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Criminal biker
July 11, 2011 12:21 PM   Subscribe

I got a ticket for biking on the sidewalk in NYC. What do I do next?

This is my first ticket of this nature. Pretty much there are two options as I see it:

1) Pay the $25 ticket (thereby pleading guilty)

Pros: Convenience. I don't have to go all the to the court house from Brooklyn to deal with the hassle. Cons: Pleading guilty, having a blemish on my 'record'.

2) Go to the assigned court date, fight the ticket, pleading not guilty.
Pros: Possibility of getting ticket dropped. Cons: The hassle of going, with the possibility of it not getting dropped.

What should I do here? I'm not sure of the real, if any, consequences of paying/pleading guilty. Also, if MeFi deems it worthy to go to court to fight it, what are best practices to help get it dropped? Thanks for the help!
posted by greta simone to Law & Government (48 answers total)
 
Pay the ticket. As a pedestrian, it's REALLY uncool (and illegal) to ride your bike on the sidewalk. Own up to it and move on.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:22 PM on July 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


Were you in fact biking illegally on the sidewalk?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:22 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, were you riding your bike on the sidewalk? What were the circumstances of that?

From what I understand, riding a bike on the sidewalk is only legal if you are under the age of 12. If there were extenuating circumstances (i.e., a parade was passing down the block so you rode up on the curb for a few seconds and a cop nabbed you), then maybe there's something to gain from fighting it, but if it was just a matter of you riding on the sidewalk, then...I'd just pay it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on July 11, 2011


Yes I was technically riding on the sidewalk. A friend met me at the place where I had biked to and, since he didn't have his bike, we had to walk to the next location. I was literally biking beside him at his walking pace. I was in no danger of harming anyone.
posted by greta simone at 12:24 PM on July 11, 2011


Oh, and further to having "a blemish on your record" -- the ticket I got a couple years ago from New Jersey Transit seems to have had absolutely no impact on my life since.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:24 PM on July 11, 2011


Were you biking on the sidewalk? If so, what are you going to fight, exactly?

Unless you were unfairly ticketed, fighting this would be pretty dumb as it would almost certainly cost you more money at the very least unless you had some sort of proof you weren't guilty.

Either way (and this will not exist as a blemish or criminal record in any sense that will matter to you) it's $25. It's the price of a cheap night out. You've probably wasted more than that amount of money's worth of your time in writing this question and reading the replies.
posted by Brockles at 12:25 PM on July 11, 2011


I was more pushing myself along with my feet rather than pedaling. But I was sitting on my bike.
posted by greta simone at 12:25 PM on July 11, 2011


A friend met me at the place where I had biked to and, since he didn't have his bike, we had to walk to the next location. I was literally biking beside him at his walking pace. I was in no danger of harming anyone.

You could have walked your bike beside him.

It's only $25. Pay it and be done with it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes I was technically riding on the sidewalk.

So.. you're guilty. Whether or not you feel you did any harm or not in your actions doesn't change that at all, unfortunately.

I was in no danger of harming anyone.

I could drive at 100mph on a deserted highway and claim I'd be in no danger of harming anyone (and be right). But it's just as invalid an excuse in your case. You broke the law, so pay up. Maybe next time you'll just walk with your friend and push your bike.
posted by Brockles at 12:27 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let me clarify: I'm not considering going to court guns-a-blazing, it's just that some people who have been similarly ticketed have said that sometimes if you go to court, the cop won't show up and tickets will get dropped. I'm not necessarily expecting that to happen, but if someone with experience in these issues says it's likely, I might try it. If it isn't likely, and the 'blemish' won't really effect me in any way, then I won't go. I'm not trying to pretend like I didn't do what I did. So no wrist-slapping needed, thanks. Just advice.
posted by greta simone at 12:28 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unless you have way too much free time, I wouldn't even bother fighting it even if you were in the right (which it doesn't seem that you were.)

Experience: $50 for having my feet up on an subway station bench. The station was practically empty. Didn't matter and I wasted a good few hours of my young life at the courthouse.
posted by griphus at 12:28 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd pay up. $25 isn't worth half a day to contest it, and I doubt this will have any effect on your life more significant than having a parking ticket.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:29 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm not considering going to court guns-a-blazing, it's just that some people who have been similarly ticketed have said that sometimes if you go to court, the cop won't show up and tickets will get dropped.

Try looking at it this way, then -- How many hours at work would you have to take off in order to contest this, and how much pay would you lose by doing so?

I have a hunch that if you took an afternoon off work to contest this, you'd end up LOSING more than $25 in pay. Losing out on a couple hundred just to save $25 just doesn't seem economical.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on July 11, 2011


Pay unless you have a lot of time on your hands and will feel vindicated somehow if you try and fight it. Economically, fighting it doesn't make sense.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:33 PM on July 11, 2011


...sometimes if you go to court, the cop won't show up and tickets will get dropped.

Or you could get hammered for court costs for wasting everyone's time. Your call.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:34 PM on July 11, 2011


If you were actually biking on the sidewalk (which you were, even if you "weren't really going that fast" or whatever), pay it. This is how the rule of law works.

It's basically the same as a traffic or parking ticket - you won't have a "blemish" on your "record" any more than you would if you'd parked too close to a hydrant.
posted by Sara C. at 12:34 PM on July 11, 2011


The court date is scheduled on a day I have off. So that's not an issue. And I'm not worried about the $25 dollars. I'm worried about a blemish that I could maybe avoid. More along the lines of if an employer asks if I've ever been convicted of a crime, would I have to say yes if I plead guilty? I'm not looking for vindication.
posted by greta simone at 12:35 PM on July 11, 2011


Also, if it isn't obvious, I've never really been ticketed for anything before, so I don't know what the usual course of action is in these situations, but it looks like paying it and moving on is the recommended plan. And I won't bike on the sidewalk ever again. It was the first time I had ever done anything of the sort anyway. I'm still a Brooklyn biking newbie--but I'm learning.
posted by greta simone at 12:36 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm worried about a blemish that I could maybe avoid. More along the lines of if an employer asks if I've ever been convicted of a crime, would I have to say yes if I plead guilty?

I'll let wiser heads than me confirm this, but I think that when an employer asks if you've ever been convicted of a crime they're talking about felonies like murder or theft. You've gotten the equivalent of a parking ticket, and that's small potatoes that I don't think you'll have to declare.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:37 PM on July 11, 2011


I've gone to court to fight a $25 parking ticket. I was, indeed, guilty of illegally parking, but the ticket had enough flaws that I figured it'd be dismissed, and I had spare time--no time off work or anything. It took a half day or so, and I did walk out with the ticket dismissed. There were lots of other people there who had actual legitimate complaints about their tickets, and I felt kind of lame for fighting mine on a technicality (and by that I mean I realized it was kind of lame). And the judge wasn't very nice about it.

Another time, I contested a $250 ticket for an expired registration. Guilty there, too, but I got registered before I went to court and proved that to the judge (in fact, he more-or-less assumed I had done so). Ticket was dismissed, but I had to pay a $70 court fee. In that case, the ticketing officer pretty much told me that he was giving me a big penalty so that I'd have to go to court and fight it--he didn't expect me to have to pay the ticket, but wanted to be sure I was punished.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:42 PM on July 11, 2011


More along the lines of if an employer asks if I've ever been convicted of a crime, would I have to say yes if I plead guilty?

I worked in an employment agency and we had a big ole meeting about stuff like this. Misdemeanors and felonies -- the stuff for which you get a record -- are the ones you're asked about, not civil citations.
posted by griphus at 12:45 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's $25. $25. Pay the ticket.
posted by Justinian at 12:45 PM on July 11, 2011


No employer would ever care about this. Pay the $25 and move on - surely you have better things to do on your day off than hang around the courthouse.
posted by desjardins at 12:45 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll let wiser heads than me confirm this, but I think that when an employer asks if you've ever been convicted of a crime they're talking about felonies like murder or theft.

Yes, and usually the wording on applications indicates this - I've never seen one that didn't ask specifically, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" I've seen it on both rental and employment applications, and it's always specifically felony.
posted by clerestory at 12:46 PM on July 11, 2011


There's no blemish for the ticket. Its a violation, and it isn't going to put points on your license. Its functionally the same thing as a parking ticket.
posted by JPD at 12:47 PM on July 11, 2011


It's a civic ticket, not a misdemenor nor a felony. You were not arrested. There is no blemish on your permanent record to try to expunge.

The only real question is: Is $25 worth the half-day of time and the hassle of having to explain being only technically guilty to a potentially grumpy judge who thinks you should just pay the damn fine?
posted by bonehead at 12:58 PM on July 11, 2011


You could have walked your bike beside him.

Then you're taking up THREE people's worth of space on the sidewalk and there'll be handlebars and pedals sticking out in people's way, too- way more annoying.

I'd pay because it's worth $25 to me to avoid the hassle. I'm still not sure why the cop ticketed you- maybe he'd just had a fight with his mom or something. I'm also not sure why people on metafilter are so quick to defend the letter of the law and not the spirit on something like this but that's the way it is here.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:05 PM on July 11, 2011


Are you guilty? If so, then pay up. You are not allowed to cycle on the sidewalk. Yes? So if you did that, you're guilty. Pay the fine. Cycling on the sidewalk is really antisocial, and you've been very lucky to get away with such a low fine.
posted by Decani at 1:07 PM on July 11, 2011


Did you read the description? He was sitting on his bike scooting along with his feet while talking to his WALKING friend. He wasn't bombing along through kids and driveways.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:09 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm still not sure why the cop ticketed you...

The same reason they give you one for sitting on a milkcrate or why they pull you out of an empty train car at 3 AM: quotas. The situation above where I mentioned my ticket? The cop straight-up apologized to me for writing it.
posted by griphus at 1:23 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Greta,

A better place to look for the and post would be nycc.org, although there will also be a lot of people who will also respond in the same manner as you are seeing here.

However, read this previous discussion in one of the NYCC.com threads because one of the people provides very useful/helpful suggestions and recommendations. Also, it looks like the cost of court fees exceeds the cost of the ticket FYI.

Also, seriously, there is a big different between riding 15 mph on the sidewalk and rolling a bike along the sidewalk as this poster suggests.
posted by Wolfster at 1:30 PM on July 11, 2011


Pay it, because its simple easier AND the right thing to do since you're actually guilty - bikes don't belong on NYC sidewalks, period.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:48 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just out of curiosity, whereabouts did this occur? Was it a busy street filled with tourists, or a quiet neighborhood? I think there's a difference there.
posted by polymodus at 1:55 PM on July 11, 2011


This was on a quiet neighborhood side street in Williamsburg Southside on a Friday afternoon. I was not taking up space amidst of crowd of Manhattanites.
posted by greta simone at 2:03 PM on July 11, 2011


I got one of these and tried to fight it. (I was riding on the sidewalk in a location without a bike lane, lots of trucks on the road, and nobody on the sidewalk They put in a bike lane a month later.) Just be glad you have the option of paying it without going to court--I didn't get the option.

It was a major hassle. I had to go to court twice. Once to plead, once to have a hearing. The first time took two hours. The second time, I sat in court all morning, said "not guilty" twice. The second time, about 11:30 am, they told me that they would have to locate the police officer who wrote the ticket; they had until 3pm to do so. If they couldn't locate her, I would have to come back another day. They followed this by telling me I could change my plea to guilty. I did, and paid $50.

Also, if it's the same as mine, this isn't even a misdemeanor. I don't think it will be on any kind of record. I had received conflicting info about that before I went in; I probably would've just paid it otherwise.
posted by pollex at 2:06 PM on July 11, 2011


Ok, so you know you're guilty, even if it's just technically. I'd pay the ticket for three reasons: 1) you're guilty 2) half a day in court isn't worth $25 3) half a day in court means a beat cop not out on patrol because he has to be in court.

#3 is why it is the civic thing to do - you pay the ticket rather than dicking around for $25 on the off chance while the cop is on the tax payers' dime.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:12 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you show up in person, they may dismiss it before you even have a chance to contest it. That happens often, as many officers are writing tickets just to fill an unofficial quota.
posted by hermitosis at 2:18 PM on July 11, 2011


Hermitosis: So you think I should go then?
posted by greta simone at 2:40 PM on July 11, 2011


I'd just pay it and never think about it again, but it sounds like you *really* want to go. If so, then go.
posted by functionequalsform at 3:55 PM on July 11, 2011


Were you biking on the sidewalk? If so, what are you going to fight, exactly?

We have an adversarial legal system and someone accused of a white collar crime, violent felony or even riding a bicycle on the sidewalk can contest the charge and present their side of what happened. As hermitosis pointed out, sometimes summonses are dismissed. $25 is not a lot of money and we do not know what type of summons was issued, but if you contest it you might get it dismissed.
posted by mlis at 4:11 PM on July 11, 2011


Your time for the 4 or five hours it would take to consent the ticket is worth more than $25.

Plus, you are guilty. It's a stupid law, and you were only breaking it in the technical sense, but you are guilty of it nevertheless. There's nothing to contest.

It will have no more effect on your 'record' than a parking ticket.

Pay the ticket and move on with your life.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:34 PM on July 11, 2011


If it was any more than $25, I'd say fight it and make the system work. But for $25 and obviously guilty, just pay it and move on.

However, write your alderman/congressman/ambassador or whoever and tell them how much their law suck ass. In your opinion.
posted by gjc at 4:51 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd consider going just for the entertainment of it all, if I were bored on my day off. If I were likely to be busy I would not go. I would bring a book or a sketchpad.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:45 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


In a private message this was sent to me, and it seems relevant:

AC 19-176 - Riding bicycles on sidewalks is prohibited. Bicycles may be confiscated.
NOTE: Tickets for riding on the sidewalk fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Control Board (ECB). If you are given a ticket or summons that requires you to appear in criminal court instead, you should be able to get the ticket thrown out for lack of jurisdiction.

From: http://www.bicycledefensefund.org/bikelaw.html
posted by greta simone at 6:22 AM on July 12, 2011


Greta, it sounds like you really, really want to contest this.

So if that's the case, just go ahead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:11 AM on July 12, 2011


If you go to court, you have good odds of getting it dismissed.

Step 1 - Get a copy of the full, filled-out back of the summons from the clerk when you arrive in court, and look it over carefully.

Step 2 - When you get before the judge, ask for it to be dismissed for facial insufficiency, citing if possible any technical flaws you found during step 1.

Step 3 - Ask the judge for an ACD (an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal - basically the case is adjourned for 6 months, and if you're not re-arrested in that time, it's automatically dismissed and the record is sealed. (Cite your lack of prior record etc. if possible.)

Step 4: With any luck, there is no step 4! But if the above all fail, it's basically just suck it up or ask for a trial.

Disclaimer: IANYL, and this is not really legal advice.
posted by Eshkol at 8:28 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Greta,

You'll want the entire text of that code provision if you do contest it. Note that, if the other side really wanted to go to the mat on this, they could amend the summons while you're in court and re-serve you with it, costing you either $25 or an additional day.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:17 AM on July 12, 2011


Not that it really matters, but I've never had a ticket of any kind in my 28 years. I'm not particularly invested in either paying the ticket or contesting the ticket in court. I came here to ask my question so that I can make an informed decision. I'm leaning towards paying it, but I also wanted the information that I have found to be available for other mefites who might have a similar decision to make in the future. Thank you to those who answered my question with relevant information rather than opinion. That is all.
posted by greta simone at 11:21 AM on July 12, 2011


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