On November 1, 2014, New York State increased the penalties and fines for drivers who stubbornly continue to drive while texting. Prior to 2011, texting and driving was a secondary violation in New York, meaning that a motorist who was caught driving and texting could not be issued a traffic infraction for this conduct unless he or she was also committing another traffic violation, such as speeding, following too closely or disregarding a traffic control device. Recognizing the dangerousness of texting while driving, the New York State legislature strengthened the law three years ago, making texting and driving a primary infraction with no requirement for another moving violation to be found guilty of the infraction.
Continuing in this vein, the points that are assessed on the drivers’ license for a texting and driving infraction have increased since 2011 from 2, to 3, and now the violation results in a five point assessment due to a strengthening of the law in 2013. The five points is also imposed if the motorist is using a hand held device to make a call, check or send emails, or use the device in any other way. Eleven points within an 18 month period leads to a suspended license, and 6 points in that period will result in a “Driver’s Responsibility Assessment” of $300.00, which must be paid in three annual installments or all at once to avoid a suspension.
Under the new texting law, a first time conviction or plea of guilty to a texting while driving offense for a driver under the age of 21 results in a 120 day suspension of their junior license. If the youthful driver commits a second violation within 6 months of being reinstated, he or she will be looking at a one year license or permit revocation. Fines have also been increased under the tougher new regulation. The maximum fine for a first time offense is now $200.00, increased from $150.00. A second offense committed within 18 months of the first will now carry a maximum fine of $250.00, up from $200.00. A third offense will lead to a maximum fine of $450.00, an increase of $50.00.
Texting while driving tickets have increased 83% from 2012 to 2013, and this year, 19,291 tickets were handed out to New York drivers outside of New York City. Last year, there were a total of 23,808 such tickets in rural and suburban New York counties. In Putnam County, texting tickets have increased from 229 all of last year to 241 so far in 2014. In Rockland County, drivers were given 460 texting tickets just since July this year, compared with 497 total in 2013. In Westchester, last year drivers were issued 2,102 texting tickets. This far this year the total is 2,085.
The DWI laws under New York’s Vehicle & Traffic Law have also been strengthened. A driver who is convicted or pleads guilty to three DWI charges within 15 years will now face a class D felony, with potential jail time of between 1 and 7 years, and could be fined from $2,000.00 to $10,000.00.
If you or a family member are charged with a crime or traffic infraction, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options. We can be reached online or toll free at 914-224-3086.