Traffic violations: what to do depends on court jurisdiction

When someone gets a traffic ticket, our office often hears an explanation that might at first blush seem like it might get the sympathy of the court. These are called “mitigating circumstances”. A common example is that the client was speeding in order to get someone to the hospital. However, the same circumstances might have different outcomes depending on the court with jurisdiction over the case.

In town court, for example, a mitigating circumstance might result in a dismissal of the charge or a plea bargain to a lesser charge and a fairly low fine. However, plea bargains are not an option in most traffic violation bureaus (TVBs) such as in the City of Rochester. In these TVBs, the hearing officer would likely view this explanation as a confession to speeding (admission of the violation), which would result in a full conviction.

While it may seem hopeless, there are options that might be more effective in TVBs. One good strategy is to adjourn the case (postpone it for a later date). If the officer is unable to attend the next court date, your case might be dismissed. For example, if you are pulled over for going 90 mph where the limit is 50 mph, (40+ over the limit is 11 points and an automatic suspension), the attorney may be able to talk to the officer when you get to court and see if he would agree that the driver was only going 39 miles over the speed limit rather than 40+.  If both parties agree on that number, the Judge will find him guilty of 89 mph and the attorney can then argue for leniency (a suspension is not mandatory for 89/50) based on the underlying circumstances.

Another option is to argue margin of error and that the officer can’t really say for sure if his speed was over 89 mph or not.

If the arguments made in court are not successful, the driver’s license will NOT be suspended on the spot. The TVB or court sends notice of conviction to the DMV, and DMV will send a letter notifying the driver of when the suspension takes effect.  The driver may then be eligible to apply for a conditional license.  Alternatively, the driver can file an appeal and ask for a stay of the sentence- buying as much as another year.

All of these options are worth taking into consideration and should be discussed with your attorney. The best strategy will depend on the circumstances, your driving record, and the court where the proceeding is being held.