Many New York drivers believe that if they plead not guilty and successfully contest a traffic citation, they will walk away from the incident scot-free, without having to pay any fees except those owed to their lawyer for representing them in traffic court. In reality, in Suffolk County, even if a motorist has a traffic ticket thrown out, he or she must still pay an administrative fee to cover the costs of the ticket and plea being processed at the police station and any attendant communications by mail.
The administrative fee runs typically around $30 or $50 per ticket, and is applied equally to guilty pleas and cases where motorists disprove or correct the charges against them. As the system currently operates, a driver who fixes a broken taillight within 24 hours of being ticketed, a grounds for dismissal of a ticket for such an offense, or a driver who proves that an officer erroneously ticketed him or her for driving without insurance when an insurance card was produced when pulled over, will both have the tickets against them dismissed, but will still be charged administrative fees.
Now, Suffolk lawmakers are pushing a bill to exempt the majority of dismissed tickets from being charged an administrative fee. Proposed legislation, due to be introduced by Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), would grant Suffolk County’s recently-opened Traffic and Parking Violations Authority the power to waive administrative fees in situations where traffic tickets are found to be unwarranted or the charges have been corrected within the time period prescribed under law. Lawmakers, such as Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), who support the bill argue that it is unfair to charge an innocent driver who has already had to endure “the inconvenience of having to fight the situation — maybe even taking time off work and losing money” to attend traffic court an administrative fee on top of everything.
However, not everyone favors the proposed legislation. Those in opposition to the bill contend that it is more unfair to place the burden of administrative costs on taxpayers as a whole, rather than the individual driver who, even if innocent, caused the administration to incur expenses.
Only time will tell if the soon-to-be proposed legislation becomes effective. In the meantime, drivers ticketed in Suffolk County should be prepared to open their wallets for administrative fees, regardless of whether they must pay the actual traffic ticket that has caused such fees.