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
- Provide a fair hearing for each side of the case to present their
- Weigh the evidence, and render a verdict accordingly.
- Assess appropriate fines and fees and collect the money from the
- 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
- 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
- Revoke or suspend driver's licenses when required by law.
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
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