License & Registration, Please: The basics of tickets and points in NYS

By: Bronson T. Kopp

It’s the middle of summer and many people are hitting the road to their favorite beach, amusement park or a family reunion. However, if en route to your final destination, you find yourself in that unfortunate conversation with a police officer on the side of the road, it’s important to know some basics about Vehicle and Traffic Law. The most common tickets this time of year seem to be speeding and operation of a mobile device, commonly referred to as a cell phone ticket.

Cell Phone tickets in NYS carry a penalty of 5 points (as of June 1, 2013) and a fine up to $150.  It’s important to know that even if you’re holding your phone in your hand using the speaker phone option, you can still get a ticket.

Speeding tickets vary in type and penalty based upon how fast you were travelling over the limit and whether you were travelling in a school zone.  Speeding tickets carry a minimum of 3 points and depending on your speed, can increase up to 8, or even 11 points.   Fines for speeding tickets also vary – typically in the range of $150 up to and over $1,000. As can be expected, the points and fines increase exponentially when the offense is committed in a school zone.

If you do end up with a ticket, you have choices: contest the matter, plead guilty, or try to work out a plea with the District Attorney (typically for a lesser offense).  Make sure you know the implications of a traffic ticket before determining which course is best. For instance, the ticket will not say how many points will be assessed on your driving record, as that is handled by the DMV after a guilty plea is entered. Likewise, the fine amount is up to the Judge’s discretion so long as the fine falls within a predetermined range.

Once either a plea deal or a conviction has been entered, points are then assessed on your driving record through the DMV.  Points become truly concerning when they accumulate, such as when this is a second or third offense.   If your “point total” equals more than 11 points within an 18-month period, your license may be suspended.  Keep in mind that points count toward your “point total” for only 18 months from the date of violation.    However, these points will remain on your record and can be used by your insurance company to raise your premiums.

In NYS, the DMV may also impose a “Driver Responsibility Assessment” if you receive more than 6 points within an 18-month period.  This is a three year fine of $100, plus an additional fine of $25 for each point over the 6-point threshold.  For instance, if you receive a 5 point cell phone ticket and a 4 point speeding ticket within 6 months of each other, you’ll be assessed a $100 fine, plus $75 for points 7, 8, and 9.  This $175 is due every three years or you may pay a one-time fine of $525 – in addition to the fines that were imposed from the original tickets.  There are ways to reduce points, such as taking a NYS DMV-approved Point Reduction Defensive Driving Course, which may also help with insurance rates.

If you find that your summer vacation has been unfortunately interrupted by a traffic citation, it might be best to consult with an attorney to determine the best course of action for your given situation.

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