You Get Your First Speeding Ticket Ever
You are late for an important meeting and decide that getting there faster is worth the risk of getting your first ticket. You hit the gas and the speedometer soon reads "78 mph." You are driving in a 55 mph zone, and flashing lights have just appeared behind you.
The officer writes you a speeding ticket for 78 mph in a 55 mph zone. At this point, you can plead guilty by mail, try to represent yourself, or hire a lawyer to represent you. The process of representing yourself seems confusing and complicated and you think hiring a lawyer would be too expensive. Because it is your first ticket ever, you decide to just plead guilty and send in the ticket. After all, you figure that it's just a speeding ticket.
The Immediate Consequences
A few weeks later, the court sends you a letter stating that it has accepted your guilty plea and includes instructions for paying the fine and surcharge. The speeding ticket you were just convicted of - pleading guilty is the same as a conviction after a trial - was a 6 point infraction with a court fine between $90-$300 and state surcharge of $55.
You pay the fine to the court and think you're done but then you get a letter from the DMV. This letter states that that you owe $100, that it is due in 30 days, and failure to pay will result in suspension of your driving privilege. You also discover that you have to pay that $100 fine for two more years. With that letter, you have just been introduced to the New York Driver Responsibility Program that became effective in 2004.
What is a driver responsibility assessment?
In addition to any fines, fees, penalties, or surcharges that you pay for a traffic conviction, you must pay the driver responsibility assessment. The assessment is an amount that you must pay each year for three years. You pay the assessment to the DMV. (As posted March 14, 2010 on NYS DMV site)
After this notice, the consequences of that one speeding ticket seem to be getting rather severe. You begin to wonder if your insurance company will raise your premiums.
A Year Passes and Consequences Increase Dramatically
You have another important meeting and again you reach 78 mph in a 55 mph zone, and again the sirens come. But this time is different, this time you get two tickets, one for speeding and one for Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO). Speeding is an infraction and not criminal. An AUO on the other hand, is a misdemeanor and therefore a crime. A misdemeanor is far more serious than a traffic infraction and requires an appearance in court for an arraignment. A conviction for AUO in the Third Degree carries a fine of $200-$500, imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both.
How did this happen?
When you moved into your new house, you forget to tell the post office to forward your mail. You missed the fine notice from the DMV for year 2 of your Driver Responsibility Assessment. You also missed the letter informing you that your license had been suspended.
Now you have to think carefully about your next move. A conviction for speeding 23 mph over the speed limit will be another 6 points on your license for a total of 12 points in 18 months. And more than 11 points in 18 months means that the DMV will suspend your driving license. With these new points, you will also incur additional fines from the DMV under the Driver Responsibility Program. Each point over the original 6 points cost $75 over the three year period. So your DMV bill will go up by $450 for a total of $750. Then there is the AUO and your appearance at an arraignment.
What started as mailing in your first ticket now has you facing a criminal charge and the loss of your driving privilege which would jeopardize your career.
This post is based on a true story and we see variations of it happen all the time. But, like most everything, handling things properly and promptly prevents the snowball effect.
Take Control of Your License and Defend Yourself
The best way to defend yourself from traffic tickets is to hire a professional to represent you. Depending on when you decided to hire an attorney, this story would have proceeded very differently.