In his budget address this week, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed changing the laws regarding how a New York speeding ticket can be resolved. Unfortunately, it has been widely mis-reported that the proposal would prevent prosecutors from plea bargaining speeding tickets. This is simply NOT his proposal.
The Governor’s proposal is limited to speeding tickets in excess of 20 mph. Under the proposed law, a prosecutor faced with a motorist with a speeding ticket of 21+ mph will not be able to plea bargain that ticket to a 0-point offense. Rather, he or she would only be allowed to offer a plea that carries points. A copy of the text of the proposed law appears in bold at the end of this post.
For instance, on a 6-point speeding ticket, a prosecutor could still offer a 2-point disobey a traffic control device ticket (2 points). He or she, however, will not be able to offer a parking ticket or equipment violation. The law does not affect a motorist with a 3- or 4-point speeding ticket. For those lower speeding violations, prosecutors will still be able to offer 0-point dispositions.
The proposed law provides an exception to this restriction when the charge is “not warranted”. In those cases, a 21+ speeding offense can be pled down to a 0-point violation. However, this exception makes little sense. If the 21+ speeding charge is “not warranted”, then the prosecutor should simply dismiss it. I cannot think of any circumstances when an un-warranted charge should not result in a dismissal.
Cuomo’s proposed law limits prosecutorial discretion. Under it, a motorist will an otherwise stellar record will be forced to blemish his or her license, or take the case to trial in an attempt to keep his or her license clean. Our NY traffic ticket lawyers have appeared in the vast majority of the 600+ traffic courts, so I can comfortably write that this law WILL impact plea deals in some of these courts. There are many traffic courts that currently will plea a speeding ticket to a 0-point ticket. Of course, this practice would no longer occur if the new law is enacted.
Motorists are not the only ones who will be hurt by this proposed law. The State loses money when a speeding ticket (actually when any ticket issued under the Vehicle and Traffic Law “VTL”) is pled down to a local regulation or ordinance. In such instances, the local municipality gets to keep all of the revenue and there is no State mandatory surchage. The new restriction will require thousands of tickets to remain VTL violations and, consequently, will allow the State to get more money. Local municipalities that depend on traffic ticket revenue to supplement their budgets will be hurt significantly. Further, in many instances, it will require motorists to pay more money than if they had pled the case down to a 0-point, no-surcharge ticket.
In fact, in my opinion, these economics (not claimed “driver safety”) is the true impetus behind this legislation and I am against it. New York motorists are all ready highly “taxed” in numerous other ways (ex., record high license and registration fees, traffic ticket fines and surcharges, and Driver Assessment Fees). Enough is enough. The DMV should not be a de facto arm of the Department of Taxation. Therefore, this law should not be adopted.
Proposed New Law – Vehicle And Traffic Law Section 1180(i)
Section 1180 of the vehicle and traffic law is amended by adding a new subdivision (i) to read as follows:
(i) In any case wherein the charge laid before the court alleges a violation of subdivision (b), (c), (d), (f), or (g) of this section and the speed upon which the charge is based exceeds the applicable speed limit by more than twenty miles per hour, any plea of guilty thereafter entered in satisfaction of such charge must include, at a minimum, a plea of guilty to a violation of this chapter or of any ordinance, rule or regulation adopted pursuant to this chapter for which points are assigned pursuant to the regulations of the commissioner; provided, however, that, if the district attorney, upon reviewing the available evidence, determines that the charge of a violation of subdivision (b), (c), (d), (f) or (g) of this section is not warranted, such district attorney may consent to, and the court may allow, a disposition by plea of guilty to another charge. In all such cases, the court shall set forth upon the record the basis for such disposition (emphasis added).