Traffic Violations in New York
In order to ensure the preservation of life and property, road users’ safety, and to keep roads in good conditions for use, each state establishes traffic laws that road users must follow. In New York, failure to adhere to the Vehicle and Traffic laws attracts various forms of penalties. Traffic violations often result in accidents and injuries, and they can render roads unusable to other users. Records of these offenses are included in the offenders New York traffic records.
There are two broad categories of traffic violations in New York: minor traffic violations, which are also known as traffic infractions, and major traffic offenses. Traffic infractions are typically civil in nature and attract penalties such as tickets, community service, fines, and other non-criminal penalties. Failure to resolve a traffic infraction can result in criminal charges in New York. However, a traffic infraction is not inherently criminal.
Major traffic offenses are typically misdemeanors or felony offenses, which are criminal. Criminal traffic offenses often involve injury, accidents, death, or the risk of any of these factors. Penalties for criminal traffic offenses are harsher than those that apply to traffic infractions. Criminal traffic offenses may be penalized by imprisonment, heavy fines, and an extended loss of driving privileges.
Traffic tickets are notices that traffic offenders receive. Tickets typically contain information about the offense, applicable fines, and available methods of resolution. Law enforcement officers may issue a traffic ticket to an offender at the scene of an offense. Alternatively, traffic offenders may receive tickets by mail. It is important for persons who receive traffic tickets to resolve the ticket by paying applicable fines or contesting the ticket. Failure or refusal to resolve traffic tickets may result in harsher penalties.
In New York, the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) and traffic courts handle traffic violations in the state. Offenders must visit the agency specified on the ticket to resolve traffic violations.
Types of Traffic Violations in New York
Apart from civil and criminal traffic violations, there are other categorizations that apply to traffic offenses in New York. Traffic violations can also be classified as moving or non-moving violations. In other words, a traffic violation can be a criminal moving violation or a civil non-moving traffic violation.
A moving traffic violation typically occurs when a vehicle is moving. These offenses may have more serious penalties as there is a greater risk of fatality with movement. Examples of New York moving traffic violations include:
- Illegal turns
- Failing to yield at an intersection
- Vehicular homicide
- Running a red light
- Improper use of a turn signal
- Texting while driving
- Weaving through traffic
Non-moving traffic violations occur when a vehicle is at rest. However, there are non-moving traffic violations that occur while a vehicle is in motion. In many cases, whether an offense is classified as moving or non-moving depends on the attending circumstances. For example, failing to wear a seat belt as an adult is a non-moving traffic violation. The same offense is a moving traffic violation for a minor. Non-moving violations are not considered as serious as moving traffic violations. Many non-moving traffic violations are penalized by fines and may not affect the offender’s driving records. Examples of non-moving traffic violations in New York include:
- Parking violations such as:
- Parking too close to the curb
- Parking next to a fire hydrant
- Parking in front of an expired meter
- Parking in a no-parking zone
- Expired vehicle registration
- Missing license plates
- Excessive muffler noise
- Expired vehicle inspection
New York Traffic Violation Code
New York State’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws (VAT) is an act that offers guidelines and laws relating to motorcycles, highway traffic, and motor vehicles. This act covers a variety of subjects, including vehicle registration, fines and penalties for violation, uniform vehicle certificate of title act, local and state powers, and other rules of the road.
New York Felony Traffic Violations
Felony traffic violations are the most serious types of traffic violations in New York. These types of violations typically involve injury or harm to another person, and in some cases, the death of another party. Felony traffic offenses are penalized with the highest fines and prison terms of more than one (1) year.
- Leaving the scene of an accident where serious injury occurs
- Aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree
- Unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle (first degree)
- Aggravated vehicular assault
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Aggravated vehicular homicide
- Repeat DUI offenses
New York Traffic Misdemeanors
Traffic misdemeanors are more serious than traffic infractions but less serious than felony traffic violations. In addition to fines and license suspensions, traffic misdemeanors may also be penalized with imprisonment for up to one (1) year in New York. Here are some examples of traffic misdemeanors in New York:
- Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol
- Driving while intoxicated
- Reckless driving
- Unauthorized speed contest
- Leaving the scene of an accident where personal injury has occurred
- Aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree
- Facilitating unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle (second degree)
New York Traffic Infractions
Traffic infractions are the least serious types of traffic offenses. These offenses are typically only penalized with fines. However, depending on the severity of the offense and the presence of aggravating circumstances, traffic infractions may also result in imprisonment. Examples of traffic infractions in New York include:
- Failure to comply with police officers and flag persons
- Failure to stop at a malfunctioning traffic light
- Obstructing traffic at an intersection
- Leaving a running vehicle unattended
- Putting glass or other injurious substance on the highway
- Driving through a safety zone
New York Traffic Violation Codes and Fines
In New York, traffic violations are either traffic infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies. According to New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law (§ 1800), persons convicted of traffic infractions in New York are liable for fines up to $150 for a first offense. For a second violation within 18 months, the fine is $300, and a third or subsequent violation within 18 months incurs a fine of $450.
Persons convicted of violating traffic-control signal indication laws (NYS VAT § 1100) outside a city with a population of more than one million may be punished by a fine ranging between $75 and $225 for a first offense. Fines for a second offense within 18 months range from $150 to $375.
Conviction of a third or subsequent violation results in fines of at least $375 and at most $675. Violations of subdivision D of the traffic control signal indication laws are punishable by fines of between $150 and $450 for a first offense, $300 and $750 for a second offense within 18 months, and between $750 and $1,500 for a third and subsequent offense within 18 months. NYS VAT § 1100 highlights other exemptions to general traffic infraction fines.
According to NYS VAT § 1801, a traffic misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $300 for a first offense. Second convictions within 18 months are punishable by fines of up to $525, while third and subsequent convictions result in fines of $1,125. However, disconnecting service breaks on vehicles of a certain weight as stated in NYS VAT § 375 is punishable by fines of up to $2,250.
Felony traffic violations are the most serious types of traffic violations and criminal offenses, and this reflects in the types of penalties attached. Most traffic felonies are punishable by fines of up to $10,000; however, the fine could be higher, depending on the severity or nature of the offense. NYS PEN § 80 states that the court may fix fines for felony traffic violations according to the law’s definition of the crime.
How to Pay a Traffic Violation Ticket in New York
In New York City, concerned parties may pay non-criminal traffic violation tickets online, in person at the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) office, over the phone, or by mail. Persons who wish to pay online must have the ticket number, the record subject’s full name, gender, and DMV ID as they appear on the traffic ticket.
For traffic tickets issued outside New York City, ticket recipients may pay the tickets by mail or online. To pay a traffic violation ticket by mail, mail the payment sum, along with the traffic ticket to the address listed on the ticket. Acceptable payment methods are money orders, credit cards or checks addressed to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.
If paying a ticket could result in a conviction or the suspension of the driver’s license, it may not be possible to pay the ticket online. Additionally, there may be other fines associated with paying the ticket, as paying a traffic violation ticket in New York is considered an admission of guilt.
Traffic Violation Lookup in New York
If any interested person wishes to look up traffic violations in New York City, the person may use the PYO search. The website provides information about parking and camera violations in the city. Requesting parties may search using a Notice of Liability (NOL) number, plate number, or ticket number.
For criminal traffic violations, interested parties may look up cases using the New York State Unified Court System’s eCourts. This case information service provides information about appearance dates for cases. Interested parties may search using the defendant’s name or the case number. There is also a tracking service that sends users notifications when there is an activity in cases added to their notification lists.
Alternatively, persons interested in looking up traffic violation cases may contact the County Clerk in the county where the traffic ticket was issued or where the case was heard. Record requests must be specific and contain as much descriptive information as possible about the requested record. Requesting parties may access publicly available records for free at the courthouse. However, the court charges fees for making copies of a court record.
New York’s court system has a court locator that interested parties can use to find courts in the state by county or court type.
How to Plead not Guilty to a Traffic Violation in New York
Procedures for entering ‘not guilty’ pleas may differ slightly from one county or city to another. In New York City, persons who wish to enter ‘not guilty’ pleas may schedule hearings by mail, online, or over the phone. Where possible, such persons may complete a Statement in Place of Personal Appearance, which is useful for persons who do not have legal representation and do not wish to appear in court in person for their hearing. In this case, the judge holds a hearing, and the defendant is informed of the decision by email.
Persons who can attend hearings in person must be present in court on the day of. The Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) also offers virtual hearings. Persons who have reason to believe they will be unavailable on the scheduled date may contact the TVB to reschedule.
Any person who chooses to plead ‘not guilty’ outside New York City must complete and sign the right side of their ticket. The person may then return the completed ticket to the local traffic or criminal court by mail or in-person within 48 hours of receiving the ticket. The defendant may also appear in court to enter a ‘not guilty’ plea on the date that the ticket specifies. Interested case parties may also request a supporting deposition before the end of the return date that the ticket specifies. The officer who issued the ticket will then have 30 days from the request date to provide the supporting deposition.
At the trial, the defendant may present evidence to the court and cross-examine the prosecutor’s witnesses. If the court finds the defendant not guilty, the court ends the case. However, if the court finds the defendant guilty, the defendant must pay assessed fines and surcharges.
What Happens if You Plead No Contest a Traffic Violation in New York
Generally, pleading ‘no contest’ (or nolo contendre) to a traffic violation means that the accused person accepts the charges levied against them and the responsibility that comes with the offense. The accused person agrees to accept all applicable penalties but does not outrightly admit or deny their fault. This type of plea makes room for negotiation in a traffic violation case.
A no-contest plea is different from a guilty plea in that the latter involves an outright admission of guilt, which can be used against the defendant in future civil or criminal court proceedings. Additionally, a person who pleads no contest to a traffic violation may appeal any adverse court rulings.
Case parties must note that a no-contest plea may result in penalties as severe as a guilty plea. This means that the defendant must pay the penalties associated with the offense and other required court fees.
How Long Do Traffic Violations Stay on Your Record?
Traffic violations may result in license suspensions and increased insurance premiums in New York. As long as a violation is on an offender’s record, insurance companies view the offender as a high-risk client.
In New York, traffic violations stay on an offender’s record for up to 15 years, depending on the nature or severity of the offense. Most traffic violations stay on the offender’s active record for up to four (4) years after the conviction. Serious traffic violations, especially those that involve alcohol or drug use stay on the offender’s active record for ten (10) to 15 years. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) typically makes the points inactive at the beginning of the fourth year after the conviction.
Completing a Point and Insurance Reduction Program (PIRP) makes drivers eligible for point reduction by up to four (4) active points. It is important to note that completing the program does not remove or delete the points from the offender’s driving records. The program also does not delete or remove any violation or conviction from the offender’s driving record. The point reduction means that the four (4) deducted points will no longer count towards the number required for license suspension or revocation.
Can Traffic Violations Be Expunged/Sealed in New York?
Yes, it is possible to seal traffic violations in New York. However, it is important to note that New York does not allow the expungement of criminal records, therefore records of traffic violations cannot be expunged. Sealing makes the records confidential and accessible only to authorized persons, but the records are not destroyed.
According to CPL §160.55, Some traffic violations are automatically sealed in New York. This means that the subject of the record does not need to petition the court to seal the records. Driving While Ability is Impaired is an exemption to this law. All police, prosecutor, and Department of Criminal Justice System documents related to eligible traffic violations are automatically sealed.
Court files, however, are not sealed, which means that any interested member of the public may find out about any traffic violation convictions by conducting a record search. On the court system’s record search, traffic violations do not show up in search results. New York traffic violation records can only be sealed ten (10) years after the conviction, release, or after the subject of the record successfully serves their sentence.
What Happens if You Miss a Court Date for a Traffic Violation in New York?
If a person misses a court date for a traffic violation in New York, such a person may lose their license. Typically, the court informs the Department of Motor Vehicles about the missed date. There is a 30-day grace period after the missed date where the defendant may reschedule. The court then mails the defendant a notice of impending suspension. If the defendant fails to reschedule after 30 days, the DMV suspends their license. In addition to other fines and court costs, the person who missed the court date must pay $70 to lift the suspension. A suspended license may in turn lead to increased auto insurance premiums.
Missing a court date for a traffic violation may also result in the court entering a default judgment against the offender. Persons found guilty through a default judgment must pay all the costs or fines associated with the offense. There may also be points assessed against the offender’s driver’s license.
Persons who think that they may miss a court date for a traffic violation must notify the court at least ten (10) days before the scheduled date. If there are unforeseen circumstances, such as accidents or hospital emergencies that cause a person to miss a court date for a traffic violation in New York, the court may accept the excuse and reschedule the court date. However, if the ticket has been rescheduled many times before, it may be difficult to get a new date.