Any thoughts?

  • jeep334

    Posts: 538

    Feb 09, 2018 4:59 PM GMT
    I live in New York State and I say this because this is a motor vehicle issue and laws vary from state to state. I received a Driver's License suspension notice from the DMV because it said I had failed to respond to a ticket. The ticket was for not wearing a seat belt in 2007. That's correct: 2007. 11 years ago. At least it was in the same century. I went to the Court Clerk to respond to the ticket before the date of suspension took place. I pleaded not guilty. This municipal court's process in this type of case is for me to write a letter to the city's attorney explaining my case. Other courts have you actually meet with the attorney. It also instructed me to send in an abstract of my driver's license. This community has a population of just under 8,000 and is the county seat so the court system is far from a mom-and-pop operation conducted from the living room of their home and is more than capable of acceptable and accurate filing and notifications procedures.

    So, I did all of that and am presently waiting for the attorney’s reply. I explained that the reason I pleaded not guilty was simply because I had no idea of where I was on the day (actually middle of the night) in question. I explained that my practice is to always clear these matters up at once and as my DMV abstract showed, I had no violations of any type. As the NYS Driver's Abstract shows:

    1. Personal information: Name, date of birth, and mailing address.
    2. Driver information: Driver license class, status, expiration, endorsements, and restrictions.
    3. Driving history (current year, and past 3 years): Accidents, moving violations, suspensions, and revocations.
    4. Alcohol or drug-related convictions from the past 15 years or beyond (depending on the conviction).

    and was without any violations whatsoever which indicates (in theory) a good driving record. I stated that my past practices and the DMV Official Record, in my opinion, leans to a credible belief that I was not guilty. Lastly, I wrote that in all good consciousness, I could not plead guilty to something that I honestly could not recall as doing that would be akin to perjuring myself in a court of law.

    I am waiting for the attorney’s response. I feel that if it took the court 11 years to realize I never answered the charge, then they are guilty of far more public trust than I might be in not wearing a seat belt. Incidentally, the no seat belt law at that time was a simple infraction and not a moving violation. Also, in NYS, there are only a couple of crimes that do not carry a statue of limitations: murder and traffic violations are two that fall into this category.

    How do you think I will fare with this?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 09, 2018 9:01 PM GMT
    Having once been young and reckless (and I'm not saying you are - this is just in the way of explanation), I have a fair amount of experience with traffic cases, up to and including writing legal appeals to a superior court. I am, however, not a legal professional, nor have I ever lived in or dealt with cases in the State of New York. I can make some comments, which may or may not be helpful. I have some questions as well.

    1) It's not clear from your write-up if you ever received a ticket for the violation either in person, or by mail. To me, this is a very key issue. There are potential defenses here, such as the constitutional right to a speedy trial.

    2) How was the violation determined? Were you stopped by a police officer? I have never, ever, heard of a seatbelt violation being assessed using cameras. Every one I've ever heard of was issued in person by a police officer.

    3) If you got a ticket, it is your absolute responsibility to follow through, even if you don't hear further from the court. This was actually written on most tickets I've received. In most states, if you don't plead guilty via mail and pay the fine, or plead not guilty via mail and get a trial date set by the court, you are expected to show up in court on the date written on your ticket. If you don't, that is a crime in itself, called a Failure to Appear, and will result in additional fines, and eventually, a bench warrant being issued for your arrest. If you plead not guilty via mail and don't hear back from the court, you must appear in court on the date shown on your ticket, even if only to enter the not guilty plea in front of a judge. Again, I don't know if this is the process in New York.

    4) I have never been in a state where you didn't have the right to a trial in front of a judge, if you wanted one, in place of trial by mail or other non-traditional means. If it were me, I would have done that instead of litigating this by mail. You have an absolute constitutional right to face your accuser, which means the police officer who issued the ticket has to appear. Often, they don't, and you win by default. After 11 years, it would be burdensome for the DA's office to try this case, and the officer may not even work for the City anymore. You would still have to prepare a cogent defense, in the event the officer did show up, or raise other issues by written motion, such as the issue of right to a speedy trial.

    5) The fact that you don't remember this happening, or that your good driving record somehow constitutes proof that you wouldn't have done this is a nonsense argument, and if that is the basis for your defense, you will almost certainly lose. First of all, the court needs nothing more than the word of the cop to convict you. Camera evidence works too, if it clearly shows you and the violation. The cop is an officer of the court, and absent demonstrable proof to the contrary, if he says it happened - it happened. Arguments like yours have all been litigated. For example, people have gone to court and argued that the fact that nothing bad happened was prima facie evidence that they were driving safely, or that the speed at which they were driving was safe. Ahhh... no. Courts have held that defenses like this are not valid.
  • jeep334

    Posts: 538

    Feb 12, 2018 12:36 AM GMT
    Thanks Tshirtnjeansguy very much for your thoughts and input. All very valid points.

    This particular municipality does not issue motor vehicle other than face to face with the arresting officer. As I wrote in my letter to the Village Attorney, it is my past practice to always resolve any motor vehicle tickets immediately, seldom waiting for a court date. As my work involves use of an automobile 24/7, it’s imperative I be able to drive. Your point that the failure to respond to a ticket is absolutely a crime within itself. This whole ordeal started because the Village Court contacted the state DVW requesting my driver’s license be suspended due to (my alleged) failure to respond to the ticket in the first place.
    I do have the right for a trial before a judge in this case. The process in this municipality is for me to plead not guilty in person or via mail and then a trail date will be set. Before that date occurs, it is my responsibility to contact the Village Attorney and explain my side of the situation to him. Usually, the accused appears in court on the assigned date and first meets with the District Attorney to determine a plea deal and then appears before the judge.

    I have now received the reply from the Village attorney and he agreed with me when I wrote that in all good consciousness, I could not plead guilty to something that I honestly could not recall, and, doing that would be the same as me issuing a false statement in a court of law. His recommendation to the court is for me to plead guilty and for the court to dismiss the case in the “Interest of Justice.” I quickly accepted the offer. Although I really do not like the idea of pleading guilty to something that I personally have no proof of, if the police officer says it happened, I agree either it did or that something else happened for me to be stopped. I have no reason to doubt the integrity of the police officer. If this is how the system must accept my case, so be it. The attorney also informed the judge that we were prepared for trial in this matter. In legal lingo his statement acknowledges that this case fell off the grid of the court (and off my grid as well), and that the case should simply be closed.

    If we had to go to trail, then as you say the arresting officer would have to appear. Who knows if that person is even in the area at this time, 9 years later. I would have to invoke the Freedom of Information Act to find out the Officer’s name as his signature is not legible on the copy of the ticket the DMV sent me.

    Long story short, a traffic infraction, and in particular one that is not a moving violation, should not linger for 9 years. Where as I honestly believe that I addressed the issue at the time simply because that is how I handle such situations, the court’s records do not indicate that. I am sure that there is some local politics working here because even if I had not responded to the original ticket, then there is the accountability of the court for waiting 9 years to respond. That issue would be another case all in itself.

    Posts: 1270

    Feb 12, 2018 1:27 AM GMT
    Is hard to give advice here because every municipality countrywide
    have different policies as per how long they can keep traffic ticket
    violations! you have to find out your local municipal court's policies!
    I know where I live a ticket that old could be administratively
    dismissed once it goes to court.

    Your Driver's license cannot be suspended on a traffic ticket, unless
    it is a mandatory court appearance summons, such as a driving
    without a driver's license, no insurance, driving with a suspended
    license, reckless driving, and DUI. A seatbelt ticket back 11 yrs ago
    was probably not considered a mandatory court appearance as it
    is today! good luck!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 12, 2018 1:33 AM GMT
    Well, hopefully this will go as the ADA says and you'll be ok. The fact is that given the amount of time the ADA has already spent on your case, they're into negative numbers on this thing, and that is not the purpose of traffic tickets and fines. The last thing he wants is for you to plead not guilty, because if he has to prepare a case, try to find the officer, etc., this thing is going to go way into negative numbers. By the way it is HIS job to find a subpoena the officer, not yours - the officer is his witness.

    I'm not loving that you're being asked to plead guilty to petition for the dismissal. As said, you could plead not guilty, and almost certainly get this thrown out by filing a motion for dismissal on grounds that you were denied your right to a speedy trial. That is more time and headache, though, and once you're in the courtroom, anything can happen. Sounds like you got a good offer, if it is a guaranteed outcome.