So I had a pretty craptastic morning...
April 21, 2010 7:02 AM   Subscribe

License suspensions, driver responsibility and address changes. Any chance?

While driving to work this morning, I was pulled over by a police officer, much to my surprise. I hadn't been driving recklessly or broken any laws that I was aware of, so being pulled over at 7 AM was certainly a shock.

The officer notified me that my license was suspended, apparently because of a few tickets I had received about three years ago. The tickets had added points onto my license and although I had promptly paid the tickets themselves in full, New York has an additional fee referred to as the "Driver Responsibility Fee" -- an amount spread out over a couple of years.

It turns out that the state had been mailing me a bill for this, but in lieu of my payment, suspended my license. The officer then told me to head to the DMV to remove the suspension and handed me three tickets:

Suspended License, Fail to Surrender (In violation of 340A)
ACG Unlicensed Operator 3 (In violation of 5111A)
Unlicensed Operator

He warned me that if I was pulled over again, especially on the highway, I would be arrested. I proceeded to drive over to the closest DMV and spent far too much to update the addresses on my drivers license (previously my parents), my registration (previously my prior address) and to pay the Driver Responsibility Fee ($375!).

All in all, an unhappy morning. Now my attention has turned to the three tickets I was issued. First of all, I have a necessary in-court appearance and I'm wondering:

(1) Does anyone in New York know how much these tickets are and whether they will add additional points onto my license?

(2) Is it worth arguing with the court? I fully recognize that I'm at fault for not having all of my addresses updated, but the frustrating part is that if the system had used either the address on my drivers license or my vehicle registration then this would have never happened. Instead there was a third address (my residence right after I graduated, an address that hasn't been in use since 2004). I only became aware of the third address when talking to the DMV representative... using the only information at hand (my license and registration), I assumed it was one of the other two addresses. Is that a valid point or am I better off just paying whatever sum they lob at me?
posted by Raze2k to Work & Money (6 answers total)
Best answer: If you can bring all your new documentation to court and show that you've rectified the situation, they will most likely drop some or all of the charges and penalties. There's no need to throw this in their face and try to argue that it's their fault, that will just make them angry and unwilling to compromise.
posted by joshrholloway at 7:20 AM on April 21, 2010

Best answer: Having a similar experience but while driving through Texas with an expired California license (how and why did it expire 60 days before my birthday I will never know), I was able to bring proof of license to the hearing as well as having a healthy dose of humility and the judge dropped the unlicensed operator ticket as well as my similar suspended license ticket - AND ended up waiving all the fees AND points.

Biggest word of advice, go to the court date and be polite, professional, and apologetic.
posted by banannafish at 7:25 AM on April 21, 2010

Best answer: Agreeing with above, I moved to California, but my registration was from Maryland and so was my driver's license and I got a ticket for both. I registered my car and got a new license and when I went to court and they saw it was resolved they let me go without charging me anything including court fees.
posted by Kimberly at 7:36 AM on April 21, 2010

Best answer: I can't agree strongly enough with the advice to show up at your court date calm, well-groomed and -dressed, and to be polite and professional.

While there's no guarantee traffic court will dismiss the current citations (alternatively, they might boil it all down to one non-moving offense for which you will still have to pay the fine/fees), it is a possibility - and the likelihood of such dismissal or reduction happening is increased by you having taken prompt care of the problem, which you did, and showing humility and respect for the DA and/or judge when you go to court.

I am a little surprised that you could have been racking up big points against your NYS license without noticing your car insurance premiums going sharply up, or even being canceled by your insurance. If you're having troubles because of important documents were going to an invalid address, you might want to make absolutely sure your insurance is still in good standing before driving again, or at least make sure your insurance carrier has the current address.

Also, and apologies if you already know about this, but you can bring down the points on your license by taking a defensive driving class, such this one sponsored by AAA (there are other non-AAA versions out there as well).
posted by aught at 8:20 AM on April 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you for the advice!

I actually just went back to the DMV to see if I could get any documentation about the address issues and now I finally understand what happened.

Here's an approximate list of events:

(2003) - Issued new drivers license that expires in 2011 with parent's address.
(2004) - Updated address with DMV to personal address. Since drivers license is still current, a new physical card is not issued with the new address.

So basically I forgot that the address had been updated in their system and had since assumed that the mailing address was the one on my drivers license card. They kept sending mail to the old address and I never realized it because I assumed all of the mail would be going to my parents.

That said, I definitely plan on showing up to the court wearing a nice suit and with documentation to show that within an hour and a half of finding out of the suspension, I paid the outstanding debt and updated the offending address.

The question is whether or not I should even bother bringing up the address confusion? If the court doesn't seem moved by me taking prompt care of the problem, think I should address this?

@aught: I haven't seen any substantial insurance hike (around $10 a month over the last three years, when around I got my last ticket) and Geico is still happily taking my money each month. Thanks for pointing this out though!
posted by Raze2k at 8:32 AM on April 21, 2010

Response by poster: FYI, this was resolved with a court visit. I sat in court for a bit over an hour waiting my turn, during which I learned that two of the three tickets I had received were actually misdemeanors. I provided proof that I had actually paid the fee and updated the address on my license within an hour of getting the tickets and the DA reduced the three tickets to a single fine of $75 (with an $80 surcharge). No criminal charge, no points on my license (the court operates outside the jurisdiction of the DMV).

$155 and a waste of my time wasn't that bad. The silly part of all this is that just recently I learned that my license had been suspended for over a year. It would have been nice if my insurance company had notified me :)
posted by Raze2k at 5:47 AM on November 19, 2010

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