Traffic ticket cases are not as easy as they seem. Some traffic infractions are misdemeanors and, in rare situations, a ticket may actually be a felony (i.e., aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle in the 1st degree is a class E felony, referring to Vehicle & Traffic Law 511(3) – see the definition below). But for the most part, the only 2 things that a driver needs to be concerned about are the points and the fine to be paid.
Here are a few unusual cases for which I had to engage in creative thinking in order to get the client out of trouble:
This client was a pleasant young lady who, like many people, had certain issues with driving. In particular, she was driving with a restricted use license when she was issued 3 tickets, one of them charging her with aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle in the 3rd degree, which is a misdemeanor. The police officer issued this ticket because he thought that Kristina was not driving within the restrictions of the restricted use license. She was driving from Long Island to her home in upstate NY on a Friday evening, so naturally the cop thought that she was not driving within the permitted restrictions.
Normally, a lawyer representing a ‘normal’ client who is issued a ticket for ‘aggravated unlicensed of a vehicle in the 3rd degree’ can get this charge lowered to a non-moving violation (meaning no points), non criminal charge (such as ‘facilitating the aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle,’ which is a long winded but no-points-carrying traffic infraction). But in Kristina’s situation, the DA’s Office was not willing to offer this reduction because she was driving on a Friday night. So that’s when I had to get to work.
The following is language taken directly from NYS Dept. of Motor Vehicles form ‘MV-693’:
If you received a restricted use license/privilege, you may drive ONLY under the following conditions:
(NOTE: This license/privilege is not valid to operate a vehicle for which a commercial driver license is required.)
*** (Yes, the word ‘ANY’ is in bold letters on the MV-693 form, which means that this item – referring to the driver being issued ANY moving violations, including being convicted for driving without a seat belt – is easily the most common reason why drivers have lost a restricted license.)
In the end, I was able to obtain a plea bargain offer for the client that did not force her to plead guilty to a moving violation (or plead guilty to driving w/o the seat belt). But getting this plea bargain was not easy at all.
In a situation like this, it is not wise to take the case to trial. Not only would a trial force the jury to decide which person is more credible (my client v. the police officer), but there was no guarantee that my client’s friend, whose house my client was hanging dinner at before she left to drive home to upstate NY, would even come testify. (In the section entitled ‘Criminal Defense – Felonies,’ I write about some of the perils and risks with proceeding to trial.)
Lastly, taking a case to trial does involve higher attorney fees. But I am well aware that the amounts I charge for attorney fees are considerably lower than what my competitors charge.
In 2007, I was hired by a gentle man who had been issued tickets in May, 1984. According to my client, his wallet was stolen in 1979. Even though he reported that his license had been lost (and was issued a new one), the missing driver’s license was still floating somewhere out there. I am sure that someone else was using his license and remember, in those days I don’t think that the technology existed to confirm if the actual physical driver’s license was valid or not.
I explained the situation to the District Attorney’s Office. Since the tickets were so old, I obtained a nice disposition that did not involve any points. We only needed to go to Court the 1 time in order to finish off this case.
Even from this summary, you can tell that I do my best to ‘dispose of’ (meaning conclude) my criminal cases as quickly as I can. However, many attorneys do not approach their cases this way. The more times the client is required to go to Court, it should be obvious the more the defense attorney can justify charging for fees.
Like many drivers, Paul A. was a very pleasant person but had a disastrous driving record. I have attached a copy of his driver’s record (called ‘driver’s abstract) and hopefully the details on his record come out clearly. Thankfully the status of his driving privileges only indicated suspended (and not revoked). If your driving privileges are revoked, I believe that you have to file the MV-44 form and wait………and wait………..and wait some more before DMV reinstates your driving privileges.
In 2004 Paul was driving through a Village in Nassau County when he was issued 6 tickets. Since he failed to appear for Court or enter a plea of ‘not guilty,’ the Village registered 6 separate ‘scofflaws’ on his driver’s record. Whenever a driver fails to appear on the date of the summons, each village/town/city (such as New York City, City of Long Beach, etc.) has different policies as to whether they contact the driver or not. I don’t know if this Village ever contacted Paul. On another day Paul was also issued tickets in Suffolk County and in a separate incident, he was issued tickets while driving through the Village of Hempstead. So his driving history was a mess.
In New York a driver like Paul will eventually be issued a ticket for “aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle in the 3rd degree,” which as I explained above (see my summary of Kristina S.’s case) can be charged as a misdemeanor or, in the case of a repeat offender or a truly, truly egregiously bad driver, as an E felony. Regarding this latter point, if you get charged with ‘aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle in the 1st degree – the E felony – then you have to hire a lawyer to work on clearing up your license right away.
First I appeared before the Village Court (6 summonses in total). In order to obtain the best possible outcome – I am referring to the best possible plea bargain offer – the case was transferred to Nassau County District Court. Once the case was transferred to District Court, I helped my client obtain a nice plea bargain offer, thereby finishing off the summonses from the Village Court.
Then I helped my client take care of the outstanding summonses from the Village of Hempstead Court. Eventually my client took care of the summons from Suffolk County on his own. By doing a good job in cleaning up his entire driving record, his driving privileges were finally restored.
Marlon M. was an employee for a well-known lawn care company on Long Island. Marlon was assigned a van to go to clients’ houses to perform the company’s work. But the owner of the company was so eccentric that he refused to allow Marlon to take the van’s insurance information and vehicle registration with him when Marlon drove the company van. At least, that is what Marlon told me and I didn’t dispute his version of what happened. One day Marlon was driving in Queens and had an accident. When the cop arrived, Marlon was issued several tickets, one for driving without insurance.
Since I am a conscientious lawyer, I do not always confront my own client to find out why he/she got into the messy situation. Therefore, I didn’t ask Marlon why he knowingly drove the company van without the insurance info. and vehicle registration. My primary responsibility is to be a problem solver, fix the client’s problem. In this case, I needed to get Marlon’s tickets dismissed.
Some drivers are aware that he/she is issued a ticket for ‘driving without insurance’ but if the vehicle was validly insured on that same day, all that is required to get the ticket dismissed is a letter from the insurance company stating that the vehicle was validly insured on the day the ticket was issued. But in some situations, such as in Marlon’s case where he was driving a commercial vehicle and was involved in an accident, the letter from the insurance company must also state that all claims arising from the accident would be paid (by the insurance company).
Once I obtained this letter from the insurance company (which took much longer than expected), I had to go with Marlon to ‘Queens North’ in Whitestone in order to get the ‘no insurance’ ticket dismissed. The work I described in this case summary may sound simple and straightforward, but I had to hound the insurance company in order to get the letter we needed. The lawyer has to stay on top of the client’s case and, when ‘vacating the client’s non-appearance’ is required, the lawyer has to coordinate with the client’s schedule in order to go back to Court to finish off the ticket(s)/summons(es) in question.