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New York Traffic court

If you get a traffic ticket in New York, you will have to deal with one of New York's traffic courts. Going to court is nobody's idea of a good time. It's time-consuming, confusing, and a little scary. Rest assured, however, that with just a little bit of knowledge about how the system works, you can navigate New York traffic court with ease. The first step in dealing with your traffic ticket is to find out what court is handling the ticket. How do you know which court to contact?  If you kept your traffic ticket, good for you! The name and contact information for the court should be written on the back. What if you lose your ticket? Don't worry; you can still get the information you need.


Depending on where you were when you got your traffic ticket, one of two types of New York traffic court will handle your traffic ticket. If you received your ticket in New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, or parts of Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip and Smithtown, your case will be handled by the New York DMV's Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB). The other type of New York traffic court is the Justice Court. Justice Courts are local courts designed to hear cases at the town, village, or city level.  If you receive a traffic ticket anywhere else in the state, it will be handled by the local Justice Court for the municipality you were stopped in. 

Duties of the court

Town and village courts, also known as justice courts, are the lowest-level branch of the New York judicial system. Justice courts handle traffic violations, small claims cases, and misdemeanor criminal charges. There are a total of 1,300 Justice Courts in the state of New York, with approximately 2,200 judges. Aside from New York City itself, there is a justice court in every town, village or city in the state of New York. However, whether the justice court represents a small village or a city, they all have the same duties:

  • Accept pleas from people charged with traffic offenses.
  • Process requests by defendants for "supporting depositions." These are documents that give more information about the incident that prompted the ticket, such as the date and time and why the stop was made.
  • Provide a fair hearing for each side of the case to present their evidence.
  • Weigh the evidence, and render a verdict accordingly.
  • Assess appropriate fines and fees and collect the money from the defendants.
  • Report all traffic convictions to the DMV.
  • The DMV's traffic violations bureau acts much like a justice court; however, the TVB only handles traffic cases. This enables justice courts in the jurisdictions where the TVB operates to focus on criminal cases instead of traffic infractions. TVB's responsibilities are as follows: 
  • Adjudicate traffic cases in a timely and fair manner. If your case is handled by TVB, the judge responsible for adjudicating your case will be a DMV administrative law judge or ALJ.
  • Listen to witnesses and evidence for both sides before rendering a verdict.
  • Revoke or suspend driver's licenses when required by law.


Services Provided

 In a justice court, there will be a court clerk available to assist you with some of your questions. For example, they can give you information about court procedures, tell you what your options are for dealing with your ticket, give you a copy of the applicable laws, tell you how judges have ruled in the past on similar cases, and provide you with any information the court has that is publicly available. Court clerks are a great resource; however, they are not lawyers. They can give you legal information but no legal advice, and they can't tell you which path to take or how to plead. They also can't try to predict how the judge will rule on your case, and they can't provide personal or confidential information to you.

In both types of New York traffic courts, you may get your court appearance postponed if you won't be able to make it. In a justice court, you can request a change in your court date by contacting the court clerk. In a TVB court, you can request a different court date by mail, as long as the request is received 10 days before you are supposed to be in court. Also, you can request a date change over the phone or in person at least 1 day beforehand. However, if you have to postpone it a second time, you'll need to make that request in person in a TVB office. Also, you'll have to provide the court with the reason that you need your court date rescheduled a second time, and you'll have to get a judge's approval.

Depending on how you decide to deal with your ticket, you may not have to set foot in a courtroom at all. Many of the services provided by New York traffic courts are also available online or through the mail. For example, TVB courts offer you the option of answering a ticket by mail. They also offer you the option of making your plea through their online system, available here. Online, you can plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty you can then schedule a hearing so that an ALJ can hear your case and make a decision. To make an initial plea for a ticket online, you'll need your ticket number, your client ID number from your driver's license, an email address and a credit or debit card of you are going to plead guilty and pay the fine. The DMV accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover credit cards for payment. They cannot accept electronic checks or PayPal.

Also, many justice courts offer the option of paying your traffic ticket online using a credit card. To see the website for a local justice court so that you can see if it's possible to pay online, click here.

Now that you know what to expect in a New York traffic court, hopefully the process will seem a little bit easier and less intimidating. Good luck!


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