Three Strategies for Fighting Traffic Tickets

Three Strategies for Fighting Traffic Tickets

The time for fighting traffic tickets has never been more pertinent. During coronavirus lockdowns, traffic enforcement plummeted by over 80 percent.[1] Since motorists could almost literally get away with anything unless they caused a fatal accident, they speed excessively, drove recklessly, and otherwise ignored traffic laws. Now, police officers in Monroe County are determined to end these bad driver habits. So, in many places, traffic enforcement is now more aggressive than ever.

The sudden, drastic uptick in traffic enforcement caught many drivers off guard. Almost overnight, officers began writing citations for offenses they’d let slide for about a year. Municipal prosecutors are aggressive as well. They vigorously prosecute cases they largely ignored during the pandemic. The direct costs are just the beginning. A single speeding ticket in New York causes insurance rates to increase by 15 percent.[2] These citations have other indirect costs as well.

Once upon a time, paying for the ticket and forgetting about it was a wise strategy in this area. Today, the costs are simply too high. Additionally, New York now has a driver’s license points system. Even a minor violation could mean license suspension. Only a Rochester traffic violation lawyer can reduce or eliminate these high costs. Fighting traffic tickets is as important as ever.

Fighting Traffic Tickets: Procrastination

Normally, it’s a terrible idea to put something off. Typically, if you attack a problem head-on, the negative consequences are nonexistent or at least not as bad. However, in some situations, procrastination could be a good traffic violation defense strategy.

If a driver fails to appear in court, the judge generally issues an arrest warrant. But officers generally make no attempt to serve these warrants. Instead, they enter them into the computer. Then, when the defendant commits another traffic violation or otherwise runs afoul of a law enforcement officer, the warrant pops up.

Arrest warrants don’t have statutes of limitations. They’re valid until they’re served. Additionally, most Monroe County law enforcement agencies have mandatory arrest policies in this area. If a warrant pops up, they must serve it.

So, the procrastination strategy is risky. However, these risks are lower if the defendant moves to another county. Most counties don’t extradite prisoners to other counties for traffic violations, generally for liability reasons.

Here’s the payoff. The police officer turnover rate has increased by 40 percent since 2022.[3] An eight or nine-month delay almost guarantees that the arresting officer won’t be available to testify. No witnesses means no case.

Fighting Traffic Tickets: Traffic School

Procrastination is risky. Traffic school, on the other hand, is a sure thing. Or at least it seems to be a sure thing.

Commercial drivers, especially truck drivers, should be wary of traffic school. This option erases the judicial record. But it doesn’t erase the ticket. So, the infraction might still show up on a Safety Maintenance System report. SMS reports use point systems, much like the aforementioned driver’s license suspension points system. Too many SMS points could mean commercial license suspension or, more likely, higher commercial insurance rates. Increased overhead makes it much harder to make money as an owner-operator.

For non-commercial drivers, traffic school is usually a good alternative, assuming the judge allows the driver to take this class. These strict qualifications include:

  • Non-serious charges (no DUIs or reckless driving),
  • Valid auto insurance and driver’s license at the time of the offense, not at the court date,
  • Maximum four points drivers’ license points,
  • No traffic diversion program in any jurisdiction within the past 12 months,
  • No DUI conviction within the past 18 months in any jurisdiction,
  • Non-accident traffic offense, and
  • Not speeding 30mph or more over the limit.

These are the minimum qualifications. The judge may still deny a traffic diversion program request and usually does deny it if the applicant had any prior traffic tickets in the last ten years.

These denials are especially common if the driver doesn’t have a Rochester traffic violation lawyer. A lawyer advocates for drivers. This advocacy increases the chances of approval, especially in borderline cases.

Fighting Traffic Tickets: Legal Defense

If traffic school is unavailable or inappropriate, delay and appeal might work. A legal defense may be available as well.

We mentioned the delay strategy above. Long delays are very common in higher criminal courts. Additionally, many judges hand out continuances like candy on Halloween. Delays are shorter in traffic courts. Furthermore, these judges only grant continuances in limited cases.

An appeal is an effective strategy if the motorist got a ticket in a small town, like Churchville, Hamlin, or Scottsville. These towns often cannot afford officer overtime. So, they at least subtly discourage officers from traveling to Rochester for appeal hearings. Once again, no witness means no case.

Several taking-the-bull-by-the-horns legal defenses may be available as well. A Rochester traffic violation lawyer looks for these defenses during initial case evaluations.

Typos on the Ticket

Some people believe that any typographical error invalidates a traffic ticket. That would be nice, but it’s not true because of a legal doctrine called idem sonans. This phrase is Latin for “sounds alike” and Legalese for “close enough.”

Smith/Smythe and Thomas/Thompson are good examples. If two words sound alike, the judge basically overlooks the error.

Some errors cannot be overlooked if they create a variance between the pleadings and the proof. If a traffic ticket states Michelle was driving a Nissan and she was driving a Honda, the proof and pleadings don’t match.

Enforcement Issues

Speeding tickets are the most common traffic tickets in Monroe County. These citations have enforcement issues, as follows:

  • Pacing: Many officers use their own speed to estimate another vehicle’s speed. Some cars, mostly muscle cars, sound fast even if they aren’t moving fast. Furthermore, it’s almost impossible to pace another vehicle if the officer is standing still.
  • RADAR: This device projects a cone of light at moving vehicles. So, RADAR guns are very accurate at close range. At medium range, and especially long range, the cone of light widens. Therefore, the RADAR gun proves a vehicle was speeding, but it doesn’t prove which one was speeding.
  • LIDAR: Laser enforcement is very precise. But laser guns also require lots of maintenance and calibration. So, a Rochester traffic violation lawyer can often successfully challenge LIDAR results.

The enforcement issue doesn’t have to be strong enough to “beat” the charge. It only must be strong enough to create reasonable doubt.

Mistake of Fact

Most of us know that ignorance of the law is no excuse. People must abide by speeding laws even if they don’t know speeding is illegal. A mistake of fact, however, could be a defense. A motorist cannot stop at a stop sign if a tree branch obscures it.

There’s a big difference between a criminal arrest and a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester traffic violation attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Virtual, home, and jail visits are available.






Parents’ Responsibility for Underage Drinking

Parents’ Responsibility for Underage Drinking

Underage drinking has leveled off recently. But it still directly or indirectly contributes to about 4,300 deaths annually in the United States.[1] Children’s still-developing bodies and low weight make it hard to process alcohol. One or two drinks to a 16-year-old is like four or five drinks to a 36-year-old. Additionally, underage drinking often causes early-onset alcohol use disorder (AUD). To put it bluntly, high alcohol consumption ravages the brain and body, causing many emotional and physical problems.

New York law targets caregivers, and not children, in this area. Minor in Possession (MIP) is a traffic ticket in New York. Providing alcohol to a minor, except in some situations, is usually a misdemeanor or felony. In many cases, these laws apply even if the parent didn’t give the child a drop of alcohol. A Rochester underage drinking lawyer attacks the state’s evidence and reduces or eliminates the direct and collateral consequences of an underage drinking-related offense.

Social Host Liability

Like MIP, “knowingly allowing a party, gathering, or event where minors are present and alcoholic beverages are consumed by one or more minors” is a violation. Since the offense is not severe, many people don’t need a Rochester underage drinking lawyer to represent them, especially if it’s a first offense. But, as outlined below, the collateral consequences could be severe. So, a lawyer must act quickly to get the charge thrown out of court.

The ”knowingly” element is usually the most challenging part to prove in court. Frequently, Mom and Dad leave for the weekend, so Jack and Jill throw a party. A ne’er-do-well kid brings booze, the party gets rowdy, a neighbor calls the police, the cops show up, and the parents get in trouble.

Before we get to “knowingly,” there’s a preliminary matter. Frequently, the neighbor is a tattletale, and the tip is unreliable. That’s especially true if the neighbor has a history of swatting (falsely summoning police officers). Prosecutors cannot work backward. They cannot argue that the tip was accurate and, therefore, reliable. Accuracy and reliability are two different things.

As for “knowingly,” Jack and Jill’s prior conduct is relevant. Occasionally, Mom and Dad are babes in the woods who had no idea their darling children would throw a wild party. Mom and Dad say a few times, “Don’t throw a party, and don’t open the liquor cabinet.” Generally, the facts are somewhere in between. The facts must gravitate towards that second example because prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

These convictions often prompt child services investigations. Because social host liability isn’t too severe, most investigators let parents off with a warning, especially if no one got hurt and the parents have a clean record. Nevertheless, an investigator will show up, poke around, and ask uncomfortable questions.

Unlawfully Dealing with a Child

Selling or giving alcohol to someone over 17 but under 21 is a Class A misdemeanor in New York (maximum one year in jail and $1,000 fine). There’s a big difference between knowingly allowing consumption and giving or selling alcohol directly to a minor, which is what Section 260.20 requires.

The burden of proof in these cases is relevant as well. Usually, a competent witness must see the defendant give booze to the underage person. These witnesses don’t grow on trees.

Most red states allow supervised or in-home minor consumption of alcohol. Most blue states, including New York, don’t have this exception.

An exception might apply in the Empire State if the minor consumed alcohol as part of a religious service or if the defendant is a teacher and “the tasting or imbibing of alcoholic beverages is required in courses that are given only for instructional purpose during classes conducted according to such curriculum.” We didn’t know that wine tasting was a high school or college elective, but there are many things we don’t know.

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

Section 260.10 is a combination of unlawfully dealing with a child and social host liability. If the child is under 17, it’s a misdemeanor to act “in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child.” This broad wording could include directly or indirectly providing alcohol to a minor.

The exact proof problems and collateral consequences discussed above apply in these cases. The collateral consequences are usually worse. Even if the parent has a clean record, child welfare almost always takes adverse action in these cases because of the child’s age. That adverse action is rarely removed but usually involves parenting classes and other measures.

There’s a big difference between a criminal arrest and a criminal conviction. Contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi for a free consultation with an experienced Rochester underage drinking attorney. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.