Fighting a traffic ticket outside of New York City.

If you received a traffic ticket outside of the five boroughs of New York City, you have certain advantages in fighting the ticket.   The greatest advantage that you have in fighting a ticket outside of New York City is that police officers are required to provide a "supporting deposition" upon request.   Requesting the supporting depositon can sometimes be the most effective strategy for fighting a ticket.   Also, unlike most tickets in New York City, most places outside of the city allow plea bargaining.   In fact, they often encourage it for their own benefit.

Requesting a supporting deposition.

First, you need to see whether a "supporting deposition" was given to you at the time of the ticket.   Some police officers have the ability to print out the supporting deposition with the ticket.   If they gave you a supporting deposition with your ticket, you cannot use this technique to try to fight the ticket.   If you did not receive a supporting deposition, follow the following steps:

From the time that your request is received by the Police Department, they are supposed to provide you with a supporting deposition within 30 days.   If they do not mail you the supporting deposition within 30 days (figure 37 days for you to receive it), your ticket is supposed to be dismissed. You have two options for getting your ticket dismissed.   The Police Department or local court will not dismiss it prior to a hearing date unless you make a motion to dismiss.   You can use this motion form to request that the ticket be dismissed.   Attach copies of the signed and returned receipt from the post office (green card), a copy of the certified mail receipt (white slip), a delivery confirmation from the post office, if possible, and a copy of both sides of the ticket showing that the supporting deposition was requested.   A copy of the motion and attached exhibit must be sent to the police officer or department that issued the ticket.

While the motion is the better way to request that the case be dismissed, you can also wait until the hearing date that you are assigned (not the one on the ticket).   In most small courts, you meet with the police officer or the county or town attorney before your case is called to discuss possible settlement.   Bring your proof and show them that you requested the supporting deposition and that it wasn't given to you.   Most police officers or town attorneys will agree to drop the case, which they do in front of the judge.   This of course, puts you in a position where the police officer can at least claim that he/she sent you the supporting deposition, but most police officers will not make that up if it wasn't actually sent.

If the police officer or town attorney will not agree to dismiss the case, just point out to the judge that the supporting deposition was requested within 30 days by certified mail return receipt requested and that it was never received.   Show your proof to the judge.   It is, of course, possible that the police officer did send you the supporting deposition but that it was never received.   The law requires that it be sent, not that it be received.   So if the police officer has proof that it was sent, the fact that you did not receive it will not necessarily cause your case to be dismissed.   The judge is not likely to just accept the police officer's word that it was sent.

WARNING! In some small courts, a police officer may get annoyed that you requested a supporting deposition.   Some cops will refuse to plea bargain your charge if you request a supporting deposition and one is sent.   Because it is often in the town's best interest to plea bargain down to a non-moving violation so that they get to keep the fine, you may still be able to plea bargain a moving violation down to a no points parking violation even if the cop is annoyed that you requested a supporting deposition.

Local towns are likely to plea bargain moving violations because it is in their best interests.   Many violations, which would result in points, result in fines that go directly to New York State instead of the locality where the ticket was issued.   For example, if you receive a ticket from a White Plains police officer for speeding, and plead guilty to speeding, the fine would most likely go directly to New York State.   On the other hand, if you appear at the hearing and the police officer pleads the ticket down to a non-moving or no-point violation, such as parking on the sidewalk, you get no points, and the fine goes directly to the local government such as the city of White Plains or the County of Westchester.   To keep the fine for the local town and to save time, most violations are pled down.   While this will save you points (and save on your insurance), the cost of the fines and surcharges, can be high - averaging about $150.00.

If you do not wish to request a supporting deposition, or to plea bargain, you can chose to fight the traffic ticket.

What to do when you're pulled over by the Police.

What to do after you get the ticket.

Plead "not guilty."  If you do not officially plead not guilty, you will automatically be found guilty and the points and fines will be applied.   You can plead not guilty by mail or in person.   What to do when you get notice of your hearing date.

Before going to a hearing for your summons, it is important that you know the possible consequences of going forward with the hearing on a particular day.   If you have had even 1 ticket in the last few years that resulted in you getting "points" use the points/date calculation form.

Under the points system, fines can be quite steep and your license may be suspended or revoked depending upon your prior driving history.   Traffic summonses outside of New York City can often be plea-bargained.   You must, therefore, know exactly what the effect would be of pleading guilty or being found guilty of another moving violation before you go to your hearing.

In determining fines and whether your license should or must be suspended or revoked, the judge will "look back" at 18 months of your driving history.  

What to do on the date of your hearing.

The points/date calculation form will help you to decide whether you should try and delay your hearing.   If you know that a guilty finding will result in a steep fine, a suspension or revocation of your license, then you will want to delay your hearing until enough points drop out of the look back period (18 months).   The 18-month period starts from the date of the ticket, not the date of the conviction.   If you're not sure of the points you might have on your license, order an abstract, which will show not only the points, but the dates of the points.

On the day of the hearing

  1. Show up at least 30 minutes before the time your hearing is scheduled and check in with the court clerk as soon as possible.   Cases are usually called in the order in which people check in.
  2. Sit down and wait for your name to be called.   The police officer or town attorney will likely call your name before the judge comes into the court to see if they can plea bargain your case.
  3. Always look for the cop who issued you the ticket.   If you don't recognize the cop, ask any of the cops there if they are the officer on your ticket or if they know if he/she is there.   You absolutely want to know if the cop who issued the ticket is in court before the judge comes on the bench.
  4. Before starting to call the names, the judge will give a 2 to 3 minute explanation of your rights and then ask if anyone wants to change their plea from guilty to not guilty.   Do not change your plea.
  5. Once you are called up, the judge will ask you if you're ready for a hearing and whether or not you have an attorney.   If the police officer is not there, ask that the summons be dismissed. (see below)   If the police officer is there and you want to get an adjournment, you must give the judge a reason for the adjournment, such as you're waiting to get information or you want to bring a witness who was not available for today.   Getting a couple of adjournments is always a good idea because it increases the chances that the police officer will fail to show up and your case will be dismissed.
  6. If the police officer does not show up at this first hearing, ask the judge that the case be dismissed.   If you have not asked for adjournments prior to this, the judge is likely to dismiss the case on the first appearance if the police officer does not show up.   On the other hand if you have asked for an adjournment in the past, the judge is likely to give the police officer the same number of adjournments before dismissing the case.

The Hearing

The police officer will be sworn in and will testify first.   Listen very carefully.   Quite often the police officer will testify very quickly, often just reading off of a script.   You can ask the judge to ask the police officer to testify slower so that you can understand and follow what the police officer is saying.

After the police officer testifies, you can question the police officer, make statements under oath and present any evidence or witnesses you may have in your defense.   The normal rules of evidence do not apply in traffic court so don't worry about how you can get a piece of paper in evidence.

Questioning the police officer. If you wish to question the police officer, always ask the following questions first: After the hearing

Immediately after you finish, the judge will rule guilty or not guilty and will assess the fine, if any, on the spot.   In determining the amount of the fine, the judge will look back at your driving record for similar types of violations and the number of safety violations.   Safety violations include such things as speeding tickets, running red lights, failure to stop for a school bus, illegal u-turns or anything that could present a danger to the public.   Other infractions such as driving with a broken taillight will not greatly affect the fine.

Multiple safety violations, however, result in very large fines.   It is not unusual for a fine for 3 safety violations to be as much as $1,500.00 plus surcharges.   In addition, if the judge feels that your driving record presents a risk to the public, the judge can suspend your license on the spot.

If you are found not guilty, you can immediately leave unless you had posted a bond.   If you posted a bond, then go to the cashier or Window 8, if the case is in the Bronx, to request a refund.

If you're found guilty, you must go to Window 8 or the cashier to make arrangements to pay the fine.   In New York City there are no installment plans for the payment of the fine.   You must pay by credit card, cash, money order or certified check within two weeks of your conviction.   If for any reason you cannot pay within those two weeks, you can go back and request an additional two weeks, which is normally granted.   You do not have to go back  to make the payment.   You can make the payment or ask for the extension at any motor vehicle center in New York State.

If you cannot pay the fine when it is due, your license is subject to being suspended and if you are caught driving with a suspended license you're subject to arrest.   This is another reason why you may want to delay a hearing until you can afford to pay the fine if you're found guilty.