Traffic Ticket Trial – Plea Bargaining
Our NY Speeding Ticket Lawyers at Palumbo & Associates, PC, have been representing defendants before courts of law in New York charged with traffic crimes, misdemeanors, and speeding infractions and tickets since 2006. Many motorists plead guilty “as charged” believing that they cannot win no matter what the circumstance. This is a mistake, because between pleading guilty to the top charge or having the case totally dismissed, there is an opportunity for a middle ground which is executed through what is referred to as a “Plea Bargain.”What is a Plea Bargain
Before you can understand what a plea bargain is you have to understand the basic court procedure. A speeding or traffic ticket case has little to do with the “cop’s word.” Nor does a case get settled by “talking to the judge.” In the penal system everyone has a role. It is not the police officer’s case against you, but the People of the State of New York’s case against you. The People of the State of New York are represented by a lawyer, called a “Prosecutor.” You are the defendant and represented by us, called “Defense Counsel.”
The People of the State of New York and you as the defendant are the “Parties” to the case. The court is not a party or on anyone’s side but a neutral arbiter, similar to an umpire at a baseball game. The police officer is not a party to the case either, but a witness, often called the “State’s Witness,” as without the police officer the state cannot make their case and the case must be dismissed.
At a trial there are rules and burdens. The basic rule is that it is the state that has the burden of proof which they must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In baseball there is a rule that on a play “tie goes to the runner.” This is a simple way of explaining what the burden of proof means. In laymen’s terms, the benefit of the doubt goes to the defendant.
Because of this, it is not that easy to win a conviction from a traffic ticket trial despite what may have really transpired in the street. That said, many cases are won by the state and when this happens then the motorist / defendant suffers a total defeat just the same as if they had plead guilty “as charged.” Consequently, often times a speeding ticket case is settled on what is called a “Plea Bargain.”
A Plea Bargain is exactly what it sounds like. Our office as your attorney will bargain with the state’s prosecuting attorney on what you are going to plead guilty to. In other words, rather than plead guilty to what you are charged with, also known as the “Top Charge,” we will offer to plead you guilty to a lesser charge, also known as a “Reduced Charge.”
For example , suppose you are charged with traveling 86 MPH on a 65 MPH zone. Such a charge carries with it a 6 points, a total fine and surcharge of close to $700.00, and depending on your insurance company and driving history insurance surcharges upwards of a few thousand dollars over a 3 year period. Further, in certain situations speeding convictions often trigger license revocations as well. However, if the motorist is found guilty of a non-moving violation, the only penalty will be a much smaller fine, no points, and no insurance increase. Consequently, we would offer the prosecuting attorney to plead you guilty to the lesser charge in lieu of taking your case to trial and attempting to get your case totally dismissed.
Most courts allow plea bargaining and most prosecutors will agree to a reduced plea offer. However, not every case ends up with 0 points and also not every case makes sense for our clients to accept a reduced offer. For example, we would reject a reduced plea if it would nonetheless cause a license suspension or revocation or still result in an insurance increase.
What kind of deal our office can obtain for you in a plea bargain turns on several factors. For example, there are well over 1,000 traffic courts in New York State, and most have more than 1 judge and more than 1 prosecutor. While the plea bargain is between the prosecutor and defendant, the judge must approve. Because of uncertainty of the judicial and prosecuting personnel that can be assigned to a case at any time, in the same court on the same set of facts there can be two completely disparate results. Other factors that turn on the reduction our office can get for you turns on the following:
- What the motorist is charged with
- Whether there were one or more tickets written
- Whether there was an accident
- The driving history of the motorist
The advantage to resolution of a case by plea bargain is simple – certitude of outcome. A plea to a non-moving violation or lesser moving violation is the administrative and insurance protecting functional equivalent of a total dismissal. Also, an outcome on a Plea Bargain is also a “ Final Adjudication on the Merits.” In other words, there are times when a case is dismissed, but that case is only dismissed procedurally. When that happens the case is not finally adjudicated on the merits but dismissed without prejudice with leave for the prosecutor to renew within 2 years. A plea agreement is a Final Adjudication on the Merits, which means that the case cannot rear its ugly head again and is over for good.