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So you’re from downstate? Great! Thanks for visiting the Capital Region! Here’s your speeding ticket…

Oh, you’re from Clifton Park and you’re only 19? Lookin’ good, but here’s your tint ticket…

Geez, you look really busy with that Honda CRV loaded up with six kids in soccer uniforms. Good thing I stopped you when I did… I noticed you didn’t use your blinker to turn even though there are no other cars around except for mine which was hidden behind a sign. Well, once you get them dropped off, just sign here and mail it in to the Court.

Hmm… you’re from the Bronx and you’re driving after midnight? Oh, in that case, here’s your license plate lightbulb ticket… and consent to a search or we’re bringing out the dog. Hope you have a Snickers, ‘cause you’re gonna be hear a while.

So, this is where the serious part starts, not that those scenarios aren’t serious. They make you smirk, but they are also very true. Many years ago, law enforcement enforced the Vehicle and Traffic Law in New York to make the roads safer.  Somewhere, when none of us were paying attention, Vehicle and Traffic enforcement shifted their priorities to revenue generation. The numbers don’t lie. Car crash related fatalities have remained rather stagnant over the past 8 years with an average of 1100 fatal accidents per year. For the ten year period before that, the crash related fatalities averaged around 1350 per year. During that 18 year period, ticketing has remained flat at an average of 3.8 tickets issued per year. What does that tell us? There is no correlation between the number of tickets issued and the number of fatal accidents.

But what else does this tell us? In 2004 the State received a whopping $176 million in surcharges alone. Surcharges are merely the price you pay just to have your case resolved, it doesn’t even include the fine amounts. By 2010, that number had ballooned to $246 million. I can’t even guess how much it is today since the State Comptroller hasn’t issued an audit in several years. In 1998 the average surcharge was $35. In 2016 that amount is $93. In fact, one upstate Judge who shall remain nameless actually campaigned on the fact that he would raise revenue for his town, stating to a local newspaper,

“The town judge position is very important to all the residents in the town due to the revenue it generates. In order to make the most revenue the judge has to be available, able to work with people, and have the ability to handle a very busy workload.”

At least this Judge didn’t even pretend that it’s not all about the money. I give him the most credit for being straightforward and if I live in his town, I’d probably vote for him. Either way, your traffic ticket fines and surcharges rake in nearly a billion dollars every year for the State.

So, without further ado, how about some ideas on how to turn that traffic stop into a traffic warning and keep the State out of your pocket. Please keep in mind that nothing is fail safe and I don’t promise you won’t get a ticket. Also, this doesn’t make me your attorney. It’s just for discussion and thought. If you want specific advice about a specific situation, call this very specific number (518) 907-4694 and I’ll be more than happy to chat for a few minutes at (gasp!)… no charge 🙂

  1. Don’t drink and drive. If you want advice on that subject, see my other blog post. These tips are for sober drivers.
  1. When you see the lights and siren, pull over as expeditiously and safely as possible. This doesn’t mean slam on the brakes and head for the nearest shoulder. It means to safely merge toward the right and pull over at the first available space that has enough shoulder room for you and the officer to converse without either of you getting hit by a car.
  1. Turn off the car and put the keys on the dash. I’m actually surprised more people didn’t know this one. It lets the officer know that you intend to be compliant without you having to say a word. It also lets him or her know that you don’t plan on speeding off.
  1. Pretty much every car has automatic windows these days. Roll down both the driver and passenger side windows. This gives the officer two options to approach the car depending on what is safest for her or him.
  1. If it is dark out, turn on the interior lights. If you don’t, the officer will just shine their flashlight in there anyway and this lets the officer know that you are not uncomfortable about the contents of your car.
  1. Be respectful, but assertive of your rights. This is the trickiest part. If you don’t feel like answering the questions the officer is asking you, you have every right to refuse questions. If you don’t mind answering the “Where are you coming from? Where are you Going?” tango, just speak politely and use “Sir” or “Ma’am.” A little courtesy goes along way.
  1. Refuse any request to search your car. If you get asked this question, you’re going to be getting the ticket 99.99% of the time anyway, so don’t think that the officer is just testing you and will let you go if you say you don’t mind. He wants to find that kilo of yayo in the trunk because that would be the arrest of the year for him. Most situations don’t reach this point, and hopefully it doesn’t happen to you.
  1. If you’re that guy from the Bronx that I spoke about up top… I don’t have much advice for you. It seems that you fill what I like to call “an unrecorded” profile. That’s where the officers have a general policy to do whatever they can to search a targeted population’s vehicle, but the policy isn’t written down somewhere.
  1. Don’t admit to anything. If the officer says you were doing 85 in a 65 and you feel the need to respond, just say, “I wasn’t aware that I was speeding.” But like Patrick Swayze said in ‘Roadhouse’, be nice.

So, that’s all I have on this topic today. As I always say, these blogs are for conversational use only and are not intended to be specific legal advice for any person or situation. If you do get a ticket in Upstate New York, give the Kokosa Law Firm a call at (518) 907-4694. We cover most tickets and most courts north of Dutchess County and handle most tickets for $200 – $300. Be advised though, there are still some courts out there that require a personal appearance by the attorney, defendant, or both and those can tend to cost a little bit more. Generally speaking, most courts have moved to a mail and electronic system for handling tickets and payment of fines, so every year those “show up” courts are fewer and fewer. Also, so you know *about* what we charge for various tickets, see below for a fee chart. We cannot, however, give you an exact quote without knowing your tickets, what town or city you received it in, or your driving record. Also, these quotes are for Courts that do not require a personal appearance.

General Non-Moving Traffic Violation…………………..$200

Speeding Ticket (0 to 6 pts)……………………………….$225

Cell Phone Ticket (5 pts)………………………………….$300

More than one ticket ……………………………(add $50 per each additional ticket)

Aggravated Unlicensed Operation 3rd (Misdemeanor)….….$750-$2000

Reckless Driving (Misdemeanor)…………………………$750-$2000

No Insurance Ticket…………………………………..…$300-$1000

Suspended Registration……………………………….….$300-$1000

 

These are just a couple examples, and like I said before, give us a call and we can give you an exact quote. We don’t make promises or guarantees as to what we can get your ticket reduced to, but we have a pretty good track record at getting most tickets reduced to non-moving violations. Also, let us know if you are a student or retired and we’ll cut you a break (since the officer didn’t).