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Feifer & Greenberg, LLP
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30 Jul2014

Should You Pay or Fight Your New York Traffic Ticket

It’s fair to say that no one is happy when issued a  traffic ticket in New York.  Some people just want to get it over with and pay the ticket.  While that may be the quickest way out of it, payment of the ticket as issued is pleading “guilty” to the charges at hand.  This means acceptance of the full consequences of the moving violation and these consequences often include more than just the fine you’re paying.

This expectation may mean that officers rushing through a car stop or cutting corners on certain tickets contributes to local revenues, but it also means officers issue tickets that may not have a firm legal standing. The officer may also be unprepared to testify that their ticket was just; when they fail to appear in court, your charges are extremely likely to get dismissed.

It is important to understand that paying a ticket is not your only option. You can work with a New York traffic ticket lawyer to explore your options for defending against the charges and/or seeking a lesser charge and lesser penalty overall.   Police officers and traffic courts count on a high percentage of individuals deciding to just pay their ticket and move on with their life.  For those who decide to contest their ticket, there are a number of ways their situation can be improved, whether it’s via a negotiated reduction, an unprepared or unavailable officer, a small error made by an officer along the way or sometimes even just a bit of luck.

Surprisingly, a small percentage of ticketed drivers (around 3-5%) actually contest tickets in court. So, most people are accumulating fees, fines and insurance points that may have been avoided had they decided to fight.

But how do you know if you should just pay the ticket or fight it?

Naturally, we think you should fight in almost every circumstance where a charge may appear on your driving record.  Even if it seems very minor, accepting a conviction on your record when you may otherwise be able to avoid it could be a decision you regret sometime in the future.   Perhaps there will be unexpected consequences from the ticket itself or perhaps you will receive another ticket in the future that might become a headache only in conjunction with the first ticket that you just paid.

There are many reasons why you should consider fighting a traffic ticket and lots of variables to help make your decision. Many people don’t fight a ticket because they don’t want the worry and hassle of going to court, or they just don’t think they have a chance to win.

Why you should fight a traffic ticket

Deciding to fight charges is an investment of your time or your money that can pay out in many forms. The expense of obtaining a legal defense can offset the cost of a larger fine, increased insurance premiums, or the threat of losing your job and/or license because of points on your license.

You’ll always have a chance to win or perhaps have the charges against you reduced.   Perhaps the officer took poor notes at the scene or otherwise will have issues when testifying in court or perhaps a prosecutor is willing to reduce the charge against you simply because it’s a quick way to alleviate a caseload.  Maybe there’s some defense or justification that will help your case.

You can avoid points, license suspensions and more.  Speeding ticket points alone range from 3 to 11 (enough for a suspension from a single speeding ticket) depending on how far over the limit you were driving. Speeding tickets and other moving violations are not good for your driving record and certainly not good for your automobile insurance.

What’s At Stake

There are many consequences to paying a ticket beyond accepting a fine. One’s employment, insurance rates and privilege to drive can all be negatively influenced by moving violations on a driving record.

Professional drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) can be fired for just one moving violation in some instances. Many jobs also treat your driving record as a measure of one’s character to some extent: a history of violations means you could be fired or could not be hired.

Even those from out-of-state or Canada are not immune to the variety of damages a NY traffic ticket conviction may cause.  Most states are part of the “Driver’s License Compact” and have some agreement in place to track your out of state traffic violations and even handle the charges as if they were issued right in your home state. Quebec and Ontario will include violations their drivers incur in New York on the record in Quebec and Ontario as if that’s where the violation itself occurred.

Driver’s license points are always a problem and can easily become quite costly.  Points in New York add up quickly–11 points in an 18 month period will likely result in the suspension of your license. 6 or more points in an 18 month period leads to a Driver Responsibility Assessment fee. You have to pay these fees annually for three years, and they can add up to $300 for just a minimum of six points alone and $75 for every point beyond the initial six.

10 questions to determine if you should fight a traffic ticket

Here are some quick considerations when determining whether to fight a traffic ticket…

1. Is it a violation that will add points to your license?
2. Is it a violation that may cause an insurance increase?
3. Are you facing additional DMV surcharges or assessments?
4. Is there potential license suspension as a result of the conviction?
5. Is there potential imprisonment as a result of the conviction?
6. Is it possible for the conviction to affect your employment status or ability to drive to work or for work?
7. Is there a reasonable chance of success if you proceed to a trial?
8. Might the prosecutor and/or judge be negotiable regarding a reduction of the charge and penalties?
9. How much time and/or expense is necessary to fight the ticket relative to the potential penalties?
10. Is there someone knowledgeable and experienced with whom you can discuss all this?

You Can Fight Tickets and Lessen Their Impact Regardless of the Circumstances

A big reason people often pay tickets is that they can’t imagine how they will be able to prove they’re not guilty. The courts will almost always take a police officer’s word over yours, after all, so why bother disputing the charges?

In truth, you don’t have to try and disprove the officer’s testimony outright to fight your ticket. You may just have to show that some point of contention is in doubt or that there is some inconsistency in the officer’s case and testimony.  In some cases, a plea bargain can be negotiated even if you feel the officer was 100% justified in writing the ticket.  In other cases, you can simply get lucky that the officer was unavailable to testify.

Common strategies a New York ticket lawyer might use include but certainly aren’t limited to:

  • Delaying your trial, forcing the police officer to show up to testify at a later date or otherwise improving the chances of a successful outcome
  • Looking at the legal statute and whether the elements of the charge at hand line up with the officer’s reasoning for the stop or citation
  • Requesting certain paperwork from the officer which, if not provided in a timely fashion, could be advantageous
  • Reviewing whether the officer has properly tested any equipment or devices used to justify the charge
  • Pointing out errors of fact or mistakes present on the ticket
  • Arguing that the officer couldn’t have made an accurate judgment based on certain conditions in place during the car stop or based on certain inaccuracies contained in the officer’s notes or testimony

Perhaps there is some good way to challenge a ticket that will only be evident if you actually decide to fight it.  You never know until you try or at least review your case in advance with the help of an experienced New York ticket attorney. You don’t have to accept the consequences of your ticket as inevitable.

If you’ve received a ticket and are currently in the process of deciding what to do with it, feel free to give us a call.  We’re your “#10” on the list above: “Is there someone knowledgeable and experienced with whom you can discuss all this?” Because of this, we can help you assess what you are facing and what options are available to minimize or eliminate the potential damages.

Call (888) 842-5384 (888 Tickethelp) or contact us online to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.