There has essentially been a 3-tiered approach to minimizing the burden of fines on drivers convicted of in the NYS Traffic Violations Bureau. The impetus for this harkens back to a statement by Governor Andrews C. Cuomo drawing attention to “a cruel and counterproductive collection practice that creates a cycle of poverty”. A study by a Justice Coalition backs this up by revealing the severe detrimental effects of having to pay high fines for traffic violations. Often, a motorist has to choose between paying a fine or paying rent. To make the consequences of a conviction more equitable, the following changes have been made:
- Traffic Court Administrative Law Judges Can Now Reduce Or Waive Fines, Surcharges And Fees
One part of the Hunter-Kennedy Law / Driver's License Suspension Reform Act allows for judges to reduce or waive any money which will be due as a result of a conviction for a traffic violation. This can include: fines, surcharges and fees.
It will be entirely in the discretion of the ALJ that you appear before. A big factor can be your prior driving record and/or your ability to pay. Be prepared to argue your case in this regard including supporting documentation as to your financial status.
- Payment Plans Can Now Be Arranged
The New York State Legislature amended the VTL in Chapter 382 of the Laws of 2020 and Chapter 76 of the Laws of 2021 to eliminate certain driver license suspensions and to allow motorists to apply for a payment plan for certain traffic fines, surcharges and fees.
If a driver is unable to pay traffic fines, fees and mandatory surcharges, they will be allowed to enter a payment plan. The payment plan will be $25 a month, or 2% of a person's net monthly income, whichever is higher.
After June 29, 2021, the DMV must send written notices to all those with driver's license suspensions for unpaid traffic fines to inform them of their right to enter into payment plans.
- No Suspensions Of A License For Non-Payment Of A Fine
The Driver's License Suspension Reform Act which took effect at the end of June 2021, ends the practice of suspending a person's license for unpaid traffic tickets and fines.
Katie Adamides, the NYS Director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, explained that “under the way it was before, if they couldn't afford to pay in full, upfront, their license would be suspended”. “And then if they continued to drive, that could be considered a crime.” This directly relates to Cuomo's concept of reducing the criminalization of poverty.
In addition, starting on June 29, 2021, the Department of Motor Vehicles will automatically be lifting all suspensions of driver's licenses, privileges to operate and registrations that relate to unpaid traffic fines and fees.
What does this mean for me? Does this mean I don't need an attorney?
In my opinion, as an attorney with nearly three decades experience fighting traffic violations, the judges may actually convict more. They can find you guilty, waive the fine and make themselves feel like they did you a favor.
An attorney will ensure your rights are not violated.
If you need personalized assistance contact us today.