Long Island has found a money-maker in traffic courts. Court fines and fees are helping to pay for all kinds of infrastructure work as well as salaries. Long Island is home almost 100 villages and towns, and some top the list as the highest generators. The towns and villages of Long Island, along with Nassau and Suffolk counties, brought in a combined $146 million last year. Among the top-generators, East Hampton was #4 on the list in the state with $3.3 million earned from traffic courts, according to the NY State Comptroller’s Office.
Long Island Traffic Ticket Enforcement Verses Extortion
Although local police and municipal officials are sticking to the story that better enforcement of local traffic laws is what is driving the money to the coffers, locals and out-of-state drivers who get tickets are outraged at ever-increasing cost of fines and fees.
A woman from Mineola paid out $660 for 2 lane change tickets. A City-Data forum shows multiple accounts from locals, including a gentleman from Suffolk who received a cellphone violation that cost him $450. Local lawmakers are starting to take notice. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), who is also fought against red-light cameras, said, “People are fed up. It’s nothing more than raising taxes under the guise of fees.”
Local police retain that an increase in tickets and enforcement of local traffic laws directly correlates to a decrease in accidents and fatalities. Patrick Ryder, Nassau’s police commissioner said, “Traffic summons are issued to drivers that violate the vehicle and traffic law to act as a deterrent and to educate drivers. Although revenue is generated by summonses as part of the deterrent, in no way do officers write summonses just to generate revenue.”
Raking It In
In 2017, Long Island brought in $40 million, Nassau $73 million, and Suffolk $33 million, mostly from traffic ticket fees and fines. For example a 1st time speeding ticket for up to 10 MPH over the posted limit will cost you $90-$150, it will add 3 points to your license (causing a possible raise in your insurance premium), as well as a state-issued surcharge of $93. Depending on your speeding offense(s) and/or how many tickets you incur in an 18-month period and/or points accrued, you may also face the Driver Responsibility Assessment Program, 6 points accrued will cost you $100/year for 3 years. Fines can also be added for the points themselves, and in Suffolk County you’ll receive an additional $55 Driver Responsibility fee.
Suffolk County proposed to double the Driver Responsibility fee, but pulled the proposal after opposing lawmakers stressed the fees were already too high. In Nassau, a hike in fees for red-light cameras was proposed. These proposals are lawmaker’s ways of closing budget gaps and deficits, making local drivers pay to balance their budgets.
Traffic Ticket Plea Bargains
To keep things moving in courts, plea bargains are common. Long Island judges couldn’t hear every case even if they wanted to with that amount of cases they see each day, and plea bargains are a way to expedite the process. “I don’t believe the purpose is revenue generation,” said acting State Supreme Court Judge Robert G. Bogle, who supervises Nassau’s 64 village courts. “It’s a fairness and speedy trial issue.”
Drivers tend to strike plea bargains for 3 reasons; reduction of points, reduction of fines, and keeping their insurance premiums down. A speeding ticket could be reduced for the MPH over the limit, failure to signal could be reduced to a parking ticket…all allowing a penalty to be ordered but keeping the severity and costs of the offense down.
A dismissal may not get you off free and clear either. Suffolk county has an additional Administrative Fee that is imposed on the driver, regardless if the ticket has been dismissed or not. Suffolk adds a fee of $30 or $50 on almost all of its tickets, regardless of outcome.
If you have received traffic ticket in NY state, Michael Block can help. Contact our offices for a free consultation.