CDL Offenses

For most drivers getting a traffic ticket isn’t a big deal.  They sign the back, pay a fine and it’s over with.  But, if you have a CDL and drive for a living, particularly if you drive for a trucking company, the consequences of a simple speeding ticket can be dramatic.  A single speeding ticket can take a driver off the road!  In addition, commercial drivers don’t just face the usual traffic violations that most drivers do.  They also face a whole multitude of violations contained in New York State’s Transportation Law (TL).  These vary from different overweight violations (depending upon the road you’re on the limits are different), to having the right permits for the cab or trailer.  The scariest part of this is that most TL violations are the responsibility of the vehicle owner…BUT, the tickets are written to the driver!  Some violations of TL are actually crimes.  For example, a log book violation is a misdemeanor offense in NYS.  Even something as arcane as the Environment Conservation Law can bite a CDL holder.  A fuel tank leak can lead to a driver being charged with a misdemeanor for depositing a “noisesome substance” on a public highway. For CDL holders a traffic violation conviction, even when driving their private car can have the same effect on employment as a conviction while driving for work.  If a driver wanted to just plead guilty, all too often the fine is only the beginning of a costly experience.  If the ticket was for a “moving violation” such as speeding, failure to obey a traffic signal or sign, failing to maintain lane, etc., the guilty plea is reported to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles where it becomes part of a driver’s record.  Each violation has a statutorily prescribed “point” value that stays on a driver’s record for 18 months.  Speeding tickets have a minimum “point” value of 3 and a potential maximum of 11.  If a driver’s point total reaches 11 or more points a mandatory mandatory 31 days suspension (for first time suspensions) will be imposed unless the driver asks for a “license suspension hearing”. At such a hearing a driver can dispute the accuracy of the DMV’s recordsbut, unless some problem in record keeping has occurred the typical result is that driving privileges will be suspended for anywhere from 31 days to one year.  If  a driver accumulates more than 6 points in any 18 month period a special surcharge of $150/year can be imposed by the DMV.  Also, if you are convicted of 3 separate speeding violations that occurred within 18 months your license must be suspended for 6 months.  To see a complete chart of how many points each type of violation incurs, click here.  For a sample chart of fines and fees imposed for violations of NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, click here. For CDL holders with an out-of-state license, a traffic violation conviction in NYS can have an even more devastating impact than if they held a NY license.  A traffic violation conviction in NYS will be reported to a driver’s home state Motor Vehicle Department.  In some states offenses that involved speeding at over 20 mph above the limit can even result in a suspension or probation period on the drivers license.  It will not matter that the violation occurred in NYS, it simply matters how fast driver was accused of going and what the speed limit was. The DMV record is also checked by automobile insurance companies every time auto insurance comes up for renewal or a new application for insurance is made.  A moving violation on a driver’s record virtually guarantees an increase in insurance rates.  Depending upon how many points have accumulated the increase in rates can be dramatic, sometimes as much as twice the previous rate.  Moreover, if enough points have accumulated an insurance company may refuse to renew or decline to provide a new policy.  In those cases a driver will be forced to obtain insurance through the NYS “assigned risk” pool.  Insurance rates in the assigned risk pool are very, very high.  

When Should I Hire An Attorney?

Many drivers facing serious moving violations find that obtaining legal representation is essential to protecting their rights and obtaining the most favorable result from court proceedings.  Often an attorney will be able to negotiate a reduced charge, sometimes eliminating the charges that have “points” associated with them.  Sometimes the ticket itself may be flawed and an attorney can get the charges dismissed based up a flawed complaint by the officer that issued the ticket. Also, if you don’t live near the court that the ticket the ticket specifies you can have an attorney make an appearance for you, so that you don’t have to attend the court proceedings at all.  For a free, no obligation case review and fee quotation click here.  

How Easy Is It to “Beat” a Ticket?

Any attorney that tells you or advertises that they can “beat” any ticket is misleading you and should make you wonder about the honesty of a person who wants to be your legal counsel.  It’s true that there are technical flaws that can cause a ticket to be dismissed.  For example, the officer may not show up on your trial date or you can be found “not guilty” after a trial in front of a judge.  However, if you have received a moving violation that is properly written (most of them are) and the police officer performs their duties  in accordance with the law (most of them do), a trial will almost always result in a conviction.  As a result, by far the most common outcome is a “plea bargain” that is struck between you (or your attorney) and the officer.  An attorney will work to obtain the best offer possible and one that will result in no or few points on your license.  Note: plea bargaining on moving violations is largely an ‘upstate’ phenomena.  It does not occur in NYC or on most of LI. Frequently Asked Questions (Click Here)  

Misc. Motor Vehicle Misdemeanors and Felonies

Moving violations are not the only vehicle related charges that a driver can face.  There are also a variety of different offenses that are classified as either “misdemeanors” or “felonies” and can cost you both a great deal of money and potentially result in your being sentenced to jail or prison, if you are found guilty.  Vehicular Manslaughter, Criminally Negligent Homicide, Reckless Endangerment and  Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a motor vehicle are all examples of vehicle related crimes.  If you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony it usually means that you will be arrested, fingerprinted, booked and may be required to post bail.  If you are charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony you should always retain an attorney to protect your rights and defend you against prosecution. The most common, vehicle related, criminal charges (misdemeanor or felony) are Driving While Intoxicated and Aggravated Unlicensed Operation.  A DWI conviction can result in the restriction, suspension or revocation of your license, and the imposition of heavy fines and/or jail time.  It can also result in your insurance company dropping your auto insurance (which will force you into the ‘assigned risk’ pool and easily double your insurance costs).  DWI and DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) are specialized areas of law and require representation by an attorney that understands all the potential technical and legal defenses. To learn more about DWI/DUI/DWAI, click here. Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle (known as “AUO”) is also a very commonly charged offense.  AUO is almost always charged if a driver with a suspended or revoked license is stopped by the police.  As a result, even a minor traffic infraction can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge if your driving privileges have been suspended or revoked.  AUO can be charged as a ‘Class A or B’ misdemeanor or, in unusual cases it can be charged as a Felony offense.  There are very solid defenses available when “AUO” is charged.  An attorney with experience and a good knowledge of recent appellate decisions can often get the charges reduced to a simple violation or even get the charges dismissed.