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Plea Bargaining for Traffic Tickets

Author: Robert Creenan

The New York State Senate recently passed legislation that would allow plea-bargaining for traffic violations. The bill was sponsored by local state senator Mark Grisanti (R-I, Buffalo). Buffalo had long been the only municipality in the Western New York area that doesn’t allow plea-bargaining for traffic tickets.

“The lack of plea bargaining in Buffalo raises insurance rates and is a detriment to city residents and anyone who works or visits the city,” said Senator Grisanti. “I am glad to have the support of our City officials and remain hopeful that the members of the Assembly will support this measure and help to introduce it into law.”

Under the new system, a driver would be allowed to contest a violation to possibly get a fine reduced. Drivers that commit serious violations could go to driving school to prevent some points from being added to their driving record. The system would also help drivers to avoid hikes in insurance rates. Often times accident claims are not even submitted to insurance companies for fear of rates being hiked up – even when the accident was not the fault of a driver.

While the bill applies to traffic infractions, I am told that theoretically, “If you had say a bunch of infractions, both moving and non moving, you could plea it [all] down.” As for traffic violations in the past, often times if a driver had a good lawyer then he or she had the ability to work magic in the system, which I suppose is a form of plea bargaining. If/when the bill is passed, this form of plea bargaining will be made available to everyone (lawyer or not). It will be interesting to see how this goes over with the Buffalo police force that is accustomed to issuing tickets knowing that drivers have had no recourse until now.

Mayor Byron Brown and the Buffalo Common Council support the bill. The bill is now awaiting approval in the State Assembly before it becomes law.

Lead image: 49 brand new Chevrolet Tahoe police vehicles hit the streets of Buffalo in 2014


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