Starting in March 2016, it will be illegal for traffic courts to charge a dismissal fee. Lawmakers finally realized how unfair it was to allow traffic courts to charge a “processing” fee for cases where the motorist is not guilty.
The law’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Michael DenDekker of Queens, says fining motorists whose violations are dismissed places “an undue burden” on them. He cites “numerous complaints” where drivers were charged an administrative fee for showing up at traffic court even after their violations were dismissed.
Suffolk County previously charged a “dismissal fee” but voluntarily ended this practice. Nassau County, however, refuses to rescind this fee despite loud public outcry. The new law will stop the Nassau County Traffic Violations & Parking Agency from charging its $30.00 dismissal fee per ticket. Therefore, if you have an open ticket in this court, you can possibly save some money by rescheduling it until March, 2016.
The Nassau County Traffic Violations & Parking Agency also charges a $30 Driver Responsibility Fee (DRF) on any traffic ticket disposed of by plea bargain. Effective January 1, 2016, the DRF will increase from $30 to $45 for any unresolved ticket. Violations issued between November 26, 2015 and December 31, 2015, if timely resolved will be eligible for the $30 DRF. I raise this item because it has been reported that the above new law also prohibits the imposition of fees for plea bargaining to lesser charges. However, my reading of the law is contrary.
The new law will amend Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1804 to read:
“No municipality may charge a fine, peaty, forfeiture, or any other fee unless the charge of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation issued pursuant to this chapter results in a conviction or finding of liability.”
Because a plea bargain case results in a conviction (albeit to a lesser charge), my interpretation is that the Nassau TVP&A may still charge the DRF. However, while the language of the approved law does not address this issue, from notes in the bill signed by Governor Cuomo, it appears that such an amendment will be submitted and approved early next year and, thereby, make Nassau TVP&A’s DRF also illegal.
In sum, at first blush, the new law appears to be a win for motorists saving them the Nassau TP&A’s $15 dismissal fee. However, it actually can be a negative. While dismissals for such items as insurance tickets and equipment violations will result in savings, Nassau TVP&A prosecutors may be less likely to offer dismissals for other violations insisting instead on multiple convictions. Currently, when a motorist is charged with multiple moving violations, one can often obtain a plea offer that dismisses one or more of those charges. Now, however, the offers may involve less or no dismissals, thereby preserving this court’s ability to charge a DRF. This may continue until the Legislature amends the law to address extra plea bargain fees.