When a driver decides to fight a traffic ticket, the first step is to plead not guilty and have the plea registered with the court so that they can set up a court date. If the case is being heard by the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) of NYC, you can enter a plea online by visiting the New York DMV “Plead and Pay” website. If the case is not pending in the Traffic Violations Bureau, you would mail in the not guilty plea and save a copy for one’s records.
Anybody can request that a court date be rescheduled (otherwise known as an “adjournment” or a “continuance”), but whether or not that request will be granted is up to the court. Experienced attorneys like those at the Rosenblum Law Firm have a positive reputation with many of the judges in New York State’s numerous traffic courts and oftentimes a date change is given to attorneys as a matter of professional courtesy. In addition, in some cases, a court will not grant a new date unless the request is made in person. Hiring an attorney to represent you will allow you to avoid coming to court in most cases.
What Should I Do If I Can’t Make It to Court on the Day It Is Assigned?
It’s important to take every step to communicate the situation to the court. Ignoring the ticket or the court date will only make matters worse because it will result in a suspended license, arrest warrant, and/or conviction by default. Rescheduling a court date is quite common and most courts will be accommodating, but not always.
For a case being heard by the Traffic Violations Bureau, you can try to request a postponement using the link above or by visiting a TVB office. Note that once a case has been postponed once or twice, online rescheduling will no longer be possible. For a case pending elsewhere, contact the court and ask to speak with the court clerk about a continuance. Sometimes they will grant it by phone, other times they will require the request to be made in writing.
At the TVB, adjournments requested after the first or second date usually require that the defendant post a $40 bond. The purpose of the bond is the same as bail, it is a bit of insurance to motivate the person to not miss their next date. The bond is refunded at the end of the case unless the driver misses the court date, in which case the bond is forfeit along with the other consequences (see below).
What If I Miss My Traffic Court Date?
Missing one’s traffic court date can result in a default judgment against the driver. In other words, the judge will find the driver guilty because he/she was not there to provide any evidence contrary to that offered by the officer/prosecutor. It can also mean a suspension of one’s driver’s license and even potentially an arrest warrant.
But all is not lost! A driver who misses a court date can hire an attorney to lift the suspension and reinstate the case. The sooner this is done the better (remember, driving on a suspended license is a criminal offense in New York). Default convictions are rarely overturned.
If I Reschedule Enough Times, Can I Get the Traffic Ticket Dismissed?
In the average case, repeated attempts to adjourn a court date do not increase one’s chances of dismissal. In fact, a judge can refuse to reschedule if he/she feels the reasoning is frivolous or that the driver is trying to play games.
In addition, too many adjournments can hurt a person’s efforts to negotiate (“plea bargain”) with prosecutors (where applicable). Judges and prosecutors don’t like having their time wasted, so a person hoping to get his/her ticket reduced to a lesser charge should not reschedule more than once unless it is truly urgent. Better still, a person who cannot make their second court date can hire an attorney to appear in court and negotiate the plea deal on their behalf, thus alleviating the need to adjourn again.
If I Keep Pushing Off My Court Date Will the Points Expire?
No. The idea that pushing off a case for more than 18 months leads "the points to expire" is a myth. Points are based on the date of violation, not on the date of conviction. When it comes to the potential for license suspension, the court will look at the 18 month window from the date or dates of violation for point accumulation purposes. Hence, if a person is ultimately convicted of the offense, they can still be suspended based on point accumulation even if the court date is more than 18 months from the date of violation. Let's take a basic example: A person first gets a 6 point speeding ticket and then several weeks later gets a 5 point cell phone ticket (the penalty for 11 points is suspension). He keeps rescheduling his case so that the trials are 3 years after the respective dates of violation. While the case is pending, the person won't be suspended, of course, because of the "innocent until proven guilty" rule. However, if the person is convicted of both tickets, he will still be suspended because both tickets were received within an 18 month period since the date of violation is the critical point in time. He has accomplished nothing by pushing off his case repeatedly other than postponing the inevitable.
What If the Clerk Says That I Need to Make an Appearance?
Generally, the court will grant a request for a continuance to drivers who mail a letter to the court verifying the reason for not attending the original date (i.e, surgery, business travel). If the court does not grant the request, consult with an attorney. In many cases, an attorney can make the appearance on the driver’s behalf and take care of settling the matter without him/her having to come to court.
An attorney should be able to speak both with the prosecutor about negotiating a settlement for the case or may be able to reschedule the date. Courts are sometimes more accommodating for attorneys because an attorney needs time to discuss the matter with their client and also schedule their own availability for court. Moreover, since attorneys handle many cases the court is more inclined to help the attorney adjust his/her schedule.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney for a Simple Traffic Ticket?
In New York, the legal process can often be confusing and difficult to navigate. An attorney is a licensed professional that can help protect your rights and defend you throughout the legal process. An experienced attorney knows the process and procedure for a case to be handled properly and can successfully negotiate a settlement. The best part is for many cases in New York, you as a client will not be required to come to court if you have hired an attorney to represent you.
If you or a loved one has received a traffic ticket in New York and may have a hard time attending the court date, call an attorney for help. The lawyers of Rosenblum Law are experienced traffic ticket attorneys with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email or call 888-883-5529 for a free consultation about your case.