area where the offense occurred is also controlling; for instance, whether the ticket was written around wetlands or watershed areas. There are a lot of different agencies with different policies on traffic related tickets and that reverberates into the courtroom.
There is a right way, the wrong way, and the best way, to handle Criminal, DWI and Traffic Ticket Defense. That’s why it is best to research and hire a professional and let them do what they do best! They have a unique and invaluable perspective, experience, and knowledge that only effectively comes from regularly practicing and continuing their studies of these specific areas of law.
By way of common example: if a motorist goes to court themselves, anything they say to the prosecutor in conference is essentially an admission of guilt. I know – because I was a prosecutor too. For example, if you deny a charge going 85 in 65 mph zone and say that you were really doing 76, the prosecutor could seek to use that statement against you if you go to trial. You lost your leverage in an instant, can’t take it back, and you would likely be convicted at trial since you admitted to speeding at all. The result would be a four (4) point speeding conviction on your driving record. That is just one of the many benefits of hiring counsel and not going into court on your own. When we argue, it is not a factual usable admission, but mere “dicta,” i.e. opinion or belief of your advocate. So, as counsel we have productive and more thorough dialogue with the Prosecutor than an accused lay-person defendant or Principal of the Case.
When Do I Actually Have To Enter A Plea By For My Traffic Ticket?
When a traffic ticket is issued, the issuing police officer will include specific information on the ticket, such as a certain mile marker on a given roadway. They will put the code of that corresponding jurisdiction, along with the address, and a “return date” dictating the outside date when the motorist must enter their plea either by mail or in person or technically, be in default and facing a suspension by the court as a “scofflaw.”
Some motorists will misunderstand this instruction and think that they personally must appear in court on that date to enter their plea. Realistically, they did not need to appear on that date. They could have hired an attorney to do so or may mail in a plea of “not guilty” by themselves before that date as indicated in small print on the ticket. The date on that ticket is the return date. It will usually give you about two weeks to a month to mail it in. That date is important because it triggers events and time frames; for example, discovery or demands for information (or the People’s time frame for producing some items to the motorist or their counsel). Note: always make a copy of any document(s) you sign, including the traffic ticket, and file them away in your personal records for potential future need. If performed by the motorist, check the box indicating “not guilty”, provide your current mailing address, and mail it to the court so it is received on or before the listed date. This step may be done without an attorney, however, if you have an attorney take care of this step, then your attorney will be the one corresponding with the court directly and may figure out a court date that works best for your particular case and circumstances.
It is important that you have your plea received by the Court the return date and recorded properly. We have seen cases where pleas and demands for information or discovery did not get recorded properly at the court for some reason or were not responded to at all, and these procedural problems have to be dealt accordingly, one step at a time.
Since traffic infraction cases fall under the umbrella of “Criminal Law” for procedure and due process, the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) safeguards and its strict requirements govern. The CPL encompasses a tremendous amount of legal procedures to comprehend and be able to argue properly. Therefore, a party simply cannot effectively defend themselves as well as an experienced defense attorney (nor can an attorney, referred by a friend or helper in other areas of law, who ill chooses to dabble with this criminal or quasi-criminal area of law.
For more information on Fighting Your Traffic Ticket In New York, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (914) 301-7500 today.
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