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Traffic Tickets and Violations in New York
Citations or traffic tickets are issued in the State of New York for various violations of traffic law. Citations generally indicate the statute or code number of the violation, and explain how and when to pay the fine or respond to the ticket. You must respond to a citation, usually by paying a fine or appearing in court, or else a warrant may be issued for your arrest and your driving license may be suspended.
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TYPES OF VIOLATIONS
Most traffic tickets in New York are issued for what are sometimes called "strict-liability" offenses. In these cases, the only thing required to convict a person of the offense is proof that they committed the act, regardless of any criminal intent. Examples of strict-liability offenses include:
- Overdue parking meters
- Not using turn signals
- Parking in a handicapped zone without authorization
MOVING VS. NON-MOVING VIOLATIONS
Violations are also classified by whether or not the vehicle was in motion at the type of the incident, and traffic tickets may therefore be for either moving or non-moving violations. Examples of moving violations include:
- Speeding or driving below the minimum speed
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Driving without a seat belt
- Drunk driving (DUI and DWI)
Non-Moving violations include:
- Parking in a handicapped zone or other illegal parking
- Driving with an invalid vehicle registration
- Having expired or missing license plates
- Leaving a vehicle unattended and running
The majority of traffic violations in New York are classified as infractions, which require paying a fine up to $600. More serious offenses carry higher fines and/or imprisonment.
YOUR OPTIONS WHEN YOU RECEIVE A CITATION
Many citations do not require a court appearance, and you may admit guilt by paying the ticket directly. The citation will indicate how and by what date to pay the fine. You may be eligible to pay online or by mail. If paying by mail, check the "guilty" box on the back of your ticket and send your money order/check (payable to Commissioner of Motor Vehicles) to the address mentioned on your ticket. This should be done within 15 days of receipt of your ticket.
Most New York City residents will have their non criminal tickets handled by the local town, city or village criminal courts. However, residents of New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, or the towns of Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip, or Smithtown in Suffolk County will have to deal with the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) of the Department of Motor Vehicles instead. Residents in the above areas will have their cases heard by a DMV administrative law judge. Criminal offenses such as DUI or reckless driving will be heard by the local criminal courts in these areas. TVB's do not handle parking tickets. You can plead guilty and pay your fine in person at any Traffic Violations Bureau Office. Payment can be made by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover card, check or money order. Traffic Violations Bureau Offices in New York City, Buffalo, Suffolk County and Rochester only deal with traffic violations.
If you wish to dispute the citation, you must check the "not guilty" box at the back of your ticket, fill in the required information and submit the same to the address given on your ticket. This must be done within 15 days of receipt of the ticket. You must appear in court personally on the scheduled date, and enter a "not guilty" plea. While you may be able to negotiate with the prosecuting attorney, a trial will be scheduled if no agreement is reached. A trial gives you an opportunity to fight the traffic ticket in front of a judge or jury, and most people prefer to hire a traffic ticket lawyer to defend them in court.
If you wish to appeal the verdict, you can do so by filling out and sending the appeal forms available at the Traffic Violations Bureau offices. You will have to pay a fee for appealing the verdict. Fill out the form, and send it along with a check/money order for the required amount (it will be mentioned on the form) to:
Appeals Processing Unit
P.O. Box 2935
Albany, NY 12220-0935
THE IMPLICATIONS OF BEING FOUND GUILTY
When you pay a ticket directly, you are essentially pleading guilty to a traffic offense, which carries the same consequences as being found guilty of the violation in court. Motorists who either plead guilty directly or are found guilty of an offense should be aware of the following possible consequences:
- Certain traffic offenses, including speeding and other moving violations, are automatically reported to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. New York routinely provides information concerning traffic ticket convictions to other states and Canadian provinces.
- The New York Department of Motor Vehicles follows a point system to track violations and their corresponding penalties. Points are added to your driving record which could result in your license being suspended. For more information, see our Point System section.
- New York drivers that accumulate points on their driving record are often subject to higher car insurance premiums.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT TRAFFIC TICKET CONVICTIONS
One of the best ways to reduce the negative implications of traffic violations is to drive safely and not commit any additional offenses. Points on your New York license will be reduced, and your driving record may eventually be cleared if you remain free of any additional violations. Smart drivers often choose to take a defensive driving course or traffic school course in order to reduce the points on their license more quickly.
Taking a defensive driving course can also help lower the car insurance premiums of drivers whose rates increased following one or more traffic ticket convictions. Some drivers prefer to obtain a new quote for car insurance following a traffic ticket conviction, since often more competitive rates and coverage may be available.
The DMV also has an accident prevention course called the Point Insurance Reduction Program that helps you to reduce points on your license.