In 2013, there were 135,738 texting while driving tickets issued by New York State police officers. Of these tickets, 63% resulted in convictions or pleas of guilty. 26% of texting tickets ended up in a conviction for a violation other than for texting. 10% of texting tickets were dismissed for various reasons, including failure to prosecute, meaning that the officer was not available to testify or did not witness the violation.
At present, a texting while driving ticket or for using a hand held cell phone results in five points on the operator’s license. This is a substantial increase from three years ago, when a conviction of texting while driving or hand held cell phone use would result in 2 points in the operator’s license. 11 points in an 18 month period will lead to the suspension of the driver’s license, and 6 points in 18 months will result in a $300.00 Driver’s Responsibility Assessment (Thank you Governor Pataki), which must be paid in 3 annual installments or all at once. If not paid, this will also cause a suspended license.
Due to the increase in penalties for texting and cell phone infractions, drivers are hiring attorneys more frequently to fight these tickets. The conviction rate for these tickets was 72% in 2012 and 63% in 2013. As a result, more texting tickets are being reduced to a lower charge, which is the reverse of what the New York State Legislature intended when it increased the penalties for the infractions. However, in the New York City Parking Violation Bureau Courts (Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island), there are no negotiations on moving violations, and the only possibilities are either fight the ticket and win, or plead guilty/lose at trial and have five points assessed. The only way to win these tickets is to have proof that at the time of the infraction, you were not on the phone (through cell phone records), or a witness who can establish that the phone was not being used at the time of the ticket. This is quite different than in the local Courts in Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess counties, in which these tickets will often be reduced in plea bargaining, although not always. Continue reading