More information about the driving history of motorists will soon be available to prosecutors. In particular, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that, in addition to convictions, prosecutors will now be able to see the original charges that were brought over the past 10 years as long as they entailed (1) point-bearing violations, (2) a drug- or alcohol-related offense, or (3) if the charges included aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Prosecutors currently only have access to the conviction history (and therefore can only guess whether this conviction started out as a serious charge). Cuomo is taking this measure so that prosecutors have a basis to be less lenient when it comes to plea bargaining. This new information supposedly could provide data one whether a motorist is engaging in dangerous driving patterns.
“By giving prosecutors a more complete story of a person’s driving history, they can make informed decisions and help ensure that potentially dangerous drivers no longer fall through the cracks,” Cuomo said in a statement. According to the governor’s office, 129,628 charges for speeding violations were pleaded down to “parking on pavement” infractions in 2010.
The effect of this change is that it will now become harder to get any plea bargain for some clients and inferior plea offers will be made to yet others. We predict that prosecutors will revise their guidelines based, in part, on this new, additional information. For instance, we predict that, in some courts, a motorist with a prior speed reduced to a parking ticket within a given time period will not be offered a second similar offer.
Arguably, this change is unfair to motorists who’ve pled guilty to avoid the risk, expense and time involved with fighting a traffic ticket. Those who take a deal out of convenience (but have a valid defense) could be penalized in the future based on their newly-expanded record. In such instances, they could reasonably contend that they’re being penalized based on an unproven charge and despite their constitutional presumption of innocence.
What do you think?