The Value of Hiring a Traffic Violations Defense Attorney
Hiring a traffic violations defense attorney to handle a ticket may have been considered a waste of money back in the day, but here’s what has changed since then.
Traffic school, and therefore ticket dismissal, was available for the asking. But the state recently changed the traffic school eligibility rules. Therefore, this option might not be available, even if the defendant is a first-time offender.
The state also recently changed the drivers’ license points rules on a related note. The common infractions listed below are typically five-point offenses. Moreover, a single speeding ticket could be an eleven-point offense.
Additionally, traffic school is usually unavailable for subsequent offenders. Traffic law enforcement is very aggressive in western New York, especially during holidays and other specific times. So, there are a lot of repeat offenders in Monroe County.
Because of this environment, if you got a traffic ticket, a Rochester traffic violations defense attorney probably needs to handle the matter. Tickets in 2022 are a lot more complex than they were in 2002. A partnership with a traffic violations defense attorney in Rochester has other advantages. For example, many courts don’t require defendants with lawyers to appear at preliminary hearings.
Disregarding a Traffic Control Device
Since the dawn of time, motorists have treated stop signs like yield signs. Rolling right turns on red, the infamous California stop, are common as well. If officers witness such infractions, they sometimes let people off with warnings. But most police departments have quota systems, at least informally. As a result, many officers, especially those vying for promotions, aggressively write people up.
According to the New York Traffic Code, the vehicle’s wheels must stop moving at a red light stop sign. The Code doesn’t say how long that pause must last. It could be a millisecond. Because of traffic conditions and viewing angles, many officers cannot see if the vehicle’s wheels stopped turning.
In 2012, a physics professor at the University of California at San Diego wrote a four-page treatise on this subject and presented his paper to the judge. As a result, the judge threw out the ticket.
You do not need to be a physics teacher to use this defense. The state has the burden of proof on this point. A Rochester traffic violations defense attorney does not need to prove a defendant’s innocence. Attorneys must simply undermine the state’s evidence.
Using a Device While Driving
New York has a primary enforcement hands-free law. If officers believe motorists are using devices while driving, they may pull them over and issue tickets. That’s one of the broadest hands-free laws in the country.
Pulling over a driver for breaking this law is one thing. Proving the violation in court is another thing entirely. It is not illegal to look at a device while driving. The state must prove that the device was on at the time. This proof usually requires the device use log. Very few prosecutors go to the trouble of subpoenaing these records, authenticating them, and presenting them in court.
Speeding Ticket Help
Speeding citations account for a third of all traffic tickets in Monroe County. Due to the aforementioned traffic school rule changes, this option is usually unavailable in these cases. Fortunately, several defenses are available.
The manner of enforcement is usually the best defense in a speeding ticket case. Generally, officers use one of three tools to gauge vehicle speed:
- Laser: The officer aims a laser beam at a license plate, and the laser beam calculates the vehicle’s speed. Fortunately, laser enforcement is relatively rare. These tickets are hard to beat in court.
- RADAR: This acronym stands for RAdio Detection And Ranging. A gun fires radio beams at an object. The bounce-back speed determines vehicle speed. These guns are imprecise. If an officer aims a RADAR gun at a cluster of vehicles, the results prove one of them was speeding. The results don’t prove which one was speeding. Additionally, RADAR guns are only accurate at very close range.
- Pacing: Essentially, pacing means guessing another vehicle’s speed based on one’s own velocity. So, it’s challenging for a stationary officer to guess a moving vehicle’s velocity. Moreover, some muscle cars and other vehicles sound fast, even when they are not moving fast.
Ignorance of fact is another possible defense. Over time, trees and other objects often obscure speed limits and other warning signs over time. As a rule of thumb, if the sign is less than 50 percent visible to passing motorists, the traffic citation may not hold up in court.
Consult With a Traffic Violations Defense Attorney
A traffic ticket could mean big trouble in Monroe County. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester traffic violations lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Convenient payment plans are available.
Primarily due to coronavirus restrictions, during 2020, law enforcement activity in many parts of Monroe County almost ground to a halt. Yet authorities still arrested and jailed nearly 10,000 individuals. Immediate jail release, frequently through a low-cost pretrial release bond, is usually available in these cases. Jail release is the first step toward a successful criminal defense. But it’s only the first step.
A Rochester criminal defense lawyer must thoroughly review your case and identify all possible defenses to avoid significant direct and collateral consequences for a criminal conviction in NY. An attorney can leverage these defenses at trial or during pretrial settlement negotiations. So, to have the best possible chance of avoiding negative consequences, your lawyer must be a skilled litigator as well as a good negotiator.
Direct Consequences of Criminal Conviction in NYS
Most defendants who are convicted of criminal offenses receive probation. That outcome has little or nothing to do with mercy. Usually, judges place defendants on probation because incarceration is expensive. Probation is much less costly. Additionally, probationers must pay supervision fees and other costs, which partially offset the expenses associated with such programs.
The length of the probation varies significantly in different cases. Usually, it’s a few months in a misdemeanor and a few years in a felony. During this time, defendants must comply with certain conditions, such as:
- Avoiding further trouble with the law,
- Reporting to a probation supervision officer,
- Paying restitution, fines, supervision fees, and other obligations,
- Working or attending school full time,
- Avoiding “injurious” habits, and
- Completing community service or other requirements.
Because of all these requirements, probation is not always the best sentencing option. It is not even available in a few severe felonies. Incarceration in a misdemeanor is usually a few weeks, and incarceration in a felony is usually a few years.
The direct consequences of a criminal conviction usually are not that serious, and they end rather quickly. On the other hand, indirect consequences are often quite severe and often last a lifetime.
A criminal record is perhaps the most severe indirect consequence. Many employers and other searchers only take notice of less than ten years old records. But a criminal conviction never falls off a permanent record, even if the defendant was a juvenile and turned 18 or 21.
Criminal records often make it challenging to find a nice place to live or get a good job. Criminal records also often affect student financial aid packages, involving significant social stigmas. These things are particularly true with some kinds of criminal conviction records.
Certain offenses also have specific collateral consequences. For example, a DUI conviction usually includes an SR-22 requirement. Defendants must maintain this high-risk auto insurance, which generally costs about three times as much as standard auto insurance, for at least three years.
Minimizing Consequences of a Criminal Conviction in NY
Before, shortly after, and long after the judge’s gavel falls, a Rochester criminal defense lawyer can minimize, or even eliminate, these consequences.
Deferred disposition, a special form of probation, is usually available in most criminal cases. The judge sentences the defendant to probation but does not find the defendant guilty. If the defendant completes probation, the judge dismisses the case. That means no conviction record.
We mentioned probation length above. In many cases, the term could be much shorter. New York law gives judges broad discretion to modify the terms of probation, including the length of supervision. Some written and unwritten qualifications apply. Under the law, the requested termination must be in the best interests of society and the best interests of the defendant. Informally, most judges do not terminate probation unless the defendant has served at least half the term and has paid all fines and costs.
Finally, in 2017, New York lawmakers approved a record sealing law. After a ten-year waiting period expires, defendants may ask judges to seal their criminal records. Sealed records still exist, but they are invisible to most searchers, except for certain government and law enforcement officials.
The severe consequences associated with a criminal conviction in NY do not apply to everyone for all time. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester defense lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.
The War on Drugs, which began in the 1960s, probably peaked with the 1994 Crime Bill. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 gave law enforcement agencies broad powers to arrest people for drug possession and imposed harsh sentences on defendants convicted for controlled substance charges. In the 2010s, Congress rolled back many of the provisions in the 1994 Crime Bill, and former President Barack Obama pardoned several thousand people who, in his view, received unduly harsh sentences.
Although the War on Drugs has passed its peak, it is far from over. Police officers still arrest over a million people per year for drug offenses. Close to 90 percent of these arrests are for simple possession. Aggressive enforcement continues, but jurors are less likely to sanction such tactics. Because of the opioid epidemic, many people now see drug use as a health and safety issue.
Additionally, public support for police officers recently hit an all-time low. So, many jurors no longer give police officers the benefit of the doubt in court. Due to these changes, for the first time in a long time, a Rochester criminal defense attorney has an excellent opportunity to resolve controlled substance charges successfully. That’s especially true in larger jurisdictions like Monroe County, which have designated drug courts. The judges in these courts have a special understanding of the nature of drug addiction. Therefore, they are less willing to impose harsh penalties and more likely to be interested in rehabilitation.
New York’s drug laws are loosely based on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s controlled substances schedule. It breaks down controlled substances, which could be legal or illegal to purchase, as follows:
- Schedule I: Most substances in this category, such as LSD, heroin, and methamphetamines, have a high potential for abuse and no medical use. Therefore, possession of these drugs, especially their distribution, is usually a serious felony.
- Schedule II: Under federal law, most prescription pain pills, as well as cocaine and some other street drugs, are Schedule II substances. Per the DEA, these drugs are “potentially dangerous” because they have “a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Schedule II offenses are usually less serious felonies.
- Schedule III: All drugs on the DEA schedule are legal to purchase from this point on. Some of them don’t even require prescriptions. Schedule III drugs include Tylenol with codeine, steroids, testosterone, and ketamine. These substances have a moderate risk of dependency and severe side effects.
- Schedule IV: Low-risk drugs include most prescription antidepressants, like Xanax, and most prescription sleep aids, like Ambien. Curiously, unlawful possession of such medication usually is a felony, even though they are low-risk drugs.
- Schedule V: Some over-the-counter drugs, primarily things like NyQuil and Robitussin, are on a store’s restricted list. Many retailers monitor and limit sales in these situations. These drugs could be dangerous. But they are more likely to be ingredients in more potent drugs.
If you are wondering, marijuana is a Schedule I drug under federal law. However, it is legal for most purposes under New York law.
Most Common Types of Drug Arrests
Illegal street drugs, like cocaine or heroin, and prescription pain pills, like Vicodin and Oxycontin, are the most common types of drug arrests in New York.
Street drugs usually have amount-based penalties. The more drugs the defendant possessed, the higher the penalty. There is a presumption that anyone with a significant quantity of drugs is most likely a dealer. Furthermore, possession of even a tiny amount of these drugs is usually a felony.
Illegal prescription pain pills usually have substance-based penalties. The punishment typically depends on the type of pill instead of the quantity.
Possible Defenses for Controlled Substances Charges
Controlled substance charges typically involve procedural and substantive defenses.
Procedural defenses often involve an illegal search or seizure. Usually, police officers must have search warrants to seize contraband, like illicit drugs, weapons, or pornography. A narrow search warrant exception must apply if they do not have valid warrants. Prosecutors have the burden of proof to produce a valid warrant or show that an exception applied.
Substantive defenses often involve a lack of evidence concerning possession. In New York, possession means more than proximity. The state must also establish knowledge and control. And, prosecutors must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
Drug laws and drug law enforcement have moderated, but these things are still quite harsh. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester defense lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.