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09 Jul2009

NYC traffic ticket for unsafe lane change dismissed at the TVB.

We were able to help a client out with an unsafe lane change ticket today.  The charge was dismissed.

My client explained to me he really didn’t think he did anything wrong.  I sympathized with him.  Traffic tickets like this one are sometimes difficult to accept and to adjudicate because the concept of “unsafe” is subjective.

With speeding tickets or red light tickets, a motorist might disagree with an officer but one of the two must be right (and the other wrong, of course) about what happened.  In those cases, the light was either red or it wasn’t, and the speed of the vehicle was either over the limit or it wasn’t.  There are plenty of other factors in play in cases like those but they are different from a subjective charge like unsafe lane change.

With a subjective ticket like unsafe lane change, the motorist and officer can agree 100% on what occurred but still disagree on whether what occurred constituted a violation.

With a subjective ticket like unsafe lane change, I feel there’s unofficially an extra burden on the issuing officer.  He needs to do more than testify to what he saw or recorded.  He needs to offer testimony as to why what he saw or recorded constituted a violation of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law.  With measurable offenses like speeding and red light, this is self explanatory.

Today’s case was won based on the officer’s inability to offer sufficient testimony with respect to “why” the lane change described was deemed “unsafe” and worthy of a traffic summons.  The officer merely testified that my client changed lanes “unsafely”.  He offered nothing with respect to why or how the movement was unsafe.  How close was my client to another vehicle?  At what speed was he traveling?  Did he signal?  What was traffic like?  None of these questions were answered.

I knew right away the officer’s testimony wouldn’t be sufficient for the charge to stand.  I made a motion to dismiss and it was granted.

Submitted by NY traffic ticket attorney Matthew Greenberg