How To Fight A NY Speeding Ticket – A Comprehensive Guide

GETTING A SPEEDING TICKET IN NEW YORK

After a long and stressful day at work, you hop in your car and start cruising down the highway. Thinking nothing of it, you put on some tunes and merge into the fast lane. You start to increase your speed in the hope of getting home in time for dinner, but a few moments later it happens. In your rearview mirror you can see the flashing lights and over your music you can hear the siren. Your eyes grow wide, your heart sinks, and you immediately know that dinner will have to wait.

Many of us cringe at the thought of getting pulled over by a police officer, let alone receiving a New York speeding ticket. Some of us ignore our tickets and think they will go away while others simply pay the fine and get points instead of fighting the ticket. In reality, doing either of these will lead to disastrous consequences that will make you pay in the long run for your hasty short-term decision.

Unfortunately, many people are entirely unaware of the hidden costs associated with New York speeding tickets. Aside from the cost of your fine, you will be forced to pay an $80-$85 surcharge and the conviction will likely make your insurance premium skyrocket. On top of the monetary costs, receiving 3 speeding convictions in 18 months will result in an automatic suspension of your driving privileges. Similarly, accumulating 11 points in 18 months will also result in the suspension of your New York license. Consequently, by pleading guilty or otherwise getting convicted of speeding in NY, you face a battery of negative repercussions that will remain with you for quite some time.

Lastly, in 2011, there were 28,147 speeding-related accidents in New York alone. Of those, 284 were fatal and 12,838 resulted in physical injuries. These figures reveal that the negative consequences of speeding do not simply impact you alone, they impact society at large. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative for every driver to realize the scope of his or her actions, and we must do all we can to keep our streets and highways safe.

POINT SCHEDULE FOR SPEEDING IN NEW YORK

New York has a strict point system when it comes to speeding:

“Speed Not Reasonable and Prudent” 3 Points
1-10 mph Over the Speed Limit 3 Points
11-20 mph Over the Speed Limit 4 Points
21-30 mph Over the Speed Limit 6 Points
40+ mph Over the Speed Limit 11 Points *

        *11 points means your license will automatically be suspended.

 

Think for a moment: How often do you drive 1-10 miles over the posted speed limit in one day alone? Presuming that you are honest with yourself, you will soon realize that if you were pulled over and ticketed for every time you were speeding 1-10 mph over the limit, you probably would not be allowed on the road much longer!

Although police do not catch every driver who is speeding, New York State police have been increasing their enforcement and numerous speeding ticket blitzes have cropped up all across New York State. Police officers are out in record numbers ready and waiting to issue you a speeding ticket, so be careful.

FINES ASSOCIATED WITH SPEEDING VIOLATIONS IN NEW YORK

The following chart includes all of the speeding-related offenses recognized in New York, their corresponding Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) number, how much the maximum fine for the violation is, and the court surcharge.

Recognized Speeding Violations in New York VTL Max. Fine Court Surcharge
Speed Not Reasonable and Prudent 1180(a) $150 $80-$85
Speed Over State Limit 1180(b)
    1-10 mph Over the Limit $150 $80-$85
     11-30 mph Over the Limit $300 $80-$85
     31+ mph Over the Limit $600 $80-$85
Speeding in School Zone
(6:00 pm – 7:00 am and on Non-School Days)
1180(c)
    1-10 mph Over the Limit $150 $80-$85
     11-30 mph Over the Limit $300 $80-$85
     31+ mph Over the Limit $600 $80-$85
Speeding in School Zone on School Days 1180(c)
     1-10 mph Over the Limit $300 $80-$85
     11-30 mph Over the Limit $600 $80-$85
     31+ mph Over the Limit $1,200 $80-$85
Speeding in Zone 1180(d)-1
     1-10 mph Over the Limit $150 $80-$85
     11-30 mph Over the Limit $300 $80-$85
     31+ mph Over the Limit $600 $80-$85
Speeding on a Restricted Highway 1180(d)-2
     1-10 mph Over the Limit $150 $80-$85
     11-30 mph Over the Limit $300 $80-$85
     31+ mph Over the Limit $600 $80-$85
Failure to Reduce Speed for Special Hazard Vehicles 1180(c) $150 $80-$85
Speeding in a Work Zone or Construction Zone 1180(f)
     1-10 mph Over the Limit $150 $80-$85
     11-30 mph Over the Limit $300 $80-$85
     31+ mph Over the Limit $600 $80-$85
Vehicles Over 18,000 Pounds With Radar Detectors 1180(g)
    1-10 mph Over the Limit $150 $80-$85
     11-30 mph Over the Limit $300 $80-$85
     31+ mph Over the Limit $600 $80-$85
Driving Too Slow (Impeding Traffic) 1181(a) $150 $80-$85
Driving Below the Minimum Posted Speed Limit 1181(b) $150 $80-$85
Unauthorized Speed Contest (Racing) 1182(1) $525 $80-$85

 

As you can see, there are various kinds of speeding-related offenses in New York, and each one has its own separate fine. Obviously, the faster you are traveling, the higher the fine you will incur. Interestingly, getting caught racing in New York could cost you up to $525 even if your speed is relatively low.

Also, although it is listed as an offense with a maximum fine of $150, the average New York driver is hardly ever cited for driving too slowly.

DRIVER RESPONSIBILITY ASSESSMENT (DRA)

If you accumulate 6 or more points on your New York license arising out of one or more traffic ticket convictions within 18 months, you will be required to pay the Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA) in addition to the fines and surcharges noted above.

Accumulating 6 points in 18 months will obligate you to pay $100 per year for 3 years. If you get more than 6 points in 18 months, you will be charged an additional $25 per year for each additional point you receive. This means 1 extra point will cost you $75 total because the assessment lasts for 3 years.

For example, if you have 7 points on your New York license, you will be forced to pay $125 per year for three years. In total, you will end up paying $375 just for your Driver Responsibility Assessment. Remember, that $375 is a separate cost above and beyond your initial fines, surcharges, and any insurance hike you could suffer.

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT DRIVER SAFETY CLASSES & TRAFFIC SCHOOL

Most motorists think that if they take a driver’s safety class or go to traffic school, the points on their license will be wiped away. This is totally untrue.

In reality, electing to take a driver’s safety course will only give you a credit of up to 4 points for traffic tickets you already received at the time you take the class. This only expands the total number of points you are allowed to accumulate before New York will suspend your driver’s license. In other words, traffic school does not remove the points from your license and your traffic violations will remain on your driving record.

Remember, your insurance company will still see that you were convicted of these traffic violations and incurred a set number of points for them. Consequently, your insurance rate can still (and probably will) go up.  Another fact most drivers do not know is that a person is only eligible to take a driver’s safety class once every 18 months. When you put it all together, driver’s school is much less helpful than hiring a skilled traffic ticket attorney to get your charge reduced or dismissed entirely.

Pros of Fighting Your Ticket & Doing Traffic School Cons of Pleading Guilty & Doing Traffic School
By Fighting Your Ticket, You Can Eliminate Some or All of the Points Before They Go on Your Driving Record Traffic Violations Remain on Your Driving Record
If You Still End Up With Points, a Credit of Up to 4 Points Can Prevent License Suspension Points Remain on Your Driving Record
Insurance Carrier Can Still Raise Your Premium
You are Only Eligible for it Once Every 18 Months

 

PLEA BARGAINING NEW YORK SPEEDING TICKETS

If you plan on going to traffic court to fight your NY speeding ticket on your own, you probably expect to be offered a reduction. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who represents himself is offered a deal by the prosecutor. Unfortunately, the process can be very subjective and New York law gives prosecutors a great deal of discretion when it comes to negotiating plea bargains.

Moreover, even when drivers are offered a plea bargain, they are often unable to tell whether it is a good deal or not. Granted, most people will use their common sense and recognize that a reduction of a 4 point speeding ticket to a 2 point speeding ticket is better than nothing, but they will not know if they could have done better. Likewise, certain prosecutors are only willing to lower a speeding ticket by 10 mph while others are amenable to reducing them to 0 point parking tickets or something in between.

Without having knowledge of the prosecutor, the negotiation process, and what to tell a prosecutor in order to get the best deal possible, a driver who represents himself can end up shooting himself in the foot. Therefore, it is key to hire an experienced traffic ticket attorney who can spot a good deal when he sees one, is familiar with the prosecutors, understands the negotiation process very well, and knows what to say to get you the best results.

In many cases, a lawyer can be exceptionally helpful in getting a prosecutor to offer a reduction to begin with or offer a better deal than what was initially contemplated.

CASE STUDY

Recently, one of our clients received a letter from a prosecutor saying that he was NOT going to offer our client a deal or consent to having him appear by proxy. The man was charged with driving 110 mph in a 65 mph zone (45 over). If convicted, he would have received: 11 points, an automatic license suspension, a fine and surcharge of up to $685, a monumental insurance hike (if they did not drop his coverage altogether), and a total DRA (to be paid out over 3 years) of $675. However, using our skill and experience, we got the prosecutor not only to consent to him appearing by proxy, but the prosecutor also offered our client a great deal given his circumstances. The speed was reduced by 20 mph and we saved our client both time and money.

TVB SPEEDING TICKETS VS. NON-TVB SPEEDING TICKETS

If you receive a TVB speeding ticket, that means your case is being heard in the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB). The TVB handles traffic court cases involving violations committed in the 5 boroughs as well as Buffalo and Rochester. The Traffic Violations Bureau operates under its own separate rules and handles traffic ticket matters very differently than regular NY traffic courts. For starters, the TVB does not allow for plea bargaining. If you receive a NY speeding ticket and your case is being heard by the TVB, you can only plead guilty or not guilty. However, if you receive a NY speeding ticket in an area outside of the 5 boroughs, Buffalo, or Rochester, then your speeding ticket case will be held in regular traffic court. In regular traffic court, it is possible to enter into a plea bargain with a prosecutor and plead guilty to a reduced charge.

At this point, a logical question to ask is: “If I cannot plea bargain in the TVB, how do I win my case?” Since the TVB operates under its own rules, it pays to hire an attorney who has handled a lot of TVB cases. Although rarely vocalized, it is a well-known fact that the TVB will give deference to a lawyer that is not afforded to a driver who attempts to represent himself.

There are two main strategies that your attorney can use to help you win in the TVB. First, he will help you push the final trial date as far as possible into the future so you will not suffer any of the negative consequences associated with your speeding ticket. Postponing the case can help increase the chances that the police officer will not show up at trial and the likelihood of your case being dismissed. While a dismissal for a “no-show” is not mandatory, it is a practice that is commonly followed in the TVB. Although the process can be lengthy and arduous, your attorney will handle the whole thing for you.

You might be thinking, “I can do that too!” However, attorneys that are “frequent flyers” in the TVB are given more leeway when it comes to requesting adjournments and will be given more of them than a layperson. Consequently, if you were to ask for an adjournment in the TVB and be denied one on the day that the officer who ticketed you is present, you would most likely be convicted (presuming the prosecutor proves you sped). In contrast, an attorney would skillfully explain why the adjournment is needed and likely have it granted.

UNDERSTANDING NEW YORK’S SPEEDING LAW

To get a genuine understanding of New York’s speeding laws, it is vital to have a working knowledge of the speeding statute itself. The statute is rather long and—at times—can be quite intricate. Consequently, to help you navigate through the complex thicket of legalese, the section immediately following analyzes the statute in detail and explains it to you section-by-section in plain English.STATUTORY TEXT OF NY VEHICLE & TRAFFIC LAW 1180 & 1182

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) 1180. Basic rule and maximum limits.

(a) No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.

(b) Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section and except when a special hazard exists that requires lower speed for compliance with subdivision (a) of this section or when maximum speed limits have been established as hereinafter authorized, no person shall drive a vehicle at a speed in excess of fifty-five miles per hour.

(c) Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section, whenever maximum school speed limits have been established on a highway adjacent to a school as authorized in section sixteen hundred twenty, sixteen hundred twenty-two, sixteen hundred thirty, sixteen hundred forty-three or sixteen hundred sixty-two-a, no person shall drive in excess of  such maximum school speed limits during:

(1) school days at times indicated on the school zone speed limit sign, provided, however, that such times shall be between the hours of seven o’clock A.M. and six o’clock P.M. or alternative times within such hours; or

(2) a period when the beacons attached to the school zone speed limit sign are flashing and such sign is equipped with a notice that indicates that the school zone speed limit is in effect when such beacons are flashing, provided, however, that such beacons shall only flash during student activities at the school and up to thirty minutes immediately before and up to thirty minutes immediately after such student activities.

(d) 1. Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section, whenever maximum speed limits, other than school speed limits, have been established as authorized in sections sixteen hundred twenty, sixteen hundred twenty-two, sixteen hundred twenty-three, sixteen hundred twenty-seven, sixteen hundred thirty, sixteen hundred forty-three,  sixteen hundred forty-four, sixteen hundred fifty-two, sixteen hundred sixty-two-a, sixteen hundred sixty-three, and sixteen hundred seventy, no person shall drive in excess of such maximum speed limits at any time.

  1. Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section, whenever maximum speed limits, other than school speed limits, have been established with respect to any restricted highway as authorized in section sixteen hundred twenty-five, no person shall drive in excess of such maximum speed limits at any time.

(e) The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of subdivision (a) of this section, drive at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when approaching and passing by an emergency situation involving any authorized emergency vehicle which is parked, stopped or standing on a highway and which is displaying one or more red or combination red and white lights pursuant to the provisions of paragraph two of subdivision forty-one of section three  hundred seventy-five of this chapter, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, and when any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians, or other traffic by reason of weather or highway conditions, including, but not limited to a highway construction or maintenance work area.

(f) Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section and except when a special hazard exists that requires lower speed for compliance with subdivision (a) or (e) of this section or when a lower maximum speed limit has been established, no person shall drive a vehicle through a highway construction or maintenance work area at a speed in excess of the posted work area speed limit. The agency having jurisdiction over the affected street or highway may establish work area speed limits which are less than the normally posted speed limits; provided, however, that such normally posted speed limit may exceed the work area speed limit by no more than twenty miles per hour; and provided further that no such work area speed limit may be established at less than twenty-five miles per hour.

(g) (i) No person who uses a radar or laser detector in a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than eighteen thousand pounds, or a commercial motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than ten thousand pounds, shall drive at a speed in excess of fifty-five miles per hour or, if a maximum speed limit other than fifty five miles per hour as hereinbefore authorized has been established, at a speed in excess of such speed limit. The presence in any such vehicle of either: (1) a radar or laser detector connected to a power source and in an operable condition; or (2) a concealed radar or laser detector where a part of such detector is securely affixed to some part of the vehicle outside of the cab, in a manner which renders the detector not readily observable, is presumptive evidence of its use by any person operating such vehicle. Either such presumption shall be rebutted by any credible and reliable evidence which tends to show that such radar or laser detector was not in use.

(ii) The provisions of this section shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a radar or laser detector, unless otherwise provided by law.

(h) Upon a conviction for a violation of subdivision (b), (c), (d), (f) or (g) of this section, the court shall record the speed upon which the conviction was based on the certificate required to be filed with the commissioner pursuant to section five hundred fourteen of this chapter, or if the conviction occurs in an administrative tribunal established pursuant to article two-A of this chapter, the speed upon which the conviction was based shall be entered in the department’s records.

  1. Every person convicted of a violation of subdivision (b) or paragraph one of subdivision (d) of this section shall be punished as follows:

(i) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by not more than ten miles per hour, by a fine of not less than forty-five nor more than one hundred fifty dollars;

(ii) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by more than ten miles per hour but not more than thirty miles per hour, by a fine of not less than ninety nor more than three hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than fifteen days or by both such fine and imprisonment;

(iii) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by more than thirty miles per hour, by a fine of not less than one hundred eighty nor more than six hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

  1.  Every person convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) or (e) of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than forty-five nor more than one hundred fifty dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than fifteen days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
  2. Every person convicted of a violation of paragraph two of subdivision (d), subdivision (f) or (g) of this section shall be punished as follows:

(i) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by not more than ten miles per hour, by a fine of not less than ninety nor more than one hundred fifty dollars;

(ii) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by more than ten miles per hour, but not more than thirty miles per hour, by a fine of not less than one hundred eighty nor more than three hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or by both  such fine and imprisonment, provided, however, that where the vehicle is either (A) in violation of any rules or regulations involving an out-of-service defect relating to brake systems, steering components and/or coupling devices, or (B) transporting flammable gas, radioactive materials or explosives, the fine shall be three hundred dollars or imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both such fine and imprisonment;

(iii) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by more than thirty miles per hour, by a fine of not less than three hundred sixty nor more than six hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days or by both such fine and imprisonment, provided, however, that where the vehicle is either (A) in violation of any rules or regulations involving an out-of-service defect relating to brake systems, steering components and/or coupling devices, or (B) transporting flammable gas, radioactive  materials or explosives, the fine shall be six hundred dollars or imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both such fine and imprisonment.

  1. Every person convicted of a violation of subdivision (c) of this section when such violation occurs in a school speed zone during a school day between the hours of seven o’clock A.M. and six o’clock P.M., shall be punished as follows:

(i) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by not more than ten miles per hour, by a fine of not less than ninety nor more than three hundred dollars;

(ii) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by more than ten miles per hour but not more than thirty miles per hour, by a fine of not less than one hundred eighty nor more than six hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than fifteen days or by both such fine and imprisonment;

(iii) Where the court or tribunal records or enters that the speed upon which the conviction was based exceeded the applicable speed limit by more than thirty miles per hour, by a fine of not less than three hundred sixty nor more than one thousand two hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

  1. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this subdivision, the maximum fine provided herein for the violation for which the person is sentenced may be increased by an additional one hundred fifty dollars if the conviction is for a second violation of any subdivision of this section where both violations were committed within an eighteen  month period, and the maximum fine provided herein for the violation for which the person is sentenced may be increased by an additional three hundred seventy-five dollars if the conviction is for a third or subsequent violation of any subdivision of this section where all such violations were committed within an eighteen month period. Where an additional fine is provided by this paragraph, a sentence of imprisonment for not more than thirty days may be imposed in place of or in addition to any fine imposed.

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) 1182. Speed contests and races.

  1. Except as provided in section eleven hundred eighty-two-a of this article or section sixteen hundred thirty, sixteen hundred forty, sixteen hundred forty-two or sixteen hundred sixty of this chapter, no races, exhibitions or contests of speed shall be held and no person shall engage in or aid or abet in any motor vehicle or other speed contest or exhibition of speed on a highway. Such event, if held, shall be fully and efficiently patrolled for the entire distance over which such race, exhibition or contest for speed is to be held. Participants in a race, exhibition or contest of speed are exempted from compliance with any traffic laws otherwise applicable thereto, but shall exercise reasonable care. A violation of any of the provisions of this section shall constitute a misdemeanor and be punishable by imprisonment of not more than thirty days or a fine  of not less than three hundred dollars nor more than five hundred twenty-five dollars, or both such fine and imprisonment.
  2. A second conviction within twelve months of a violation of this section shall be punishable by imprisonment of not more than six months or a fine of not less than five hundred twenty-five dollars nor more than seven hundred fifty dollars, or both such fine and imprisonment.

CLARIFYING VTL 1180 & VTL 1182 AND HOW THEY AFFECT YOU

SPEED NOT REASONABLE AND PRUDENT

The first piece of the New York speeding statute describes the offense commonly referred to as speed not reasonable and prudent:

“(a) No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.”

Essentially, this provision makes it unlawful for a person to be driving at an unreasonable speed given the road conditions and surrounding circumstances. The practical effect of this is that you could be going the speed limit and still get cited for a speeding offense. That may sound very contradictory, but, in actuality, it makes a lot of sense.

To illustrate, if you were driving 63 mph with music blasting in a 65 mph zone during a thick, heavy snowstorm that completely decreased road visibility, an officer could pull you over and cite you for traveling at a speed not reasonable and prudent [VTL 1180(a)]. Similarly, if you hit a deer, telephone pole, or a traffic sign in very inclement weather, an officer can issue you a ticket for this offense (even if you were driving well within the speed limit). Although getting cited for speed not reasonable and prudent is rather rare, it still happens more often than you might think.

THE STATE SPEED LIMIT: PROHIBITION AGAINST SPEEDING OVER 55 MPH

The next portion of the statute, VTL 1180(b), makes it unlawful for a person to drive over 55 mph unless otherwise specified by a speed limit:

“(b) Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section and except when a special hazard exists that requires lower speed for compliance with subdivision (a) of this section or when maximum speed limits have been established as hereinafter authorized, no person shall drive a vehicle at a speed in excess of fifty-five miles per hour.”

This sets New York State’s default speed limit to 55 mph. In other words, even if there is no speed limit sign on the road or highway, you can be pulled over and ticketed for driving over 55 mph. Likewise, if a higher speed limit is established, that one will govern. However, until then, the default speed limit will be enforced even in the absence of a sign. This ticket is generally issued on the Taconic Parkway and similar state highways.

SCHOOL ZONE SPEEDING TICKETS

VTL 1180(c) makes it illegal to speed in a school zone and establishes higher penalties for doing so. The public policy and logic behind the school zone speeding clause is that children deserve additional protection due to their vulnerability and lack of worldliness. Additionally, it is a common fact that speeding kills, and society has a vested interested in making sure that our children are afforded the right to grow up healthy and safe. Subsequently, New York State will assess higher fines for speeding in a school zone.

“(c) Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section, whenever maximum school speed limits have been established on a highway adjacent to a school as authorized in section sixteen hundred twenty, sixteen hundred twenty-two, sixteen hundred thirty, sixteen hundred forty-three or sixteen hundred sixty-two-a, no person shall drive in excess of  such maximum school speed limits during:

(1) school days at times indicated on the school zone speed limit sign, provided, however, that such times shall be between the hours of seven o’clock A.M. and six o’clock P.M. or alternative times within such hours; or

(2) a period when the beacons attached to the school zone speed limit sign are flashing and such sign is equipped with a notice that indicates that the school zone speed limit is in effect when such beacons are flashing, provided, however, that such beacons shall only flash during student activities at the school and up to thirty minutes immediately before and up to thirty minutes immediately after such student activities.”

As you can see, getting a ticket for speeding in a school zone when school is NOT in session (i.e. non-school days as well as between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.) will be treated the same as a standard NY speeding ticket [see VTL 1180(c)(1)]. However, speeding in a school zone when school is in session and/or when the beacons on a school zone speed limit sign are flashing during school activities will increase a regular speeding ticket to a school zone speeding ticket and you will incur a steeper fine [see VTL 1180(c)(1)]. Remember, fines are doubled for speeding in a school zone.

SPEEDING IN A ZONE: DRIVING IN EXCESS OF POSTED SPEED LIMIT

This portion of the statute, VTL 1180(d), covers the speeding tickets that most of us are already quite familiar with. If you are found traveling faster than the posted speed limit on the road, you can receive a NY traffic ticket for speeding in a zone or driving in excess of the posted speed limit. By and large, this is the most common type of speeding ticket issued in New York. If you recently received a speeding ticket, this is likely what you were charged with violating.

According to VTL 1180(d):

“(d) 1. Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section, whenever maximum speed limits, other than school speed limits, have been established as authorized in sections sixteen hundred twenty, sixteen hundred twenty-two, sixteen hundred twenty-three, sixteen hundred twenty-seven, sixteen hundred thirty, sixteen hundred forty-three,  sixteen hundred forty-four, sixteen hundred fifty-two, sixteen hundred sixty-two-a, sixteen hundred sixty-three, and sixteen hundred seventy, no person shall drive in excess of such maximum speed limits at any time.

  1. Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section, whenever maximum speed limits, other than school speed limits, have been established with respect to any restricted highway as authorized in section sixteen hundred twenty-five, no person shall drive in excess of such maximum speed limits at any time.”

 

The essence of both of these clauses is that a person is not allowed to drive in excess of whatever the posted speed limit is whether it be on a regular road, highway, thruway, etc. [see 1180(d)(1)] or on a restricted highway [see 1180(d)(2)]. A restricted highway is a highway that New York put limits on when it comes to the type of vehicles that can use it (e.g. trucks, large and heavy vehicles, etc.), the times in which people can travel on them, etc. The minimum fine (but not the maximum fine) for speeding on a restricted highway is greater than the minimum fine for general speeding on any other road.

DRIVING AT AN APPROPRIATE SPEED

VTL 1180(e), obligates a driver to reduce his or her speed when appropriate:

“(e) The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of subdivision (a) of this section, drive at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when approaching and passing by an emergency situation involving any authorized emergency vehicle which is parked, stopped or standing on a highway and which is displaying one or more red or combination red and white lights pursuant to the provisions of paragraph two of subdivision forty-one of section three  hundred seventy-five of this chapter, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, and when any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians, or other traffic by reason of weather or highway conditions, including, but not limited to a highway construction or maintenance work area.”

Put simply, a driver is required to operate his or her vehicle in a responsible manner. Part of doing that is slowing down when you approach a curve, go over railroad tracks, pass by a car crash, pass through a construction zone, or encounter an emergency vehicle off to the side of the road.

It is worth noting that this portion of the New York speeding statute is similar to New York’s Move Over Law (VTL 1144-a). The Move Over Law requires a motorist to slow down, and move over from the lane he or she is currently in and into the next one (which is further away from an emergency vehicle that is off to the shoulder). If you are found speeding and not slowing down, you will likely get a ticket for violating VTL 1180(e) of the speeding statute. However, if you are within the speed limit, but fail to move over, you will likely get a ticket for violating VTL 1144-a. A conviction for violating the Move Over Law will put 3 points on your license and you can be compelled to pay a fine of up to $275. If you are convicted of failing to drive at an appropriate speed, 3 points will be put on your license and you will face a fine of up to $150.

SPEEDING IN A WORK ZONE OR CONSTRUCTION ZONE

VTL 1180(f) covers work zone speeding tickets (also called construction zone speeding tickets). By definition, a work zone or work area is a location on a highway that is used or being occupied for highway work and where workers, vehicles, equipment, materials, supplies, excavations, or other obstructions may be present.

Be careful! Actual construction does not need to be taking place in order for you to get a ticket for speeding in a work zone. Speeding in a completely unoccupied work area or construction site still counts. In most cases, a work zone will be marked off by orange barrels or cones and a work zone speed limit sign will be visible. Nevertheless, even if the work area does not have a work zone speed limit sign, but there are cones, barrels, or other tell-tale signs, you can still get cited for violating VTL 1180(f) (speeding in a work zone).

The following is the exact language of the provision:

“(f) Except as provided in subdivision (g) of this section and except when a special hazard exists that requires lower speed for compliance with subdivision (a) or (e) of this section or when a lower maximum speed limit has been established, no person shall drive a vehicle through a highway construction or maintenance work area at a speed in excess of the posted work area speed limit. The agency having jurisdiction over the affected street or highway may establish work area speed limits which are less than the normally posted speed limits; provided, however, that such normally posted speed limit may exceed the work area speed limit by no more than twenty miles per hour; and provided further that no such work area speed limit may be established at less than twenty-five miles per hour.”

A key take away from the above excerpt is that New York law prohibits the speed limit in a work zone from being more than 20 mph under the usually posted limit and it also cannot be less than 25 mph. This can be extremely helpful if you are in doubt over whether the area truly is or is not a work zone. For instance, if you see some cones marking an area, but no construction vehicles or workers, is this really a work zone? In all likelihood, it might be. Consequently, it behooves you to err on the side of caution in such circumstances and drive approximately 20 mph less than the normally posted speed limit (unless that would be less than 25 mph). Furthermore, if you are convicted of speeding in a work zone twice within 18 months, your driver’s license will be suspended. This applies regardless of how little or how much you were traveling over the speed limit. Also, fines in a work zone are doubled.

Are you wondering why New York is so harsh on drivers caught speeding in work zones? It is because of the societal interest in protecting construction workers who build our roads and help us get from place to place. In addition to that, construction zones oftentimes cordon off certain parts of the road and require unexpected lane shifts. Consequently, driving too quickly could prevent a motorist from seeing the new traffic pattern and lead him or her to careen right into other cars.

LAWS PERTAINING TO LARGE AND HEAVY VEHICLES

The next part of the New York speeding statute is VTL 1180(g):

“(g) (i) No person who uses a radar or laser detector in a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than eighteen thousand pounds, or a commercial motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than ten thousand pounds, shall drive at a speed in excess of fifty-five miles per hour or, if a maximum speed limit other than fifty five miles per hour as hereinbefore authorized has been established, at a speed in excess of such speed limit. The presence in any such vehicle of either: (1) a radar or laser detector connected to a power source and in an operable condition; or (2) a concealed radar or laser detector where a part of such detector is securely affixed to some part of the vehicle outside of the cab, in a manner which renders the detector not readily observable, is presumptive evidence of its use by any person operating such vehicle. Either such presumption shall be rebutted by any credible and reliable evidence which tends to show that such radar or laser detector was not in use.

(ii) The provisions of this section shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a radar or laser detector, unless otherwise provided by law.”

 

This provision, although a little cryptic, is designed to discourage drivers from using law enforcement detection equipment, like radar, while driving vehicles that are inherently dangerous due to their size and weight. For CDL drivers, this is considered a “serious traffic violation.” Remember, if you are a CDL driver and are convicted of two serious traffic violations within 3 years, your license will be suspended for 60 days [see VTL 510(a)(4)]. Imagine losing your ability to drive for 2 months. As a CDL driver, that means being out of work for quite some time!

COURT PROCEDURE & PENALTIES FOR BREAKING THE NEW YORK SPEEDING LAW

The next piece of the statute is VTL 1180(h). This portion describes what happens after you are convicted of speeding in New York and it sets the minimum and maximum fines as well as jail time associated with each type of speeding violation in New York. Since VTL 1180(h) is a bit long—for the purposes of clarity—we will break each of its component parts down into more palatable pieces and explain them bit by bit.

The first piece says:

“(h) Upon a conviction for a violation of subdivision (b), (c), (d), (f) or (g) of this section, the court shall record the speed upon which the conviction was based on the certificate required to be filed with the commissioner pursuant to section five hundred fourteen of this chapter, or if the conviction occurs in an administrative tribunal established pursuant to article two-A of this chapter, the speed upon which the conviction was based shall be entered in the department’s records.”

Although it may seem a little complicated, all this portion of the statute really does is set forth the legal procedure the court is required to follow once you have been convicted of speeding. In other words, the court is required to report to the New York DMV both the fact that you got convicted of speeding and the exact speed you were traveling over the legal limit. Essentially, this provision makes it obligatory for a speeding conviction to appear on your driving record and for your record to reflect precisely how much you were speeding by.

The next part establishes the minimum and maximum fine and jail time that a court is legally allowed to force you to pay for speeding in a zone and speeding over the default state limit:

  • For traveling 1-10 mph over the limit, the minimum fine is $45, the maximum fine is $150, and jail time is not imposed [VTL 1180(h)(1)(i)].
  • For going 11-30 mph over the limit, the minimum fine is $90, the maximum fine is $300, and up to 15 days of jail time could be imposed [VTL 1180(h)(1)(ii)].
  • For going 31 mph or more over the limit, the minimum fine is $180, the maximum fine is $600, and up to 30 days of jail time could be imposed [VTL 1180(h)(1)(iii)].

 

Remember, all of these fines do not include the $80-$85 mandatory court surcharge. Also, it is important to realize that more often than not, your fine will be set as the maximum fine. Similarly, it is beyond rare for a judge to order you to pay only the minimum fine. In most cases, you will need to hire an experienced NY traffic ticket lawyer to help reduce your fine to the minimum rate.

The next provision outlines the minimum and maximum fine and jail time for a speed not reasonable and prudent charge and driving at an inappropriate speed charge:

  • For driving at a speed not reasonable and prudent or driving at an inappropriate speed, the minimum fine is $45, the maximum fine is $150, and up to 15 days jail time could be imposed [VTL 1180(h)(2)].

 

The statute continues on to delineate the minimum fine, maximum fine, and jail time for three violations that New York lumps together and penalizes in the same way: speeding on a restricted highway, speeding in a work zone, and speeding in a large and heavy vehicle with a radar detector.

  • For traveling 1-10 mph over the limit (in this particular area or with this particular vehicle), the minimum fine is $90, the maximum fine is $150, and jail time is not imposed [VTL 1180(h)(3)(i)].
  • For going 11-30 mph over the limit (in this particular area or with this particular vehicle), the minimum fine is $180, the maximum fine is $300, and up to 30 days of jail time could be imposed [VTL 1180(h)(3)(ii)].
    • Exception: If your vehicle violated the rules involving an out-of-service defect relating to: 1) brake systems, 2) steering components, and/or 3) coupling devices OR was transporting A) flammable gas, B) radioactive materials, or C) explosives, then the fine will automatically be $300 and up to 30 days of jail time could be imposed.
      • Explanation of Exception: Having an out-of-service defect or transporting hazardous materials while speeding automatically results in getting the maximum fine (if convicted).
  • For going 31 mph or more over the limit (in this particular area or with this particular vehicle), the minimum fine is $300, the maximum fine is $600, and up to 30 days of jail time could be imposed [VTL 1180(h)(3)(iii)]. The same exception noted above applies here too.

The last piece of VTL 1180(h) fleshes out the minimum fine, maximum fine, and jail time associated with speeding in a school zone. Between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on a school day, the following penalties apply:

  • For traveling 1-10 mph over the limit, the minimum fine is $90, the maximum fine is $300, and jail time is not imposed [VTL 1180(h)(4)(i)].
  • For going 11-30 mph over the limit, the minimum fine is $180, the maximum fine is $600, and up to 15 days of jail time could be imposed [VTL 1180(h)(4)(ii)].
  • For going 31 mph or more over the limit, the minimum fine is $360, the maximum fine is $1,200, and up to 30 days of jail time could be imposed [VTL 1180(h)(4)(iii)].

The last section of VTL 1180(h) explains that the maximum fine for a second conviction of any speeding-related offense (committed within an 18 month span of the first) can be increased by an additional $150. Also, the maximum fine can be increased by an additional $375 for a third or subsequent speeding-related offense committed within the 18 month span. Likewise, 30 days of jail time can be tacked on either in lieu of this increased fine or in addition to it [see VTL 1180(h)(5)].

UNLAWFUL SPEED CONTEST: RACING IN NEW YORK

Although VTL 1182 is really its own separate statute, it is important to consider it as if it were part of the New York speeding statute since it sets forth another speeding-related offense that many New Yorkers get ticketed for.

VTL 1182 makes it unlawful to engage in a speed contest or race. In other words, racing is illegal unless special accommodations have been made. Interestingly, the statute also prohibits a person from “aiding and abetting” any motor vehicle in a speed content or race on a highway. Unlike all other speeding-related offenses, racing is a crime. Since racing in New York is considered a misdemeanor, if convicted, you will receive a criminal record and can go to jail for up to 30 days. The minimum fine for a racing conviction is $300 and the maximum fine is $525. However, if you are convicted a second time within 12 months of your first racing conviction, you can go to jail for up to 6 months! In that case, the minimum fine is $525 and the maximum fine is $750.

 

COMMON DEFENSES AGAINST A NEW YORK SPEEDING TICKET & CASE LAW ANALYSIS

When it comes to receiving a speeding ticket in New York, there are several common defenses that skilled NY traffic ticket lawyers will use to help you get out of the ticket. However, before we explore some of them, we must first dispel a common misconception about the way speeding ticket cases are handled.

 

THE RULE OF STRICT LIABILITY IN TRAFFIC COURT

In most criminal cases, before you can be convicted, it must be established that you engaged in a prohibited act (i.e. “actus reas”) and had the requisite mental state or level of intent to commit that act (i.e. “mens rea”). However, in traffic court, the rule of strict liability governs. Strict liability removes the mental state component from the equation. In other words, you can be convicted of a traffic violation whether you intended to commit the offense or not. Put slightly differently, a strict liability offense does not require you to have intent to commit the offense before you can be convicted. In this sense, simply breaking the law is enough to convict you (as long as the prosecutor can marshal enough evidence indicating that you really did violate the law).

This has real-world ramifications that affect every driver. For example, many people think that telling an officer that they really need to use the restroom, are having a baby, just came from a funeral, etc. will help them avoid getting a speeding ticket. However, based on the rule of strict liability, none of those facts actually matter. All the officer needs to know in order to issue you a New York speeding ticket is whether you were speeding or not. Similarly, other drivers—although they might not make excuses—will say that they had no idea they were speeding. This too is not a valid defense.

If you were caught speeding on the Taconic and had no idea that the speed limit was 55 mph, that is totally irrelevant in the eyes of the police officer. New York law allows an officer to issue you a speeding ticket simply because he caught you speeding—whether you knew you were or not. Similarly, a judge is legally permitted to convict you of speeding even if you had no idea you were actually speeding (so long as the prosecutor can actually prove you were speeding). Oftentimes, drivers who represent themselves are rudely awoken when they tell the judge that they were having a baby, had no idea they were speeding, etc. and expect leniency. However, if the police officer did not have sympathy when he issued you the speeding ticket, do you really think the judge will?

 

RADAR DETECTION, RADAR ERRORS, AND BEATING A RADAR SPEEDING TICKET

Depending on the facts of your case, your speeding ticket could have been issued in error. Although most people think that radar is the end-all-be-all when it comes to proof that you were speeding, this is not always true. Radar devices need to be properly calibrated before they are used. Otherwise, failing to do so will result in false readings that are entirely unreliable. In truth, there are at least 10 different kinds of radar errors associated with the detectors used to catch speeders:

  1. Antennae Positioning Errors
  2. Beam-Reflection Errors
  3. Cosine Errors
  4. Double-Bounce Errors
  5. Fan-Interference Errors
  6. Look-Past Errors
  7. Panning Errors
  8. Radio-Interference Errors
  9. Road-Sign Errors
  10. Vehicle Interference Errors

 

As most know, a radar beam travels in a straight line; it does not bend around corners. Subsequently, the radar beam will not follow the contour of hilly roadways or highways. If the antennae is not properly positioned, it will falsely appear as if the speed monitored is of an approaching car when—in reality—it is a car off in the distance. This is commonly referred to as antennae positioning error.

Antenna positioning error is common in two situations. First, it can result from an officer using a radar detector at the top of a short sloping road or hill and the beam detects the speed of a vehicle behind you or in a different lane instead of your car. Second, antenna positioning error results when police officers use radar right as they are about to round a corner. When they do this, the beam totally misses your vehicle and logs a car somewhere else. Since the radar beam does not bend with the curvature of the road, it may be picking up the speed of a car on a completely different road off in the distance! However, because your car rounds the corner and just missed the beam, the radar detector gives the impression that it was the speed of your car.

Additionally, since radar waves are so easily reflected, the detector itself can give off a false reflective reading. This is called beam-reflection error. Sometimes a radar detector is mounted within a patrol car and designed to catch speeders in front of the vehicle. However, it is quite possible for a reflective path to be created due to the rearview mirror bouncing the beam backward. This ends up generating readings on vehicles behind the police car! Consequently, it is vital to find out whether the radar in the officer’s car was mounted, and, presuming it was, if it was mounted in the back of the car where the beam could have been reflected by the rearview mirror.

One of the most common types of radar errors is called cosine error. This results when the radar uses the reflection of a stationary object (e.g. road machinery, a building, a sign, etc.) as the basis for the patrol car’s speed. If this reflector is positioned straight ahead—on a collision path—the patrol car speed estimate would be relatively accurate. However, the further the object is located off of the direct target line, the lower the estimate of the patrol car speed. This is simply a trigonometric problem relating to the cosine of the angle between the target and the ground reflector. Since cosine error usually makes the patrol car speed seem lower than it truly is, it in turn artificially inflates the reading of the target car’s speed (i.e. your car). Therefore, cosine error can make it seem as though you were going faster than you really were.

Double-bounce error results when a police officer uses a large object like a truck to act as the reflector. However, with such a large object, it is possible for the beam to bounce off of several moving trucks at once! This produces huge readings and clearly distorts the true speed you were traveling at. In most cases, the officer will recognize this as simply a “bad bounce” and make a simple recalibration. However, not all officers do this or are aware of the problem unless the speed is so out of proportion to what he or she could reasonably expect your speed to be. Consequently, if undetected by the officer, this bloated and improper speed reading could be a contributing factor for why you were issued a speeding ticket.

Fan interference error happens when the radar unit is mounted inside the patrol car and reads the pulse of the fan motor (e.g. defroster, air conditioner, heater, etc.). When it comes to moving radar, a steady fan speed can end up overriding the patrol car speed reflected from the roadway. If this occurs, the false speed reading produced by the fan will replace the actual reading of the patrol car! Since the radar calculation is nothing more than the patrol car’s speed subtracted from the target car’s speed, the radar can wrongly inflate your speed (presuming the speed of the fan is higher than the actual speed of the patrol car).

Even when a NY police officer aims his or her antennae properly, radar is still subject to look-past error. This type of error is caused by the radar “looking past” a small reflection in the foreground to read a larger reflection in the background. Many people think the reflected target signal picked up by the radar antennae will always be of the closest vehicle. However, this simply is untrue. Many times, depending on weather and road conditions, the actual target being picked up by the radar is a bigger vehicle three quarters of a mile down the road! Thus, if look-past error results, you will be getting pulled over for speeding when it should have been someone else.

Sometimes, although not that often, a panning error will occur. Panning errors can only result from a two piece radar unit. Panning errors happen when the radar beam unintentionally sweeps past the computing unit. When this happens, the radio energy from the antennae portion overloads the entire unit and produces a greatly distorted number. Usually, most officers will catch this and quickly recalibrate, but not all of them do. This means some people could be getting NY speeding tickets as a result a radar error and police oversights.

Ultra-high frequency (UHF) radio that is in use by police officers and citizens band (CB) radio transmissions can lead to a radio-interference error. When a police officer is making a radio transmission or simply has his radio transmitter on, electromagnetic interference is usually produced. This interference wave distorts the reading of the radar device and leads to a false reading. In essence, the radio energy emanating out trips the radar detector and overloads the device. This causes a great fluctuation between the speed you were actually traveling at and the speed the radar detector claims you were going. Most of the time police officers know better than to use their radar while they have their radio on, but not all of them do. As such, some people are probably getting speeding tickets for traveling at speeds they never really were going.

Road sign error will occur if the radar beam improperly strikes a road sign instead of the intended target. When it strikes the sign, it is using the wrong reflector to try and give an officer the right reading. This sometimes happens because of the ready reflectivity of radar waves.

Lastly, vehicle interference error results from a police officer using radar in moving traffic and the radar getting confused by that traffic. Essentially, the traffic distorts the officer’s own patrol car speed and reports it as lower than it truly is. As we noted earlier, the lower the patrol car speed, the faster the radar will say you were going. If the difference was between 5-10 mph, that can end up being a rather stark—yet undetectable—difference. Since it would be very difficult for the officer to eye-ball and recognize such a slight variance in speed, an error like this could easily go uncorrected. Consequently, the age-old adage that “radar is 5 mph off” actually has some merit to it.

In light of all of these errors in radar, one might think that New York courts would have long since rejected it as reliable. However, the exact opposite has happened. Radar officially became accepted as inherently reliable in 1958 in People v. Magri, 3 NY 2d 562, when the court declared:

  • “We think the time has come when we may recognize the general reliability of the radar speedmeter as a device for measuring the speed of a moving vehicle, and that it will no longer be necessary to require expert testimony in each case as to the nature, function or scientific principles underlying it.”

 

However, the rough edges of this ruling have been sanded down and reshaped over the years. For instance, in People v. Marsellus, 2 NY 2d 653, the court held that “evidence as to what even an untested speedometer showed was admissible.” When taken together, the Magri case recognizes the inherent reliability of radar and Marsellus gave the proverbial green light to traffic court judges to admit untested speedometer readings into evidence. The court in People v. Dusing, 5 NY 2d 126 summarize the general rule applying to admissibility and reliability of radar as follows:

  • “The sum of the combined Magri, Heyser and Marsellus holdings is: first, that a reading from an untested speedometer or radar device is admissible but is not without more sufficient for a speeding conviction; and, second, that the resulting deficiency in proof can be supplied by the testimony of qualified observers.”

 

How does all this affect you?

Basically, this New York ruling officially sanctions the reliability and admissibility of radar, despite the 10 errors we noted above. Nevertheless, if the only piece of evidence that the prosecutor has to convict you is the radar alone, you cannot be convicted. In order to be guilty, a prosecutor needs the officer or another qualified observer to testify as well in order to concretely establish your culpability.

Put simply, at the time of the Dusing holding:

  • Radar + Officer Testimony = Possible Conviction
  • Radar Alone ≠ Possible Conviction

However, in 1988 New York began to recognize just how prone to error radar was. In People v. Knight, 72 NY 2d 481, the Court of Appeals for the State of New York revealed:

  • “It is generally recognized, however, that because moving radar must measure the speed of the patrol vehicle in addition to that of the target vehicle, there is greater opportunity for error when it is used. Such error may result from distortion of the radar signal resulting in an artificially low speed reading for the patrol vehicle which, in turn, may cause an artificially high speed reading for the target vehicle.”

Based on this, the court expanded the Dusing holding and concluded:

  • “Since the potential for error is greater, the prosecution will bear a greater burden of proof in demonstrating the accuracy of the particular radar unit involved. Thus, in addition to establishing that the moving radar was in proper working condition and that it was operated correctly by one who was qualified and experienced in the operation of traffic radar, the evidence should show that the police officer independently verified the speed of the patrol vehicle (e.g., by comparing the speed registered by the radar unit with the speed indicated by the patrol vehicle speedometer), and that the radar was used in an area posing a minimal risk of misidentification or distortion (i.e., from heavy traffic, large trucks or large roadside objects such as billboards).”

 

Although some of this legal history might seem a bit complicated, the real-world implications of it help you tremendously when fighting a NY speeding ticket. Now, instead of the “radar + officer testimony = conviction” model, a prosecutor is required to prove much more before you can be convicted of speeding. Currently, a prosecutor will be required to prove all of the following before you can be convicted of speeding due to an officer’s use of radar (see People v. Knight, 72 NY 2d 481):

  1. The moving radar was in proper working condition.
  2. The moving radar was operated correctly.
  3. The moving radar was operated by a person qualified and experienced in traffic radar.
  4. The police officer independently verified the speed of the patrol car.
  5. The police officer used the radar in a location that posed only a minimal risk of distortion, misidentification, or radar errors.

 

If you can successfully establish that at least one of these 5 elements are lacking, then you cannot be convicted of speeding in New York. Moreover, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving these five elements, not you. That means if the judge feels that the prosecutor has not met his or her burden, your speeding ticket will get dismissed. Nonetheless, attacking each of these five elements is essential to mounting an effective defense against your speeding ticket. Therefore, it is vital to try to garner as much evidence indicating that all or at least one of the above 5 elements are lacking.

It is worth noting that trying to tell a judge about faulty radar on your own will almost certainly prove fruitless. In the legal system, expert witnesses are used to do that and certain procedures need to be followed before an expert witness can even get up on the stand and testify. Therefore, it is crucial to understand that if you try to introduce at your traffic court date evidence of the 10 types of errors on your own, be prepared for it to be thrown out of court (unless you brought with you a court recognized expert in radar and engineering who can firmly establish that your case undoubtedly was a product of faulty radar).

In reality, the most practical way to beat your NY speeding ticket is by hiring an experienced traffic ticket attorney to use all of the evidence you have collected to help disprove the 5 elements. Remember, if the judge sides with you—even for only one of them—you will likely avoid a conviction. In an ideal situation, your attorney will negotiate a favorable plea based on this type of defense (among others) before even having to appear before the judge.

 

VISUAL ESTIMATIONS (“EYEBALLING IT”) & BEATING A VISUAL ESTIMATE SPEEDING TICKET

Although we saw above that evidence solely from a radar gun without corroboration from a police officer or other witness is not enough to convict you for speeding, what if the officer approximates your speed and gives you a ticket based on that? Can the officer’s visual estimate and testimony be enough to get you convicted of speeding in New York? Absolutely. Although it runs contrary to our thinking—and not all states agree—New York has consistently upheld as a matter of law visual speed estimations.

A visual estimation is no more than a police officer using his professional judgment to approximate how fast you were going—without the aid of a radar gun or any other speed-detecting device—based on “eye-balling” your vehicle whizzing by. This type of speed detection was upheld in People v. Olsen, NY 2d 230. In that case, the court concluded:

  • “The rule is well settled in this State that opinion evidence with regard to the speed of moving vehicles is admissible provided that the witness who testifies first shows some experience in observing the rate of speed of moving objects or some other satisfactory reason or basis for his opinion.”

Since police officers are constantly patrolling streets and highways for speeders, it is practically a given that they have at least “some experience” when it comes to “observing the rate of speed of moving objects.” Moreover, the court explicitly stated:

  • “A police officer’s estimate that a defendant was traveling at 50 to 55 miles per hour in a 30-mile-an-hour zone should be sufficient to sustain a conviction for speeding.” (See People v. Olsen, NY 2d 230.)

 

However, the court revealed that not every visual estimation will be able to—on its own—allow for you to be convicted of speeding in NY:

  • “On the other hand, his testimony, absent mechanical corroboration, that a vehicle was proceeding at 35 or 40 miles per hour in the same zone might for obvious reason be insufficient, since it may be assumed that only a mechanical device could detect such a slight variance with accuracy sufficient to satisfy the burden necessary to sustain a conviction.” (See People v. Olsen, NY 2d 230.)

 

Consequently, a New York police officer will be allowed to use a visual estimation in all cases where your speed is approximately 20-25 mph over the speed limit or more. However, if your speed is only estimated at 5-10 mph over, a visual approximation will not be enough—on its own—to warrant a speeding conviction. Also, chances are quite high that a visual estimate will also be permitted for exceeding the speed limit by 10-20 mph. (See People v. Olsen, NY 2d 230; see also People v. Grennon, 36 Misc. 3d 33.)

You might be thinking, “How in the world can I beat this type of speeding ticket?” After all, it looks as though so much deference is given to the police officer and his judgment. Even if you are not offered a favorable plea during negotiations, it is possible to get this type of speeding ticket dismissed altogether. In People v. Riedinger, 2011 Slip Op 50836, a New York court recently determined that a police officer who fails to sufficiently establish his or her qualifications to estimate the speed of motor vehicles will be considered unreliable for the purpose of visual estimations. Although the officer also used radar, the court cited the Dusing case we noted above as grounds to toss that evidence out too.

The court reasoned that because the police officer failed to establish his qualifications to estimate the speed of vehicles, it effectively rendered the radar reading as the only piece of incriminating evidence (since his oral testimony about the driver’s speed was effectively inadmissible). Thus, by implementing some judicial jujitsu, the court concluded that without the officer establishing his qualifications, his oral testimony could not supplement the radar reading. Likewise, if it could not supplement the radar reading, then the reading alone cannot warrant a conviction. Ultimately, since no other evidence was proffered by the prosecution, the whole case was dismissed and the driver got out of the speeding ticket!

This 2011 court case gives every driver accused of speeding in NY a solid way to fight his or her ticket when the officer is relying on a visual estimation. Fundamentally, the process for getting the speeding ticket dismissed might look something like this:

  1. At trial, the prosecutor calls the police officer to the stand.
  2. The police officer does not sufficiently establish how or why he is qualified to make visual estimations.
  3. Later on during your hearing, your attorney makes a motion to strike the evidence of the officer’s testimony on the grounds that he has not met his burden of establishing his qualifications to make such estimations.
  4. If granted, your attorney makes a second motion to strike any accompanying radar evidence and to dismiss your ticket because the radar is now not accompanied by any other valid evidence.
  5. The judge grants your motion to dismiss.

 

Alternatively, you can do what Mr. Riedinger did and simply contest the conviction and have your NY traffic ticket attorney make this argument during your appeal. However, it is worth noting that this case is likely an outlier. Out of all of the cases that we researched, this was the only one that actually sided with the motorist on appeal when it came to visual estimation evidence. As such, do not think that this defense is a game-changer or an easy win. Nevertheless, it is no doubt worth using (so long as your situation calls for it).

 

PACING & BEATING A PACING SPEEDING TICKET

Sometimes police officers will use pacing as a method to determine whether or not you were speeding. Pacing is when the officer drives behind your vehicle and accelerates until his or her speed matches the speed of your vehicle and the gap between cars is no longer widening. At this point, the officer’s speed basically mirrors yours and he or she will be able to know whether you are speeding (and by how much) just by looking down at his or her speedometer. After maintaining this speed for at least two-tenths of a mile, the officer pulls you over and issues you a New York speeding ticket. In order for the speed measurement to be accurate, the officer has to leave some distance between your car and his or hers while ensuring that the distance remains constant while you both are moving.

As you might have guessed, if a visual estimation is a legally valid way for an officer to determine whether a driver is speeding in New York, pacing is just as valid. (See People v. Correia, 140 Misc. 2d 813.) Pacing is considered to be akin to a police officer giving his or her expert opinion. In this sense, successful NY traffic ticket lawyers will make similar arguments regarding the qualifications of the officer and his testimony just like we discussed when it came to “eye-balling” your speed.

For example, New York case law is quite clear: in order to establish that the police offer was qualified to make such an estimate, the prosecutor must establish each of the following:

  1. The officer was trained to make such an estimate.
  2. The officer had prior experience in making such estimates.
  3. The officer has been accurate in the past when making such estimates (i.e. the officer’s margin of accuracy is better than his or her margin of error).

(See People v. Olsen, NY 2d 230; see also People v Cunha, 93 Misc. 2d 467; see also People v. Correia, 140 Misc. 2d 813).

 

Likewise, in People v. Leatherbarrow, 69 Misc. 2d 563, the court explained that an officer who is testifying must “specifically indicate or particularize his experience and accuracy in judging the speed of moving vehicles” in order to be considered qualified under New York law. In other words, the police officer who testifies against you is required by law to explicitly say that he: a) has been trained to properly and accurately use pacing procedures and visual estimations, b) has experience making such speed measurements, and c) has been accurate in the past. Anything short of this is simply not specific enough to meet the standard fleshed out in the Leatherbarrow case. However, if the officer is able to establish his qualifications with regard to estimating speeds, then his testimony—even if it was the only evidence offered—will be enough to convict you of speeding in NY. (See People v. Leatherbarrow, 69 Misc. 2d 563.)

Remember, timing is critical to properly executing your defense. Should you object right away at trial on the grounds that the officer lacks the proper qualifications before he or she can say anything incriminating against you? If you do, the judge will likely let the prosecutor lay a foundation for the officer’s testimony, and, since you tipped them off to the qualifications component of your defense early on, the prosecutor will no doubt ask the right questions for the officer to be considered qualified. Consequently, this is usually the worst time to raise the defense.

Should you wait until the trial is all over, reserve your right to appeal, and then make the officer’s lack of qualifications your main argument on appeal? Doing so would be extremely risky. Some judges will have no problem with such a tactic. However, other judges will rely on New York evidence law indicating that “[O]nce admitted, whether properly or erroneously, the evidence is entitled to be considered by the trier of fact and accorded the weight it deserves.” (See People v Cunha, 93 Misc. 2d 467; see also People v. Clark, 33 Misc. 2d 390; see also Fisch, New York Evidence, § 18, p. 9.)  To put it more directly, once the ball goes in the hoop, you cannot always take away the points. Thus, if you wait to raise this type of defense until you appeal a conviction, it might be too late.

If all of this is true, then when should you argue that the officer has not properly established his qualifications to estimate speeds? The best time to raise this defense seems to be right after the officer testifies but before your lawyer officially moves to dismiss the case. The tactic should involve making a motion to strike all of the officer’s testimony in regard to pacing and visual estimations on account of the fact that he failed to establish the three elements delineated above.

Take note: depending on the leanings of the judge you get, he or she might allow the prosecutor to recall the officer, put the officer back on the witness stand, ask the officer questions that satisfy the three elements (and by extension prove the officer’s qualifications), and then have the officer essentially re-testify. Therefore, in an ideal scenario, your attorney will raise this defense after the officer has left the courtroom but before the conclusion of your hearing. Although there is a possibility that the officer may be hauled back in, it is quite unlikely. At this point, if the judge grants your motion to strike the pacing evidence, your attorney should move to dismiss the case due to a lack of evidence against you and the prosecutor’s failure to prove speeding beyond a reasonable doubt.

The following chart summarizes the major defense strategies we have discussed thus far. Remember, before having your NY traffic ticket lawyer use them at your trial, be sure to have him or her talk to the prosecutor in order to try to arrange for a favorable plea bargain. This will save you (and the court) both time and money.

How to Beat Your New York Speeding Ticket
  • Do not make excuses; strict liability applies in traffic court.
  • Remember, radar alone cannot get you convicted.
  • Use the Knight case to argue against a radar speeding ticket by disproving one or more of the 5 elements.
  • Use the Riedinger rule to argue against a visual estimation speeding ticket by challenging the officer’s qualifications to make speed estimations.
  • Use the Leatherbarrow holding to argue against a pacing speeding ticket by challenging whether the officer sufficiently and explicitly established his or her qualifications to make pacing estimations.
  • Above all, hire an experienced New York traffic ticket attorney who knows how to get you the results you want.

 

USING EVIDENTIARY OBJECTIONS TO HELP BEAT YOUR NEW YORK SPEEDING TICKET

If you are not happy with the plea bargain that your NY traffic ticket lawyer was offered and choose to have him fight the ticket for you, the following evidentiary objections can greatly help you win your case. Remember, there is no substitute for a trained traffic ticket attorney who knows exactly how and when to raise these objections, so be sure to let him do the objecting!

New York, like all states, has rules of evidence that must be followed. Although traffic court judges will usually be lenient when it comes to the introduction of evidence, it is absolutely vital that you protect yourself from harmful evidence being admitted against you at trial. You might be thinking, “My whole speeding ticket trial is only going to be 15 minutes. Why bother making it into a federal case?” In truth, this is half right and half wrong. Although your hearing will be on the short side, it is still worth raising valid objections at the right time and in the right manner to protect your legal rights.

The following is a short list of some of the most common objections your attorney might make during your traffic court appearance:

  • Asked and Answered: When the prosecutor asks a witness the same question that was already answered before, this objection can be raised in order to get the prosecutor to stop fishing around for the exact wording he or she wants to hear out of the witness’s mouth.
  • Hearsay: Hearsay is one of those commonly known words, but is a VERY misunderstood objection (even by lawyers). Hearsay is any out-of-court statement that is now being offered in court for the purpose of proving the truth of the matter asserted therein. For example, if the police officer testifying on the stand tries to say that he heard his partner say that you were speeding and the officer is saying this in order to prove that you truly were speeding, that statement would be considered hearsay. It is worth noting that there are approximately 13 exceptions to the hearsay rule, and it is exceptionally intricate.
  • Improper Foundation: If the prosecutor fails to establish the qualifications of a witness he or she is claiming to be an “expert,” your attorney might raise this objection. Before an expert can testify, the person must first prove to the court that he, in fact, is qualified as an expert. Also, this objection can be raised in a situation where the prosecutor is trying to have a piece of evidence admitted in court even though it has not been adequately explained to the court or verified as credible.
  • Leading the Witness: Leading the witness involves asking questions that are not open-ended (i.e. “yes” or “no” questions). If a question ends with “…correct?” or “…is that right?”, it is a leading question. For instance, “You calibrated the radar gun before using it, correct?” Contrary to popular belief, the only time an attorney cannot lead a witness is on direct-examination. This means if you called the witness, you cannot ask him or her leading questions (or if the prosecutor called the witness, he or she cannot ask the witness leading questions). However, if it is not your witness and you are cross-examining him or her, you are fully able to—and even expected—to ask leading questions.
  • Relevance: All evidence must be relevant or it cannot be admissible. Evidence will be considered relevant if it tends to prove or disprove a fact of consequence in your case. Usually, there is a low threshold for what counts as relevant, but sometimes prosecutors go too far. When they do, that is when your attorney should raise this.
  • Speculation: If a witness says something that is essentially pure conjecture based on his or her gut intuition alone, it is speculation and inadmissible. When a witness is merely speculating or the prosecutor asks a question that calls for speculation, that is when your attorney should raise this objection.

 

FIVE BIGGEST MISTAKES DRIVERS MAKE WHEN TRYING TO FIGHT THEIR NEW YORK SPEEDING TICKETS

More often than not, the people who are the most zealous about fighting their traffic tickets end up the most unhappy when they choose to represent themselves. One might think these people would do all the necessary research, know the law well, say all the right things, and walk out happy. However, this simply is not the case. Even drivers who do their due diligence and try to learn how to defend themselves by researching how to properly and effectively make legal arguments in traffic court end up unsatisfied most of the time.

How can that be? Think about it: you can research how to build a house and talk to all the right people regarding how to do it properly. Nevertheless, when the time comes for you to take what you intellectually know and put it into action, you are going to find out the hard way why most people hire a building contractor and construction workers to do it for them! The law works exactly the same way. There is a reason attorneys are trained for three years in law school, must pass a grueling 2 to 3 day bar exam, and are required to maintain a certain competence in their field of expertise in order to keep their law license. Aside from that, an experienced NY speeding ticket lawyer has been handling thousands of traffic ticket cases over the course of many years. In contrast, a non-lawyer who uses Google to find out how to fight a New York speeding ticket or talks with other people (even if they are lawyers), only has ideas and no genuine way of putting them into practice, let alone concrete experience doing just that. Therefore, the biggest mistake drivers make when it comes to trying to beat their speeding tickets is not hiring a lawyer.

Furthermore, in New York (and practically all states), traffic court proceedings are open to the public. This means other people who got tickets will be present in the courtroom when your case in being adjudicated. Likewise, you will also have the opportunity to be there when other people in your shoes go before the judge. Instead of texting your aunt Sally, checking the sports scores, or reading an e-mail from work, you should be listening intently to the other speeding ticket cases that go before the judge.

If more drivers did this, they would be in a better position to understand what annoys the particular judge they are going before, how the prosecutor acts and makes arguments, how the testifying police officer responds to questions, etc. Although it might seem boring to watch other people’s speeding ticket cases, this is your only chance to truly garner any understanding of the judge, prosecutor, and court system. Since most motorists usually cannot be bothered, they automatically assume that what they plan to say is better than anything else they can garner from listening. Consequently, they totally ignore the other cases instead of using the experience as an educational opportunity that might help them get out of their speeding ticket. Thus, the second biggest mistake is not listening.

Other people—whether they are represented by an attorney or not—sometimes make the third biggest mistake. The third biggest mistake is talking too much. If you hired an attorney, let him or her do the talking. Anything you say directly to the judge (unless you were personally asked a question by the judge) is only going to aggravate him or her along with your lawyer. Let your lawyer be your advocate and trust that he or she knows exactly what to say to win your case. To go back to our house building analogy, you would not tell the contractor building your home where to put the support beams. After all, the whole house could fall down. This is equally valid when it comes to your legal defense. If you want to get the best results possible, let your attorney do the talking.

This mistake applies even more so for people who choose not to hire a New York speeding ticket lawyer. To put it bluntly, most drivers who represent themselves do not know when to stop talking. Many times—without even knowing it—they are putting their foot in their mouth while simultaneously giving the judge additional reasons to convict them. Many times, emotions get in the way, people feel the need to share their story with the judge, and they reveal their thought process during the encounter. Do not do this! It is completely irrelevant to whether the prosecutor has successfully proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you were speeding in New York.

Similarly, drivers sometimes make admissions that literally prove the prosecutor’s case. A driver might get worked up and say, “I know I was going 65 in the 55, but it’s not like I was going 90!” As it is, judges tend to side with prosecutors when a driver is not represented by an attorney. The last thing you want to do is put the nail in your own coffin without even realizing it! Therefore, when the time comes for you to talk, address the judge politely, confidently, and logically. Remember, only say things that: 1) will help demonstrate why the prosecutor has not (or cannot) make his case and/or 2) constitute legally valid defenses.

The fourth biggest mistake drivers make when trying to fight a New York speeding ticket is not being forthcoming with their attorney and/or the judge. Sometimes, drivers do not tell their attorneys about prior traffic ticket convictions or prior criminal histories. They think, “…but that was last year! I thought it was off my record by now.” First of all, any traffic ticket conviction you received within the past 18 months will almost certainly still be on your driving record. Second, it is better to tell your traffic ticket attorney more information than less information. Let him or her figure out what is relevant to getting you the results you are looking for. Failing to disclose: a) facts that incriminate you, b) prior speeding ticket convictions, or c) any other similar information could lead to you losing your case, wasting the court’s time as well as your own money, and incurring potentially harsher penalties. Thus, when in doubt, tell your NY speeding ticket attorney about it before your court date.

The fifth and final biggest mistake drivers make when trying to fight their New York speeding tickets is showing up unprepared. Whether you come with an attorney or not, you need to be prepared. If your attorney successfully negotiates a deal on your behalf or you are not required to show up to court, then you are golden. Just let your NY traffic ticket attorney work his or her magic. However, if your case is a little more complex (e.g. you were charged with racing 100 mph in a school zone), you will likely need to show up even if you hired an attorney. In such a situation, be sure to confer with your attorney before your court appearance. Find out what (if anything) you need to say, what the general strategy is going to be, and how much or how little is expected of you.

If you are representing yourself (which, again, we do not advise), do not just show up to court and expect to get your ticket dismissed. If the speed limit sign was obscured, bring in a photo proving it. If the officer made statements that might exonerate you, figure out how to legally get them admitted into evidence. Even something as simple as what table you stand at in the courtroom—let alone how to introduce yourself—should be worked out beforehand. If you represent yourself, you really cannot be over-prepared for traffic court. Remember, self-representation is a huge gamble even when you have all your ducks in a row; do not make it any harder on yourself by not preparing sufficiently.

Five Biggest Mistakes People Make When Fighting
Their New York Speeding Ticket
  1. Not Hiring a Lawyer
  • Not Listening
  • Talking Too Much
  • Not Being Forthcoming with Their Attorney and/or the Judge
  • Showing Up Unprepared

 

WHY IT PAYS TO HIRE A NEW YORK SPEEDING TICKET LAWYER

As you can see, it takes a great deal of knowledge, skill, and experience to successfully beat a speeding ticket in New York. Do not think that you will be able to charm your way out of it or that a judge will show you mercy simply because you have a good excuse. Representing yourself is simply not worth it. Aside from the time and effort you will need to put in to adequately preparing your defense, you will have to take off from work to attend your court date and will not be afforded much deference by the judge. In all likelihood, handling a speeding ticket matter on your own will only lead to you going home frustrated and upset instead of satisfied with the end result.

However, when you hire a traffic ticket attorney, he will take care of everything for you in a smooth and seamless process. You will not have to spend hours preparing your case and you will not even need to go into court. In addition to saving both time and gas money, you will not have to change your schedule around. Furthermore, when you hire a NY speeding ticket attorney, you are choosing a trained professional who has helped other people in similar situations and gotten them the results you now seek. Besides, the amount of money you will pay your traffic ticket lawyer to help you fight your speeding ticket truly pales in comparison to the steep costs of fines, surcharges, responsibility assessments, and insurance hikes that you could incur by pleading guilty or trying to fight on your own.

 

CHOOSING THE RIGHT NEW YORK SPEEDING TICKET ATTORNEY

Remember, not all traffic ticket attorneys are the same and hiring a speeding ticket lawyer is not like purchasing a TV. When you look for a TV, you can shop around for the lowest price and know that you are receiving the exact same product only for less money. When you hire a traffic ticket lawyer, you are not necessarily getting the same service. Finding a cheap attorney may seem like a good option, but it is vital to consider what you are getting for the money you are paying. These days, it is relatively easy to find a traffic ticket attorney. However, finding one that has a track record for success and is worth the money you are paying is much harder to find.

When searching for a NY traffic ticket attorney, first make sure to find one who will offer you a money-back guarantee if he does not get your speeding ticket reduced (unless you received a TVB ticket, in which case plea-bargaining is not legally allowed). If the attorney is not willing to do this, it should be an immediate red flag. Second, make sure the attorney has plenty of good reviews on Google, Facebook, Avvo, and other related websites. After all, you would not hire a plumber before finding out if he was good at fixing sinks. Similarly, do not hire a traffic ticket attorney unless he has glowing reviews indicating past successes in cases similar to yours.

Next, be sure he offers you unlimited court appearances and a one-time flat fee. Some traffic ticket attorneys may seem cheap at first, but they end up nickeling-and-diming you for supplemental court appearances, filing fees, and anything else they can think of. Avoid these sorts of attorneys and find one who is up-front, honest, and offering a flat-fee with no strings attached. Also, It goes without saying that the New York traffic ticket attorney you hire should be well-educated and have plenty of experience. Find out how many years he has been practicing law and how many of those years were spent involved in fighting traffic tickets. Lastly, it is absolutely vital to hire an attorney who will keep you in the loop, follow up with you, and patiently answer all of your questions. A good indicator of whether or not the law firm takes you seriously is whether you end up speaking directly to an attorney or a legal secretary. In the end, it might be worth paying a little more in order to ensure that you will be getting the best attorney possible.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

After reading this book, we hope you have a better understanding of the various types of speeding offenses in New York, the penalties associated with them, some of the common defenses used to fight New York speeding tickets, and the importance of hiring an experienced traffic ticket lawyer to help you beat your speeding ticket. Depending on the speeding offense you are charged with, the consequences you face might be rather serious. Remember, police officers and government officials have a vested interest in you thinking that it is easier to just plead guilty and pay a fine. After all, it generates revenue for the state and town without having to raise taxes. However, you know better now. You are aware of the hidden costs and long-term negative consequences associated with pleading guilty or representing yourself. Ultimately, if you ever find yourself face-to-face with a NY speeding ticket, you now know just how vital it is to hire an experienced attorney to fight it for you.