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A DEFENDANT NEED NOT WAIT TO BE ARRAIGNED ON A TRAFFIC TICKET BEFORE HE CAN RIGHTFULLY REQUEST A SUPPORTING DEPOSITION. HE MAY REQUEST A SUPPORTING DEPOSITION WHEN “CHARGED.” [People v. Tyler, 1 NY3d 493]

At Tilem & Campbell we handle traffic tickets throughout New York State. Knowing the rules helps us obtain the best results for our clients. In New York, when a defendant is charged in a criminal court with a traffic infraction such as speeding, he is entitled to a supporting deposition upon a timely demand. CPL 100.25(2). (Of course these rules do not apply to New York City Traffic Tickets which are not handled in a “criminal court”.) However, when can a defendant request a supporting deposition? Can the defendant request the supporting deposition prior to the return date on the ticket? Can the defendant request the supporting deposition prior to actually being arraigned on the traffic ticket? In other words, can the defendant request the supporting deposition before he even enters his not guilty plea? As explained below, the answer is yes; a defendant may request the supporting deposition prior to the return date on his ticket and prior to his arraignment on the ticket.

Criminal Procedure Law sec. 100.25(2) formerly “expressly provided that a defendant is only entitled to a supporting deposition after he has been arraigned upon a simplified information (a traffic ticket). see People v Perry, 87 N.Y.2d 353, 355 (1996)

In Perry, the defendant was charged Failing to Yield The Right of Way to an Emergency Vehicle in violation of VTL 1144 – a traffic infraction. Thereafter, defendant’s attorney sent an “appearance letter” to the local court indicating that defendant was pleading not guilty and requesting a supporting deposition. The supporting was not served on defendant and his subsequent motion to dismiss was granted.

The case wound its way through the appellate process with the Court of Appeals ultimately reversing the dismissal and reinstating the ticket holding that defense counsel’s “appearance letter” did not constitute or eliminate the need for a formal arraignment. In 1996 when Perry was decided a defendant was only entitled to a supporting deposition after he had been “arraigned upon a simplified information.” See Perry, 87 N.Y.2d at 355 citing CPL 100.25(2)(1996).

Accordingly, the Court of Appeals held that a defendant who has not been properly arraigned “is not entitled to request a supporting deposition and any such request is a nullity.” Id. Applying this rule to the specific facts in Perry, the Court of Appeals concluded that because the defendant had not been properly arraigned at the time he requested the supporting deposition, his request failed to trigger the People’s statutory obligation to timely file and serve the supporting deposition.

However, shortly after the Court of Appeals decided Perry, the New York State Legislature amended CPL 100.25(2) to allow a defendant to request a supporting deposition after he has been “charged by” a simplified information (a traffic ticket) as opposed to “arraigned upon.”
In People v. Tyler, 1 N.Y.3d 493, 496 (2004) the Court of Appeals acknowledged and explained the 1996 amendment to CPL 100.25(2) which allowed a defendant to now request a supporting deposition after he has been charged by a simplified information. In other words, the way CPL 100.25(2) is written now, a defendant is entitled to request a supporting deposition as soon as he is “ticketed.”
In Tyler, the defendant was issued a ticket for speeding on April 21, 2002. The ticket directed defendant to appear in court on May 14, 2002. The ticket instructed defendant how to plead not guilty by mail; to check a box on the ticket if he wanted a supporting deposition; and to mail the ticket to the court within 48 hours. The court would then send defendant a trial notice. Id at 494.

The defendant filled out the ticket indicating he was pleading not guilty and checked the box to request a supporting deposition. However, instead of mailing the ticket to the court, on April 22, 2002 he hand delivered it to the court clerk. The clerk accepted the ticket with the not guilty plea and supporting deposition request then moved defendant’s appearance date up to May 1, 2002. Id at 495.

On May 1, 2002, defendant appeared in the local court and was formally “arraigned” on the ticket. He entered a plea of not guilty and restated his demand for a supporting deposition. Defendant received the supporting deposition on May 31, 2002. Id at 495. Defendant thereafter filed a motion to dismiss the ticket alleging that the supporting deposition was not served within the statutorily required 30 days of his initial request for it on April 22, 2002. Id.

Exemplifying a problem that is much too common in New York’s local court system, the local court in Tyler decided defendant’s motion in a manner completely opposed to the law. In fact, after reading the Tyler decision, it would be more than reasonable to conclude that the local court (1) simply didn’t know the law; or (2) knew the law but desired a certain outcome so it ignored the law.

In denying defendant’s motion, the local court construed CPL 100.25 (2) to preclude defendant from requesting the supporting deposition before May 14, 2002, the date he was originally directed to appear in court or, at the earliest, May 1, 2002, when he was actually arraigned and restated his demand for the supporting deposition. Id.

The County Court reversed the local court holding that defendant’s April 22, 2002 demand was proper and timely. The Court of Appeal agreed observing that CPL 100.25(2), as amended, “does not force a defendant to wait until arraignment to request a supporting deposition.” Id. Indeed, observed the Court of Appeals, the 1996 amendment to CPL 100.25(2) provides that a defendant may request a supporting deposition “when ‘charged by a simplified information.’” Id at 496 (emphasis in original). The defendant was “charged” when he was ticketed.

The lower court had decided defendant’s motion in Tyler as if the legislature had never amended CPL 100.25(2) as described above. Thankfully, the defendant in Tyler had the wherewithal to appeal the lower court’s erroneous ruling.

For more information about defending a traffic ticket (speeding, red-light, stop sign, etc) anywhere in the State of New York; supporting deposition issues or other traffic defense strategies, please contact us toll free at 1-877-DR-SUMMONS (1-877-377-8666) or visit my website at www.DRSUMMONS.com.

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