Why did the ticketing police officer recommend I plead not guilty to a moving violation?
February 6, 2011 8:26 AM   Subscribe

I just ran a red light in Brooklyn and was pulled over by police. I was given a ticket and the officer urged me to plead not guilty and to attend the scheduled court date and pay the citation otherwise I'd be hit with 6 points to my license. Why did the officer recommend pleading not guilty? And what should I expect in a Brookly TVB court?

I've read responses on here ranging from the officer no-show is an urban legend to make sure to get an attorney to pleading not guilty could lead to increased fines. I'm feeling anxious about this and could use some advice. I have a clean driving record, fwiw.
posted by ranunculus to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is all hearsay, and based on my recollection of what a friend told me years ago, so all standard disclaimers apply.

In Buffalo, this friend of mine got a $200 speeding ticket from the NYS Highway Patrol. He went to court for it, and without even pleading his case, the prosecutor asked him if he would plead guilty to a $200 parking infraction. Fine was the same, but no points, and apparently the local gov't gets to keep all $200, where if it was a speeding ticket, the state would get most of the money.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 8:39 AM on February 6, 2011

This happened to me in Connecticut. When you file the plea, they sit you down with an attorney who gives you some statistics about how astronomically unlikely it is to win a challenge against a police officer's citation for traffic violation, and then offer you a plea deal - a reduced fee. This system is designed to keep more cases out of court and save the judges and officers' time, avoiding an even worse court backlog than already exists.
posted by Miko at 8:49 AM on February 6, 2011

Maxwell's friend's experience was similar to mine. I got pulled over for running a red light in a small town in New York, went to court, was offered and pled guilty to driving with an obstruction, got no points on my license and paid a reduced fine.
posted by santaslittlehelper at 8:50 AM on February 6, 2011

My SO's Charlotte, NC experience is similar to santaslittlehelper's except I hired an attorney because it was so close to (or on) his birthday, and who wants to show up to court then? The ticket for running a red light was reduced to a $15 parking infraction, no points were taken, and our insurance company didn't care.
posted by plaintiff6r at 9:01 AM on February 6, 2011

Not Brooklyn but I've had a similar experience with a plea deal in Minnesota. In my case, a condition of the plea deal was that I not get another ticket within a year. If I did, then it would be entered as a violation and I would get stuck with the points. I paid essentially the same amount for the fine, if I recall.
posted by cabingirl at 10:58 AM on February 6, 2011

Similar deals further out on Long Island are standard, too. Just for appearing, you get cut a break.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:09 AM on February 6, 2011

I had the same experience for my one and only speeding ticket (also a NY state ticket). The officer told me to show up in court and, when I did, my speeding ticket was magically transformed into a non-moving violation. I paid a small fine and had no points added to my license.

I think that the police sometimes want to help people who have clean records keep those records clean (with a little effort). I would go to that court date if I were you.
posted by eisenkr at 11:18 AM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Miko: "This system is designed to keep more cases out of court and save the judges and officers' time, avoiding an even worse court backlog than already exists."

How would pleading not guilty and brokering a plea be more efficient than a guilty plea in the first place, though?

The only thing I can figure from this is that the cop wanted to keep his quota up, while remaining a decent guy.
posted by astrochimp at 4:52 PM on February 6, 2011

How would pleading not guilty and brokering a plea be more efficient than a guilty plea in the first place, though?

Because you never appear in court. This process takes place before you ever enter a courtroom. You arrive, tell the clerk your case number, they ask how you're pleading, you say "not guilty," and they sit you down and offer you the plea. You get off the docket. In my case they handled this in batches. It's far more efficient.

You could, of course, plead guilty, which is also efficient, but you're not going to get cut the break if you do. Pleading not guilty means they offer you the break, so you don't take up the court's time explaining why you think you shouldn't have been ticketed. It's to your advantage to take the break, even if you think you were guilty.
posted by Miko at 5:08 PM on February 6, 2011

Same thing happened to me. Except it was a headlight out. There were all sorts of errors (I looked up the citation and it was for something totally unrelated) on the ticket, but it didn't end up mattering. I went to court, entered a not guilty plea, and the officer came in late and without any paperwork. The magistrate threw it right out. No trouble at all. Also, it was worth it to hear some of the cases being tried. It was traffic court, so some of the excuses being offered were hilarious. The magistrates, unless they felt they were being slighted, tended to reduce the fines/points.

I don't live in NYC, so it was a little bit of a pain to get out to Coney Island, but that's all there was to it.
posted by Arquimedez Pozo at 8:44 AM on February 7, 2011

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