Does it Make Sense to Fight a Traffic Ticket in Orange County, NY?
Less than 5% of the population of any New York county fights traffic tickets.
There’s some psychology behind that. Many people assume it’s not worth it. That they were speeding (or violating some other traffic law) and the case is open-and-shut. That it’s easier to pay the ticket because they’re going to be found guilty anyway.
But as it turns out, there are quite a few great reasons to resist this impulse.
Paying the ticket is the same thing as entering a “guilty” plea.
This may be okay if you’re being charged with an “infraction” or a “violation.” But in New York you can end up with a criminal record for some traffic violations.
Some traffic violations are misdemeanors. Driving with a suspended license is a misdemeanor. So is driving with expired registration. But you’re not in the clear if your paperwork is up to date.
“Reckless driving” has a pretty vague definition in New York State, and it’s a misdemeanor as well. It covers any incident where you are in a motor vehicle or on a motorcycle and are deemed to be “interfering with the free and proper use of the public highway,” or “endangering users of the public highway.”
Not exactly cut-and-dried, and not something you want to automatically plead guilty to.
And, of course, if you’re being charged with a DWI or vehicular homicide you’re now being charged with a felony and should take the matter seriously.
See also: What is Reckless Driving in New York?
Fighting the ticket helps you avoid points on your driver’s license.
You don’t want points on your driver’s license. The more you get, the more problems you’ll have.
Points can keep you from taking any job where driving is one of your major job duties. And if you get 11 of them in an 18-month period, your license will be suspended. Then you’ll have to figure out how to get to work, school, and the grocery store without a car.
If you decide to risk driving while your license is suspended, you’ll be dealing with real criminal charges the next time you’re stopped. And those fees and fines can really build up. It’s not unheard of for people to end up $10,000 in debt once this cycle begins.
But let’s say things aren’t that dire. Let’s say you get just six points on your license. Not hard to do, as there’s really no such thing as a 1-point violation. They all go from 3 to 11 points.
Once this happens, the DMV will start making you pay a “Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee.” That’s more money out of your pocket, in addition to the money you already paid by pleading guilty to your ticket.
You can take a PIRP course (a Points and Insurance Reduction Program Course). But that will cost more money, and more time than the single court appearance it will usually take you to fight your ticket.
If you’re from out of state, see: Will an Orange, NY Traffic Ticket Impact My Driving Record in Another State?
Fighting the ticket keeps insurance rates down.
In New York, a single speeding ticket can increase your insurance rates by about 12%. And we’re one of the lucky states! There are places where the average increase is something like 34%.
Your insurance company will be all too happy to raise your premiums. Once they go up it’s very hard to get them down again. The amount you pay over one year will outstrip the costs of fighting the ticket by leaps and bounds in one year or even less.
This of course puts even more financial strain on your family. And if you let your insurance lapse because you can’t pay the bill, you’re at risk of getting another ticket the next time a police officer stops you.
Getting help saves money.
Some traffic tickets only cost $90. The maximum is $600. And if that’s the only cost you look at, it would be reasonable to ask yourself why you’d want to pay $300 to hire a traffic lawyer.
But once you factor in points, insurance increases, and the specter of a suspended driver’s license, it’s easy to see why fighting the ticket makes good financial sense.
So if you’ve got a ticket, resist the urge to write a check to the court. Get help from a qualified Orange County traffic lawyer so you can avoid all the negative, long-term consequences of taking your ticket at face value.