In his budget proposal, Governor Cuomo has called for an amendment of the Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) section that pertains to speeding to restrict courts from reducing certain speeding tickets to 0-point infractions. In courts other than the Traffic Violations Bureaus of 5 boros of New York City, Rochester, Buffalo and parts of Suffolk County, a prosecutor has the option of offering to “plea bargain” or reduce speeding tickets from an offense that carries points to a 0-point offense like VTL 1201-a “Parked on Pavement”. The problem is that this ticket carries no New York State surcharge*. Cuomo argues that the state loses $58 million a year in surcharges as a result. Senate Bill S02605 calls for an amendment to the speeding law barring a plea bargain to a 0-point offense where the charged speed is more than 20 miles over the speed limit.
This proposal has caused a huge hullabaloo, especially among lawyers who fight traffic tickets and those who are accustomed to “pleading down” their tickets to avoid higher fines and auto insurance increases. We consulted traffic ticket lawyer Adam H. Rosenblum for an analysis of the proposed law. He said that “while the proposed law is harsh on its face, it does state that a prosecutor and court may allow a reduction to ‘another’ [0-point] offense but the reason for the reduction needs to be put on the court record.” Rosenblum also said that “since speeding tickets of more than 20 miles per hour can still be reduced to offenses with fewer points, and the amended law permits 0-point reductions for speeds of 20 miles per hour over the limit or less, lawyers who handle traffic violations can still get a good deal for their clients.”
Another provision would require the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to make more information available on a driver’s record which means that prosecutors and judges would know if a previous speeding ticket had been reduced to a parking violation. At present, if a ticket is reduced to a parking violation with 0, points it does not show up on the driver’s history. This expanded history would mean that an individual with a history of reductions might not get a good plea bargain offer in traffic court. It also means his auto insurance company would know that he had been charged in the past.
Finally, the governor also wants to impose a $50 mandatory minimum fine on drivers who text or talk on the phone while driving. These offenses already carry 3 points.
*Update: as of July 26, certain parking violations (including 1201) now carry a mandatory $25 surcharge.