How Many Freaking Trips to Ulster County I Gotta Make???
April 3, 2012 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Can (NY state) traffic court simply reschedule your trial if a cop fails to show at the hearing?

Drove all the way to Ulster County to protest a speeding ticket. We waited 40 mins for the cop, who never showed. The judge finally said "adjourned", and told us we'd be notified of a rescheduled date.

Huh? I thought if the cop doesn't show up, the case is closed!?!
posted by Quisp Lover to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Hire a lawyer if you go back. Maybe he can argue that the case should be dropped (might even be possible to do by sending a letter)
posted by delmoi at 8:35 PM on April 3, 2012


Yes, courts adjourn things all the time because people don't show up.

You'll see them again in a few weeks.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:45 PM on April 3, 2012

IAAL. Yes.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:00 PM on April 3, 2012

The only time I've ever heard of this is if the Officer calls\writes ahead of time with a valid excuse and there wasn't enough time to notify you.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:43 PM on April 3, 2012

IIAL, but not a New York lawyer. Yes, the court can (and often does) do this.
posted by ewiar at 10:22 PM on April 3, 2012

Best answer: Read this to understand what you may have been dealing with at the Justice Court in Ulster County.

To answer your question, if you have a lawyer representing you and the police officer is a no-show, the lawyer will tell the judge he wants an application for a dismissal and the judge almost always grants it.

Sometimes it is granted if you are representing yourself, but you have to ask. Note: This is in Rockland and Westchester. When you are talking about upstate counties like Ulster and Sullivan, well, good luck (read that article).
posted by mlis at 11:53 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

IAmNotANewYorkerButAVirginian (IANANYBAV), and (one of) my experiences with traffic court was a no-show cop on three occasions. The judge continued the first two instances, but was pretty pissed off the third time. Luckily, I did not have to mention that this was the third time I had to show up, although I was planning to do so.

If he/she does not show on the second court date, I would mention this to the judge.
posted by kuanes at 4:20 AM on April 4, 2012

I had always heard you can walk if a) the cop's not there AND b) you got the huevos for a bluff. So I tried. Here's what happened.

1. When I arrived I scouted the joint. Hallway, canteen, courtroom -- didn't see the cop who had written my ticket.

2. The court took pleas. I pleaded not guilty. (The danger with that, I believe, is that courts generally go harder on you if you're convicted after a NG plea. So it was a risk.)

3. The judge spent 1/2 hour on cases involving other cops.

4. Then the judge called out a few names of people who had pleaded not guilty, including mine. "You're free to go," he said. Charges dismissed.

5. On the way out I asked a couple of them who "their" cop was. Same as mine.

No official explanation, so I can't be certain. But it looked to me like the judge waited a while for the cop to show, and when he didn't, he dismissed that cop's cases.

By chance, that judge married me and Ms Lonnie a year or so later. "Haven't I seen you before?" he asked. Good laughs all around. But I chose not to ask him about his protocols in traffic court on that particular day.
posted by LonnieK at 4:58 AM on April 4, 2012

** he dismissed that cop's cases in which the defendants had pleaded not guilty
posted by LonnieK at 5:00 AM on April 4, 2012

It depends on how the jurisdiction works. They way it has worked in the past for me is that the initial cattle call is technically the arraignment, and once you plead not guilty, a trial is arranged. It can either be the same day after all the other stuff already scheduled, or some other day.
posted by gjc at 6:35 AM on April 4, 2012

Response by poster: Great stuff, all, thanks. I was not asked at any point about my plea. In Ulster, they have you go huddle with the cop to "try to work something out", and only proceed to hearing "if you can't work something out". Sounded a little archipelago to me, but what do I know.....
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:54 AM on April 4, 2012

Best answer: Maybe some retired lawyer who used to practice in Ulster County and who happens to be browsing AskMe today will respond to your question. Why yes, maybe I will.

Everyone loves to hate on lawyers, but if you had had one representing you at that court appearance, you'd be a happier camper right now, because the lawyer would have known the proper legal incantation to say to likely get your case dismissed on the spot. Something like:

"I move to dismiss based on the officer's failure to prosecute." -OR-
"I move to dismiss based on denial of the defendant's right to a speedy trial."

NY law (Section 30.30 of the NYS Criminal Procedure Law) requires that a defendant be given the right to a trial within a particular time from the date of the charges. The length of time varies from 30 days for a low-level violation to 6 months for a felony. The level of your offense depends on how speedily you were (alleged to have been) speeding, and should be specified on the ticket.

Don't be too freaked out by the horror stories in the NYT story cited by mlis above. Unfortunately, those things happen, but they are rare. By far, most Justices in this area are well trained, fair-minded professionals who do their best to follow the law. Most of them get pretty pissed off when the cop disrespects the court by failing to show up, and they often feel some sympathy and appreciation for a defendant who went to enough trouble to show up.

Ulster County is rather lovely in the spring, no?
posted by Corvid at 3:32 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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