Traffic Law: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should I request a supporting deposition if I plead Not Guilty to a ticket?
A: That depends on why you're doing it. If you feel
that you did not commit the violation you are charged with and intend to defend yourself at trial, exercising your right to a supporting
deposition will give you critical information as to what the officer will testify to. However, if you did commit the violation and
are asking for the deposition because you think the officer may not provide it and this will let you "beat" the ticket, you might
want to think again. Truth is, the vast majority of requests for depositions are responded to in a timely manner. Many times, these
requests do little more than aggravate the same police officer that you are going to end up trying to negotiate a plea deal with.
Also, New York State troopers are now all equipped with New York's "e-ticket" system which prints out a completed ticket and a supporting
deposition in the officer's car at the time you are stopped!! Often, it takes an attorney experienced with traffic violations to know
whether requesting a "depo" is a good idea or not.
Q: If I'm stopped for speeding what should I do or say to the officer?
remain calm and be polite. Often a police officer will ask you if you "know why you've been stopped". Be careful, anything you say
to the officer can be used against you in court. Often the best answer is one that let's the officer know you aren't arguing with
him about the stop, but aren't going to admit anything, either. Let the officer tell you what he thinks you were doing. Sometimes,
when the speeding was not excessive and you have a reasonable excuse you can get off with only a warning. But, if you have been caught
"on radar" expect to get a ticket. Whatever you do, do not argue with the officer. It gains you nothing and may cost you when you
go to court. For a funny example of what NOT TO SAY to a police officer when stopped for a traffic violation check out this YouTube
video: Trooper Traffic Stop (Warning: Video contains some VERY ADULT LANGUAGE).
Q: Does having window or bumper sticker showing support
for police benevolent associations help?
A: Generally, no. Police have long ago realized that people make contributions in the hope
that it will get them out of tickets. Usually, they're not impressed.
Q: Does a police officer making a traffic stop have a right
to search my car or my person?
A: No, unless the police officer has reason to fear for his safety or a reasonable suspicion that a
crime (other than a traffic offense) has occurred he does not have a right to search you or your car. However, he can look into your
car and anything he observes that indicates a violation of the law can give me the necessary reasonable suspicion to search both you
and your car.
Q: I pleaded guilty by mail to a speeding ticket and didn't understand how much it could cost me in fines and insurance
increases. Is it too late to do anything about it?
A: No, it's not too late! If you plead guilty to a serious traffic ticket without
understanding the consequences and never consulted an attorney, you many be able to have your guilty plea vacated and a more advantageous
plea agreement worked out. Vacating a guilty plea is a somewhat complex process that usually only an attorney can do for you. But,
it's doable! If you want information about how this can be done contact us.
Q: If a police officer's car was moving in the opposite
direction when he passed me can he still claim to have "caught me on radar?"
A: Yes, if the officer has one of the more advanced radar
units in his vehicle. All NYS Police Trooper vehicles are equipped with a radar unit called a "Stalker Dual" and this unit can be
used against vehicles moving in the opposite direction, the same direction or while the officer is not moving. If the unit is used
while the officer is moving it calculates the "offender" vehicle's speed by determining the speed that the officer's car and the "offender's"
car are approaching each other and then subtracting the speed of the officer's car. The police car's speed is can be determined by
a linkage to the vehicle's drive train or by measuring the vehicle's speed compared to stationary objects like the road or trees on
the side of the road. However, this method of speed measurement is considered one of the least reliable of all modes that radar or
laser can be used in.
Q: If a police officer uses a "laser" unit to determine the speed of a car is this harder to fight than if the
officer used "radar?"
A: No, laser speed measurement can be very accurate (even more accurate than radar) if the unit is used properly
and under the correct conditions. However, generally police do not use the units in accordance with the manufacturers instructions
and often use them at a range that makes the reported speed results highly questionable. Also, appellate courts in NYS have not given
"judicial notice" to the use of this technology. This means that if a case comes to trial the prosecution must demonstrate to the
court that the scientific principles underlying the technology are broadly accepted. Many attorney's would rather fight a "laser"
ticket than a "radar" ticket.
Q: What are the chances of winning a traffic trial?
A: That depends on several different factors. First,
where will the trial occur? In New York City, parts of Long Island and a few upstate cities, traffic offenses are handled in "Hearing
Bureaus" operated by the NYS DMV. In these Hearings trials take place before an administrative law judge who works for the DMV. Also,
unlike traffic trials in other courts the standard of proof the the prosecution must bear is very low (basically that a majority of
the evidence supports the charge, otherwise known by the legal phrase "preponderance of the evidence"). However, in the other parts
of the state traffic trials are conducted in local town, village or city courts. In these courts the burden of proof is the same as
in a criminal trial, namely "beyond a reasonable doubt." That said, traffic trials are never easy to win. If a case is simply the
defendant's testimony ("I wasn't speeding") against the police officer's testimony ("I clocked him on my properly calibrated and operated
radar"), the defendant will lose the vast majority of the time. However, where there is a technical defense, witnesses were present
or the police officer does not make a very good witness, then the defendant's chances improve significantly.
Q: I have been told by
a "speeding ticket agency" that they will guarantee that I will not receive any points on my license or they will give me my money
back. Why will some attorneys not make similar guarantees?
There's two things wrong with such "guarantees." First, no attorney should
ever guarantee a result. It's simply dishonest. The best an attorney can do is give you a reasonable prediction of what he or she
believes is likely to happen. In addition, a "money back" guarantee is a violation of rules of ethics that New York attorneys are
required to follow. These rules of ethics prohibit contingency fees in criminal cases (which traffic violations are considered part
of). A "money back" guarantee is a fee "contingent" on the outcomeo of a case and, therefore a serious ethical violation.
Q: How much can a traffic/speeding ticket cost me if I'm convicted as charged?
A. That depends on what the violation is and whether
you've had other violations of a similar sort in the past 18-36 months. For example, a driver who has not had a "moving violation"
in the past three years receives a speeding ticket for 86 mph in a 65 mph zone.(a "6 point" ticket); pleading guilty as charged will
typically result in a fine, imposed by the court of $200-$300. In addition, the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles will impose a "Driver
Safety Assessment Fee" of $100/year for 3 years. Lastly, depending upon what the policies of your insurance company are, you could
see a substantial increase in your liability insurance rates for 3 years. So, a fairly common ticket can easily result in costs that
run into the thousands of dollars. For more detailed information on fines and fees, click here.
Law Offices of Glenn W. Magnell
Aggressive, Professional, Affordable Legal Defense
162 Main Street, Goshen, NY 10924