Written by attorney Michael J Palumbo

An overview of the differences in defending traffic tickets in and out of New York City

The rules of engagement in defending a traffic ticket in NYC / Suffolk County / Rochester / Buffalo compared to the rest of the state are much different. This article discusses those differences any why it is so valuable to retain an attorney in a NYC / Suffolk County / Rochester / Buffalo traffic ticket.

The differences between NYC / Suffolk County / Rochester / Buffalo traffic court and the City and Town and Village justice courts are striking. In the NYC / Suffolk County / Rochester / Buffalo traffic courts you are not before a judicial tribunal; i.e., an elected judge that has jurisdiction to incarcerate and where the rules of criminal procedure regarding hearsay, discovery, and trial practice apply. Rather, you are before the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles Traffic Violations Bureau. The judges there are unelected employees of the DMV hired to hear your case and can only take administrative punitive action against your driver’s license – i.e., can only fine, suspend or revoke but cannot incarcerate. The biggest difference between NYC / Suffolk County / Rochester / Buffalo administrative tribunals and a justice court is that in the NYC / Suffolk County / Rochester / Buffalo tribunals there is no plea bargaining, no right to disclosure, the criminal rules of procedure and evidence do not apply, and there is a relaxed burden of proof. In other words, everything goes to trial stacked against you. Contrast, in a justice court you can negotiate a plea to a reduced charge with the local prosecutor and, if you cannot come to terms your attorney has other tools at their disposal; to wit: your attorney can demand disclosure, make freedom of information requests, and / or make a motion to dismiss. At trial, hearsay testimony is barred and the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, not the relaxed burden of “clear and convincing evidence" in the NYC / Suffolk County / Rochester / Buffalo administrative tribunals. That said, there is a lot a lawyer can do for you in both tribunals. In either case the prosecution must make out a “prima facie" case. In other words, there must be testimony which, if believed, would result in a guilty plea. For example, in the case of running past a stopped school bus, VTL § 1174, the prosecution must show that (1) the bus color was “international chrome," (i.e. school bus yellow), (2) that all the red lights on the bus, front and back, were flashing, (3) that the bus was marked “School bus" (4) that the stop signs were deployed, (5) that the school bus was actively engaged in the picking up or dropping off of passengers, and (6) that the school bus was doing this in a capacity as a school bus for a school district. Moreover, there are defenses in the theory of necessity and impossibility. If the state does not show evidence of each and every element the lawyer can move to dismiss the charge.

The above is just a thumbnail sketch of why it is important to retain counsel to represent you in a speeding ticket or other traffic ticket / moving violation in all courts of NY State. Our office provides this service statewide, charges 1 low flat fee, and gives a money back guarantee in most instances.

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