How can one appeal multiple traffic tickets?
April 21, 2014 11:28 AM   Subscribe

My friend was riding his bike through Brooklyn early Sat morning. Streets were quiet and he was not stopping at all the red lights, just slowing & crossing the (mostly) vacant intersections. Unbeknownst to him there was a cop in a patrol car following him about 1/2 a block back. After multiple blocks the cop finally pulled him over and issued separate tickets for every red light, totally about $800 worth. Although there is no dispute that he went through the lights, this was a very dick-ish move. How to protest in court?

My question- Is there an angle that he can use to protest the multiple tickets? Could the officer's passivity to his repeated infractions be used as an argument to reduce the fines? Again , my friend does not dispute the activity and is perfectly willing to pay the fine for ONE violation. But I feel that if the officer knows the situation and in effect condones / ignores it for an extended period, is this some thing that can be leveraged when appearing in court in order to reduce the violations?
I'm thinking along the lines that
- running a red light is an infraction b/c it is a threat to public safety.
- the officer knows from observed behavior that such an infraction has occurred and is likely to occur again.
- yet he allows these to continue, putting both the offender and bystanders at risk.
- etc.

comments and advice please!
posted by TDIpod to Law & Government (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Given the amount of the fines, it might well be worth consulting with a lawyer who specializes in bicycle law, of which there are several in NYC.
posted by zachlipton at 11:38 AM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

There's a Critical Mass meeting this Friday, chances are there will be people there who have fought bicycle related things in court.
posted by Sophont at 11:39 AM on April 21, 2014

Your friend isn't the first person this has happened to in Brooklyn. Sounds like it'd be worth looking into legal advice.
The red-light tickets worked out to cost between $190 and $940 because he was considered a repeat offender after running the first one.


Police said Greer earned the multiple tickets he received.

“The individual committed several violations and was cited accordingly,” an NYPD spokeswoman said.

But cycling advocate and attorney Steve Vaccaro said he disagrees with the practice of doling out multiple tickets unless the rider is doing “a lot of very different and distinct things wrong.”

While issuing multiple tickets is allowed, it can be frowned upon by traffic court judges, he said.

Judges sometimes “contest traffic tickets or throw out summonses they consider to be for a single course of action,” Vaccaro said. “They call it double-dipping.”
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:46 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree this is an absurd thing for the cop to do, but he did it. "But the cop was a jerk" is a notoriously ineffective argument, especially in traffic court where the standard of proof is not as high as criminal court.

I think the options are:
1) Lawyer who specializes in bike law
2) Go to court, say "I'm sorry, it won't happen again" throw himself on the mercy of the court and hope for a reduced fine, which all but the meanest traffic court judges tend to give if you seem contrite.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Your honor, if the aim of these laws is to provide for public safety, is it not incumbent on the police to stop me at the time rather than follow me just to rack up higher and higher fines?"

(which I suspect the lawyer would say, even better, so yeah, find a lawyer)
posted by Etrigan at 11:49 AM on April 21, 2014 [10 favorites]

Does this ever happen to car drivers? Maybe the fact that this is a kind of inconsistent enforcement would be a way to argue. Note that I am not a lawyer or even a NY resident, but this is one way I'd start to research.
posted by amtho at 11:50 AM on April 21, 2014

Also, the potential harm that you, as a cycler, could do as opposed to that which a car could do would to me suggest a smaller penalty.
posted by amtho at 11:52 AM on April 21, 2014

Let me rephrase my original comment. Your friend committed multiple violations, not one. I suspect that any attempt make this about the cop being "dickish", as you put it, will be met with a bit of disdain by the court and will not aid his case.

I agree with those above that feel his best course is to admit responsibility to all of the infractions (because he is, of course, responsible for multiple instances of breaking the same law) and hope that the Judge has a bit of compassion.
posted by HuronBob at 12:32 PM on April 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

I had this happen to me during a critical mass event. My lawyer argued that the police targeted me in this way because I was riding a bike, not driving a car. This, plus the fact that it happened at a political event (critical mass), led to all the tickets being thrown out as politically motivated selective enforcement.

I had a good lawyer that specialized in civil rights and political speech. We did a lot of preparation for this case, including preparation before the event. I do not believe a run-of-the-mill traffic lawyer would have been successful.

On preview: all the people saying to just roll with this and pay the tickets or beg the court for mercy are unaware of the larger context of why the cop acted this way. Ignore their bad legal advice if you actually want to fight this. It will be a fight though, and a good defense will likely cost more than the fines.
posted by ryanrs at 12:39 PM on April 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

I don't personally know any attorneys in New York, but the Steve Vaccaro mentioned in Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug's link looks like a very good place to start. Call him and have a chat.
posted by ryanrs at 12:47 PM on April 21, 2014

Given the number of people that my friend the traffic attorney gets off here in VA, I think you should stop wasting time here on the Green and get thee to a traffic attorney pronto. One that has experience in bike related stuff would be ideal.
posted by COD at 1:17 PM on April 21, 2014

To clarify:

I absolutely think he should fight it if he is so inclined. Whether he is (allegedly) a bad person who should feel bad or not does not invalidate his right to a defense before the law. I just think he should fight **with an attorney** or else not at all. I could be wrong, but I just don't think the kind of complex, politically-charged defense ryanrs's lawyer mounted would go well if delivered by someone defending himself.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:35 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does this ever happen to car drivers?

Oh yeah. A friend of mine got like 7 tickets at once in LA. She drives like a goddammed lunatic and I'm sure she deserved them but I don't think the "bad cop, no donut" sticker helped either
posted by fshgrl at 2:29 PM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Lawyer. You'd be paying not just for the lawyer's legal knowledge, but also their personal connections and knowledge of how to do things the "right" way without ruffling anyone's feathers. Trying to finesse this yourself is highly unlikely to work.
posted by the big lizard at 7:38 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is this a rogue cop who hates bicyclists? Do you think this is a story The New York Times might be interested in? This does not smell like regular law enforcement.
posted by musofire at 8:29 PM on April 21, 2014

Just to make my previous answer completely clear: I believe you need a lawyer in New York city, familiar with the local courts, who specializes in bicycle activism stuff. Steve Vaccaro might be one such lawyer, or maybe could at least point you in the right direction. Local bicycle organizations (specifically critical mass or bike rights type groups, not race organizers or other "sports" type groups) might also know good lawyers for this kind of thing.

Talking with a lawyer about this should be free. They will be able to explain your options and chances of winning much better than anyone here on metafilter.
posted by ryanrs at 9:07 PM on April 21, 2014

Steve Vaccaro (see above) is MY lawyer. It won't hurt to give him a call.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:48 AM on April 22, 2014

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