What happens if you miss court for a traffic ticket?
It might be tempting to ignore a traffic ticket. The Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) in NYC and the many local county, city, and village courts throughout the state handle a tremendous volume of cases.
Thinking that your ticket might just get lost in the shuffle or the court or DMV will just let it go because there are plenty of others? Unfortunately, that’s quite wishful thinking. If you fail to respond to and remain timely with a traffic violation in NY, your license will eventually be suspended for a failure to appear / failure to answer the summons.
Failure to answer
If you receive a traffic ticket from the TVB, the agency which handles traffic violations issued in the five boroughs of NYC, you will be instructed to respond by pleading guilty or not guilty within 15 days of getting the ticket.
While they don’t hold people to that as a hard deadline, the clock is ticking and you should respond shortly thereafter if you have missed the 15-day limit. Soon after they will make it harder to enter your plea and soon after that your license will be suspended. Whether online, over the phone, or by mail you need to get that initial plea in relatively quickly to avoid a suspension of your license.
If you receive a ticket outside NYC in a town or other local court, there will be a “return date” written on the ticket. The court would like your answer (your plea) before that return date. If you miss that return date, the court will eventually contact the DMV to initiate the suspension process.
While most courts give you a bit of a cushion before contacting the DMV, not all do and it can vary widely from court to court. Our recommendation is simply to get your answer to the summons entered before the return date and avoid any chance of suspension for failing to answer the ticket on time.
Failure to appear
Once you’ve entered your not-guilty plea and a court date has been assigned, your next “deadline” has been set. Failure to appear on that date will eventually lead to a suspension in both the Traffic Violations Bureau as well as the local courts throughout the state.
At the Traffic Violations Bureau, you are given 30 days from the missed hearing date to rectify the situation. This is an absolutely hard deadline–at midnight of that 30th day, your license will be suspended if your traffic violation case is still showing a missed hearing date. If you do miss a hearing date at the TVB, take action quickly and request a new one.
You will not automatically be granted one–it depends on the age and history of the case and/or the discretion of the judge–but for better or worse you need to address it before that deadline to avoid a suspension.
At the local courts throughout NY, each will move at their speed following a missed court or conference date. The procedure is much like a failure to answer as eventually, the court will notify the DMV that you aren’t timely, and the process to suspend your license will begin.
What happens if I continue to ignore the ticket?
If you’ve ignored a case to the extent that a suspension has been put in place, you’ll need to contact the court (and pay a $70 suspension lift fee per ticket) in order to inquire about scheduling a new date and lifting the suspension in place. In some cases, the court might be less willing to assign a new date to your case if you ignored it long enough to become suspended but it does depend on the court, the judge, etc.
Once your license is suspended, the problems begin to snowball. You’re already paying extra suspension fees and making it more difficult to continue contesting your case. Add to that the potential insurance issues a suspension could cause and the havoc simply not being able to drive may bring to your life.
If you do drive and are pulled over, you risk being charged criminally as driving with a suspended license is a misdemeanor and in some cases a felony in NY. While it’s rare outside NYC, at the TVB you will eventually be found guilty by default of your ticket if you ignore it long enough and you will forfeit any chance to fight it at all and likely be subject to a higher fine on top of it.
The best way to avoid all these headaches is to simply remain timely with your summons. You can’t always control the outcome of a case but you can control when and how you respond, request adjournments, and more.
One of the reasons people hire our firm is to make sure everything remains timely throughout the process. We pride ourselves in accurately tracking all dates and staying on top of any changes and in constant contact with the courts and the DMV.
If you have recently missed a deadline on a case or just want to talk about your case in general, feel free to reach out to our experienced New York traffic ticket attorneys. A lawyer from Feifer & Greenberg will work to have your ticket dismissed or reduced and we can show up in court on your behalf.
Whatever you do, don’t wait too long or ignore your ticket!