What is the Cost of a New York Cell Phone or Texting Ticket?
Fines: A conviction for a cell phone or texting while driving ticket in New York State costs $50 to $150 for a first offense. A second offense in 18 months costs between $50 and $200. A third offense in 18 months can cost between $50 and $400.
Surcharges: All cell phone/texting tickets in NY include a $88 or $93 surcharge depending on where the driver was ticketed. This is in addition to the fine.
Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee (DRA): Drivers who accrue six or more points in 18 months as a result of traffic convictions will be required to pay an additional fine known as the Driver Responsibility Assessment fee (DRA). This penalty costs $300 plus $75 for each point after six. This fee is paid to DMV and is separate from and in addition to the state surcharges and fines associated with the ticket.
Points: Drivers convicted of a cell phone or texting violation in New York will have 5 points assessed on their license per violation.
Auto insurance premium increase: Insurance companies periodically pull the driving records of their customers and can increase rates when new convictions appear. Cell phone/texting tickets are high-point tickets, and insurance companies do not take them lightly. One study showed a single cell phone ticket can cause a rate increase of 20 percent.
Types of Cell Phone/Texting Tickets in New York
New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) contains two distinct laws related to use of portable electronic devices while driving:
- VTL 1225(c) Use of Mobile Telephone
- VTL 1225(d) Use of Portable Electronic Devices (includes texting while driving)
A ticket for VTL 1225(c) is entirely different than a VTL 1225(d) ticket. 1225(c) is a cell phone ticket (“c” for cell phone) while 1225(d) is an electronic device ticket (“d” for device), more commonly known as a texting while driving ticket (even though it covers more than texting).
A 1225(c) ticket means the officer is claiming that the driver was engaged in a phone call at the time he observed him/her. For 1225(d) tickets, it is irrelevant whether the driver was making a phone call. A driver who is holding their phone while texting or using an app (including GPS navigation) can be issued a 1225(d) ticket.
What many people don’t realize is that a 1225(d) ticket can also be given for devices other than phones. A GPS system (i.e. Garmin), MP3 player, iPad, camera, or other hand-held electronic device also counts under the 1225(d) law.
Hiring an Attorney to Fight a New York Cell Phone/Texting Ticket
Between fines, surcharges, and insurance increases, a conviction for a cell phone or texting ticket in New York can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars. That’s why hiring a lawyer to get the ticket reduced or dismissed will undoubtedly save you money. In many jurisdictions an attorney can reduce a cell phone or texting ticket to a non-moving violation such as a parking ticket or plea it down to a lesser-point ticket such as disobeyed traffic control device (a two-point violation). This can reduce or eliminate the impact on one’s driving record and insurance rates. While plea bargains (point reduction via negotiation) are not allowed in NYC, they are permitted in all other NY courts.
Drivers who hire a lawyer can rest easy. Once hired, a lawyer can take over the case, doing all the research and paperwork, as well as appear in court on the driver’s behalf.
Drivers licensed outside New York sometimes mistakenly believe they can ignore a New York cell phone or texting ticket. This would be a huge mistake. New York State can suspend someone’s right to drive within its borders for failing to respond to or pay a cell phone/texting ticket issued here. Unfortunately, a driver who pays a New York cell phone or texting ticket may still have to deal with points, insurance increases and fines associated with a conviction. New York is also likely to inform the home state of a driver of any convictions, which means those convictions are almost assured to end up on a person’s driving record and can therefore impact their auto insurance
Each state handles a New York traffic ticket conviction differently. Here are some examples:
- New Jersey – The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission normally assess two points on a New Jersey license following a moving violation conviction in New York. In the case of cell phone or texting tickets, NJ does not assess points until the third conviction. These points count towards suspension of both NY and NJ driving privileges. Read More
- Connecticut – Drivers from Connecticut will not receive points from the CT DMV following a cell phone or texting conviction in New York. However, the five points NY assigns to the violation will be noted by the NY DMV and can still result in a suspension of driving privileges in NY. Read More
- Florida – The Sunshine State will assess points for out-of-state convictions. In Florida, talking on a cell phone is not considered an offense but texting while driving is. Thus, a Florida driver convicted of texting in New York will get six points on their license. Read More
- Other states – Drivers licensed in any of the other 50 states and D.C. can find more information about New York speeding tickets by visiting our out-of-state license page.
How to Fight a New York Cell Phone/Texting Ticket
There are several strategies that can be used to fight a cell phone or texting ticket – some more effective than others:
- Take the Cell Phone/Texting Ticket to Trial and be Found “Not Guilty” by the Judge. Every driver has the right to due process. But taking a cell phone or texting ticket to trial is risky—a driver who is found guilty at trial will see the conviction on their driving record and have five points assessed against his/her license. This can be a long shot. If the facts are unclear, the judge will almost side with the officer by default. This is why if your case is likely to end up going to trial you need an experienced lawyer who knows how to navigate the playing field.
- Schedule for Trial and Hope the Officer Doesn’t Show. Many drivers believe that if the officer does not appear for the trial, the judge will dismiss the case. While a driver can ask the judge to dismiss the case, it is far more likely he/she will simply reschedule the trial for a different date. And if they do show up eventually (the more likely scenario) there’s a good chance you will be convicted, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Make a Motion to Dismiss the Cell Phone/Texting Ticket. This is a good choice if there are valid grounds for a dismissal. For example, depending on the jurisdiction there is certain information that, if missing or erroneous, would invalidate the ticket. To see whether or not your ticket can be dismissed on technical grounds it is best to have it reviewed by an experienced attorney.
- Have an Attorney Negotiate a Reduction of the Cell Phone/Texting Ticket. It is usually possible for a skilled attorney to negotiate the ticket down to a lower offense. In this case, the driver would pay a fine but receive less points. A reduced charge is less likely to impact one’s insurance premiums (saving hundreds of dollars in the long run) and mitigate or eliminate the risk of a suspended license.
For more information and more detailed strategies for How to Beat a Cell Phone Ticket in New York, check out our ebook.
- How Long Does a Cell Phone or Texting Ticket Stay on Your Driving Record?
A cell phone or texting violation will stay on one’s driving record until January 1 of the fourth year following the date of conviction. The five points associated with the ticket will count towards one’s point total for 18 months from the date of the violation.
For example, if a cell phone ticket is issued in December 2017 and the driver is convicted in court in March 2018, then the points will count until June 2019 and the conviction will remain on the record until January 2022.
- Is Talking on Speakerphone a Cell Phone Violation in NY?
A motorist who talking via speakerphone but still has the phone in hand can still be ticketed for a cell phone violation. Officers will not typically stop a motorist if he or she believes a person is talking on a hands-free speakerphone, as this is fully legal.
- Can I Hold An Electronic Device Other Than a Cell Phone While Driving?
NYS VTL 1225(d) makes it illegal to use any electronic device while driving. This includes a GPS, iPad, or camera. For GPS systems (or phones with GPS apps), the exception is if they are mounted in the vehicle and not held in the driver’s hand.
- Is It Legal to Drive with Earbuds in My Ears?
New York’s cell phone and texting laws do not cover earphone use. However, a separate statute—VTL 375-24-a—makes it expressly illegal for a driver (or cyclist) to have two earphones plugged in. This a no-point violation with a maximum fine of $150, but is avoidable by keeping at least one ear free to able to hear traffic noises while driving.
- Is it Legal to Use Your Cell Phone at a Red Light or Stop Sign in New York?
The statute for cell phone use and texting explicitly states that the vehicle must be in motion to constitute a violation. However, it is generally accepted that the vehicle is considered “in motion” when it is being operated which includes being stopped at a stoplight or stop sign.
Data on New York Cell Phone/Texting Tickets
In 2016, New York law enforcement officials handed out 205,733 tickets for cell phone and texting violations. This represents about 6% of the total number of tickets issued that year. The majority of cell phone/texting tickets were issued in New York City. Kings County (Brooklyn) saw the most cell phone and texting tickets of any other county in the state, with nearly 40,000 issued, followed by Manhattan and Queens. Outside of NYC and Long Island, Westchester was the next most-cited county for cell phone and texting tickets.
While the number of cell phone tickets issued annually has been decreasing over time, the number of texting tickets has increased exponentially. In 2009, only 181 tickets were issued for texting while driving in New York State. However, by 2016, the number of tickets was more than 92,000–more than 500 times greater than seven years ago!
Unsurprisingly, the NYPD issued nearly 56% of all cell phone/texting tickets in 2016. But this is a drop off from 2009, when the NYPD wrote nearly 65% of cell phone/texting tickets in the state. By contrast, State Troopers have increased their share of cell phone/texting tickets, writing more than 18% in 2016 versus just 11% in 2009.
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