How to Plead Not Guilty to a NYC Traffic Ticket

Getting a traffic ticket in New York City is a daunting situation. Tickets issued within city limits are answerable to the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB). The TVB has slightly different rules (and higher conviction rates) than most traffic courts, including for how drivers are expected to enter a plea.

Drivers should not make the mistake of pleading guilty and accepting the fines just because they do not want to deal with the hassle of fighting the charges. The cost of a NYC traffic ticket is most often far worse than one thinks. What follows is a primer for those who are unfamiliar with NYC/TVB tickets with instructions on how to enter a not guilty plea.

There are two types of TVB tickets: the long-and-thin yellow tickets, which are hand-written by the officer; and the full-sized 8.5×11 white tickets, which are printed on a computer. Both tickets essentially have the same fields, which are described below.

The ticket number for a TVB ticket.

The first thing every driver needs is the traffic ticket number. This can be found in the upper-left-hand corner in large letters. This number allows the driver or his/her attorney to look it up online and understand the charges.

The driver’s license ID number

Below that is the name and address that’s on the driver’s license. There’s also a section called “ID number.” This is the number that appears on one’s driver’s license (also known as the driver’s license number).

Type of infraction (traffic or otherwise)

The next section describes the offense in question. The first row shows the time of day and the date that the offense took place. To the right of that are series of fields for the officer to fill in. On the yellow ticket they are bubbles, on the white one it is just a blank spot. For traffic offenses, the letters “VTL” are written or the corresponding bubble is filled.

Another row of has the option for the officer to select “TR INF” or “MISD”. The first indicates a traffic infraction, the second indicates the offense is a misdemeanor. It is common for neither field to be selected, and that’s acceptable. The odd thing about this part of the ticket is that, if the violation is a misdemeanor (e.g. reckless driving or drunk driving), then the driver should have been given a “pink ticket” and not a yellow or white one. Misdemeanors are handled in NYC’s criminal court system, not the TVB; that kind of mistake could be grounds for a dismissal.

Caption: Statute violated with description on a TVB ticket.

Also in this section is a field for the statute the officer alleges the driver violated along with a description (e.g. speeding or improper turn) of the offense. For instances of speeding in NYC, there is also a section indicating how fast the driver was going over the limit.

Drivers should make sure the VTL statute matches the written description. Although it is uncommon, a major discrepancy here could result in a dismissal.

Where the offense occurred, as well the details about the officer.

After that, the ticket will list where the violation occurred—street/intersection and the city, town or village, as well as the county. It is followed by the officer’s name, rank, precinct, and officer ID number (i.e. badge number). In instances of speeding, the “Radar Operator Name” is not always filled out and that is considered acceptable.

You don’t really have to respond in 15 days, but you still must respond within 30 days.

The last section, located at the bottom of the front side of yellow tickets and on the bottom-left of white tickets, states that the driver “must answer this ticket within 15 days.” The truth of this section is that it is meant to instill a sense of urgency in drivers so that they do not sit on the ticket and forget about it.

Drivers have two choices for pleading not guilty. They can follow the instructions to mail in the ticket or they can enter a plea online. The mail-in instructions are on the back of the yellow tickets and on the right-hand side of the white tickets.

Drivers who enter their plea online have three choices: guilty, not guilty, or take no action. The “take no action” option is for drivers who wish to respond but are not sure how they want to plea. This is a good option for drivers who want to take the time to discuss their ticket case with an NYC traffic ticket attorney before making a decision on how to plea.

While a driver should attempt to respond to the ticket as soon as is reasonable, the 15-day window does not have to be adhered to strictly. In reality, drivers have about 30 days to enter a plea. After 30 days, a driver who has not entered a guilty or not guilty plea will be considered to have not responded and the license will be suspended. If a person waits until their license is suspended and still opts not to respond, the TVB will eventually enter a default judgement against him/her, thus requiring them to pay the ticket without the chance to enter a plea.

What Happens if I Lost My NYC Traffic Ticket and Want to Respond?

If you have a New York license, you should be able to search for your ticket using your driver’s license number and last 4 digits of your SSN but only once it’s entered into the system (see above). If you are licensed out of state, or if you are a NY driver but still can’t find your ticket in the system,  you may need to contact NY DMV by phone in order to get the ticket details.

What Happens if I Can’t Find My Ticket in the Online System?

It happens occasionally that a handwritten ticket can’t be found online even after the passage of a certain amount of time. This could be due to the ticket getting lost by DMV or a miscoding of the ticket in the system. While mailing in the physical ticket with a plea can reduce the chances of it not getting entered, even that does not guarantee that it won’t get lost somewhere down the line. If this happens you should contact DMV to discuss your options.

Who Should I Contact?

Before entering a plea for a NYC traffic ticket, drivers should consult with an experienced traffic ticket attorney. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are skilled traffic ticket attorneys with offices in New York and New Jersey. Our attorneys have handled many NYC traffic tickets and are well-respected in all of NYC’s TVB offices. Email or call 888-883-5529 for a free consultation about your case.