I am often asked about the procedure for fighting traffic tickets in New York State. The New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (“VTL”) sets forth a relatively straightforward plan for the adjudication of traffic tickets. But, a motorist needs to act quickly and diligently to properly enter a not guilty plea.

VTL §1806 allows a plea of not guilty to be made by mailing the ticket, along with a signed statement indicating a not guilty plea. In practicality, the standard New York State traffic ticket form will include a section for the motorist to sign and check a box indicating a not guilty plea. While entering the plea is easy, the motorist needs to take great care complying with the other provisions of the statute, particularly with regard to mailing and time limitations. The statute provides in pertinent part:

Such plea must be sent: (a) by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested or by first class mail; and (b) within forty-eight hours after receiving such under the old system, when a motorist pled not guilty, the court would immediately schedule a trial date for the officer and motorist to appear. On that date, motorists would typically show up, with or without attorneys, and begin the process. Before the trial, the prosecutor met with all of the summoned motorists and usually offered them some sort of a deal. Depending on location, there would be anywhere from a handful of other motorists, to an overflowing courtroom full of them. Motorists often accepted plea offers or requested adjournments without requiring the officer’s testimony.

A 2012 amendment to VTL §1806 changed the prior procedure for contesting a ticket to specifically require a pretrial conference prior to the trial date. The purpose of the pretrial conference is to avoid the State expenses involved with making the complaining ticketing officer appear in court, only to have the motorist take a plea, or otherwise postpone trial. The pretrial conference is an opportunity for the motorist to plea or to schedule a firm date for trial without the State having to pay overtime for an officer to sit around the courthouse doing nothing all day. The amended VTL §1806 reads:

“Upon receipt of such ticket and statement, the court shall advise the violator, by first class mail, of an appearance at which no testimony shall be taken. If the motorist requests a trial, the court shall set a trial date on a date subsequent to the date of the initial appearance.”

The personal appearance of the motorist at this conference is not usually required, and all matters can often be handled by an attorney. If there is no resolution at the pretrial conference, the case will be scheduled for trial. At trial, the officer must testify to the elements of the traffic violation. The motorist gets the opportunity to cross-examine the officer, and to submit any rebuttal evidence, which includes testimony by the motorists.

By: Benjamin Goldman Law Office 189 Southwoods Drive Monticello, NY 12701 (845) 391-3615 http://www.upstatenewyorktickets.com .

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