What is the difference between a traffic ticket and a criminal charge?
Sometimes when a cop stops you they will issue you a criminal charge instead of just a traffic ticket. Generally traffic tickets are yellow and criminal charges are pink. A cop will more than likely issue you a criminal citation if he/she feels that you are endangering the public. On the other hand, there is a certain expectation that police officers issue criminal citations and the police officer who stops you may simply feel pressure to issue a criminal charge.
In some respects you're in a better position with a criminal charge then you are with a traffic citation. Criminal citations, unlike traffic citations, can be plea-bargained. In addition, in assessing fines the judge does not look at your driving record. An example of a criminal citation may be instead of issuing a red light, passing a school bus, or illegal U-turn, you may be issued a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving. A higher percentage of criminal citations are resolved in favor of the driver than traffic citations.
If you have a pink ticket criminal citation, you must appear at the criminal courthouse at 161st St., rather than at the traffic center on Fordham Road. The normal rules of evidence and law apply, which makes it a little harder for you to defend yourself. On the other hand, you may be entitled to a Legal Aid lawyer.
Because of the technical rules of law, your lawyer, should you retain one or be appointed one, is more likely to have an upper hand on the cop who appears without a district attorney.
It is always to your advantage to fight a criminal citation pink ticket to avoid having a criminal record and because your chance of beating it is higher.