If you receive a traffic ticket for speeding, passing a red light, passing a school bus, unsafe lane change or failure to signal in New York City, your case will be handled by the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Outside of this jurisdiction, traffic infractions are handled by the local criminal court. The Traffic Violations Bureau only handles traffic infractions.
It does not handle traffic misdemeanors which include reckless driving, aggravated unlicensed operator, and driving while intoxicated. Furthermore, despite the fact that they are traffic infractions, TVB does not handle driving while ability impaired charges, nor does it handle traffic tickets charging a refusal to take a preliminary breath test (the handheld breath test usually requested on the side of the road).
If you have a traffic ticket you would like to discuss, please contact us for a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys.Entering Your Plea: You Have 15 Days
For traffic tickets, you can plead guilty, not guilty or guilty with an explanation. If you plead guilty, you are admitting that you committed the violation. If you plead not guilty, a hearing date will be sent to you by first class mail. If you plead guilty with an explanation, you are admitting that you committed the violation but that there were mitigating circumstances you wish to explain to the judge.
When pleading guilty with an explanation, you may not allege you did not commit the offense. What most motorists don’t realize is that a guilty with an explanation plea is an admission of guilt that results in conviction and points being assessed. The only benefit to pleading guilty with an explanation is that the fine schedule does not apply. In other words, the judge may deviate from the standard fine schedule.
You have 15 days from the date of the violation to return your ticket with a plea to the address shown on the top part of the back of the ticket. Your plea will be considered timely if it is post-marked on or before the 15th day after you received the ticket. You should always plead not guilty. You can also enter your plea online, in person at any TVB or by phone by calling the number on the back of the ticket.Failure to Answer the Ticket
If you fail to answer the ticket, you may be found guilty by default and your license may be suspended until you vacate the default or pay the fine imposed and any suspension termination fees. If you wish to enter a late not-guilty plea, you must do so in person at any TVB location. If your license has already been suspended due to your failure to answer, the Administrative Law Judge may continue the suspension until your hearing date or require you to pay a $40 bond for each ticket.
The total bonds may not exceed $160. The bond money will be returned to you if you are found not guilty or if the charge is dismissed for any reason. If you are found guilty, the bond will be returned when your fine is paid. If you are going to retain our law firm to represent you, we ask that you send us the ticket, and we will enter your not-guilty plea with a formal Notice of Appearance informing the DMV that we are representing you. Please call (877) 377-8666 for more information.Appearing Before an Administrative Law Judge
You will be required to appear, or have your criminal defense attorney appear, in person before an Administrative Law Judge for your current traffic ticket if:
a conviction on the current ticket will result in a finding that you are a persistent violator;
the guilty plea will result in a mandatory license or registration suspension or revocation;
you are accused of exceeding the speed limit by 30 MPH or more;
the current ticket is your second speeding ticket within 6 months regardless of the speed;
the current ticket alleges a violation of VTL 509 and you have two prior convictions for violating VTL 509 within the last 10 years;
if you have a junior license (including a junior motorcycle license);
you have a restricted license;
your license was revoked or suspended at the time you received the current ticket; and/or
based upon the circumstances that led to the issuance of your current ticket, the Commissioner of the DMV requires your personal appearance.
If you are more than one hour late for your hearing, you will be deemed as having failed to appear. Your license may be suspended until the next hearing date and/or the judge may require you to post a bond (see above explanation about bonds).Your Rights at the Hearing
At your hearing, you may be represented by an attorney or, with the Administrative Law Judge’s approval, any other person you choose. You may or may not testify. It will not be held against you if you choose not to. The officer will testify first. It is the officer’s burden to prove your guilt by clear and convincing evidence. The “clear and convincing evidence” standard is not as stringent as the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applicable to traffic infractions handled in criminal courts.
Therefore, those charged with traffic infractions within New York City may be found guilty on a lesser burden of proof at a TVB hearing than those charged with the same exact offense in a criminal court. This unequal treatment has withstood equal protection challenges. The judge may ask the officer questions; however, he or she may not ask leading questions regarding material elements. After the officer testifies, you may, if you choose, testify on your own behalf and call witnesses.
If you testify, the judge and the officer may ask you questions. They may also ask your witnesses questions. Both the officer and you may introduce documentary evidence. Both you and the officer may make a closing statement. After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will render a decision. The judge need not make any factual determination; he or she may simply find you guilty or not guilty.Rules of Evidence at the Hearing
The general rules of evidence that would be applicable in a criminal court do not apply to TVB hearings. Also, unlike traffic violation hearings handled by local criminal courts, at a TVB hearing, the New York Criminal Procedure Law is not applicable. There are, however, some rules of evidence applicable to TVB hearings. For example, privileged communications cannot be used at a TVB hearing. Some of the more common privileged communications that cannot be used against you include:
“spousal privilege” which provides that one may not be forced to testify against his or her spouse regarding communications made during marriage unless the other spouse consents;
“attorney-client privilege” provides that generally, communications between you and your attorney are confidential;
“patient-doctor privilege” prohibits your doctor from disclosing any information he or she obtained while treating you provided the information was necessary for your doctor to treat you. The privilege extends to many other medical professionals;
“clergy privilege” which prohibits your clergyman or a minister of any other religion from revealing confessions or confidential communications you make to him or her; and the
“psychologist-patient privilege” and “social worker-patient privilege” which are both similar to the “doctor-patient privilege.”
Although not a privileged communication, it can be argued that any evidence obtained in violation of the eavesdropping statute (PL 250.05) is not admissible. There are many exceptions to the above privileges. If you have questions and believe one applies to your case, contact our firm. Furthermore, evidence which would be inadmissible for constitutional reasons if the case were tried in a court with concurrent jurisdiction over the case is also not admissible in a TVB hearing.
This situation might arise if you are charged with both a traffic violation and a traffic misdemeanor. If the issuing officer makes a speeding ticket returnable to TVB but for some reason decides to make a reckless driving ticket returnable to the criminal court, the criminal court would have jurisdiction over the speeding ticket. Similarly, evidence of prior misconduct, incompetency or illness is excluded from a TVB hearing, unless it would be admissible in a court with concurrent jurisdiction.If the Judge Finds You Guilty
If the Administrative Law Judge finds you guilty by clear and convincing evidence, he or she will then examine your driving record. You may explain any conviction the judge is considering when determining your penalty. You may also make a statement prior to the imposition of the penalty. The judge will then announce the penalty, which typically includes a fine and a license sanction (suspension/revocation).Why You Need an Experienced White Plains Lawyer
The TVB is a very difficult place for motorists to appear without an attorney. Should you receive a ticket in New York, it is best that you have an attorney experienced with traffic tickets and the TVB system represent you. You should know that even the most experienced attorneys have difficulty winning dismissals in TVB. There is no plea bargaining and, in reality, the standard of proof is fairly low.
Please contact us to discuss your particular ticket or with any other questions.