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Articles Posted in TRAFFIC

New York Traffic Lawyers Tilem & Associates successfully won a motion which resulted in a speeding ticket being dismissed completely on novel grounds. Our client was charged with a violation of VTL §1180 (c) for traveling 40 miles per hour in a 25 mile an hour zone. Approximately 15 days after receiving the ticket, the Defendant mailed the ticket to court indicating that he was pleading not guilty and further indicating that he was requesting supporting depositions.

New York Criminal Procedure Law § 100.25(2) provides that a defendant charged by a simplified information is, upon a timely request, entitled as a matter of right to a supporting deposition of a complainant police officer and that upon such a request, a court must order the officer to serve a copy of the same within 30 days of the date such request is received by the court, or at least five days before trial, whichever is earlier.

Approximately six days after receiving the Defendant’s request, the Court mailed an order for the supporting deposition to the local sheriff’s department and acknowledged the Defendant’s request. Approximately six days after that the Defendant received a copy of the supporting deposition. However, the affidavit of service accompanying the supporting deposition says that it was mailed to the Defendant but it not specify the address of the Defendant to which the supporting deposition was allegedly mailed.

New York Criminal Defense law firm, Tilem & Associates has seen an increase in the number of Reckless Driving tickets and other related moving violations, which is consistent with recent media reports that a crackdown on hazardous driving is underway by the NYPD. According to the media a 24 hour per day, 7 day per week crackdown will target drivers who speed, run red lights and use cell phones or other portable electronic devices. These violations which are among the most common also carry the most points and can have the greatest impact on a driver’s license and a driver’s insurance rates. A reckless driving ticket carries 5 points and is a criminal offense under New York Law, a cell phone ticket, which up until several years ago was a no-point violation now also carries 5 points. Speeding tickets can carry anywhere from between 3 and 11 points and Red light tickets carry 3 points. A motorist generally loses their license at 11 points.

The latest NYPD reckless driving crackdown is consistent with Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan which has the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and comes after a serious accident left a pedestrian serious injured after crossing Linden Boulevard in Brooklyn earlier this week.

“The good news for motorists is that an experienced traffic lawyer can generally get substantial reductions in the points associated with tickets and very often eliminate the points altogether,” according to traffic lawyer Jasmine Hernandez. “An experienced traffic lawyer can especially have the greatest impact on reckless driving tickets which are among the most serious,” according to Ms. Hernandez.

If you’re stopped by the police in New York (Greenburgh, White Plains, Harrison, etc) for a traffic infraction such as speeding, should the police read you your “rights” prior to questioning you about where you coming from, if you had anything to drink or if you knew why you were stopped? When a person is arrested they lose certain rights. For example, when one is arrested, they lose their right to liberty and they are subject to a warrantless search incident to their arrest. In fact, a search incident to a lawful arrest is one of the many exceptions to the search warrant requirement.

However, while a person loses certain rights when they are arrested, they also obtain certain rights once they are arrested. For example, before the police can question a person who has been arrested they must read that person their “rights” – the police must “Mirandize” an arrested person before questioning.

There is absolutely no doubt that Uniform Traffic Tickets or Simplified Traffic Informations are also appearance tickets. See e.g., People v. Tyler, 1 N.Y.3d 493 (2004)(speeding ticket deemed an appearance ticket); People v. Hollinger, 15 Misc. 3d 130A (App. Term 2nd Dept. 2007)(The front of the uniform traffic tickets directed defendant to appear in the Justice Court of the Village of Old Westbury on September 18, 2003, thus serving as an “appearance ticket” under CPL 150.10); Farkas v. State, 96 Misc. 2d 784, 787 fn 1 (N.Y. Ct. Cl. 1978)(Appearance ticket includes, by definition, uniform traffic tickets); People v. Litean, 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 5475, 240 N.Y.L.J. 33 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2008)(“A summons requiring a defendant to appear in court is the equivalent of a desk appearance ticket . . .”); People v. Genovese, 156 Misc. 2d 569, 571 (J. Ct. 1992)(“the yellow copy of the simplified traffic information is an appearance ticket as defined by CPL 150.10”).

Since People v. Hazelwood, 104 Misc.2d 1121, 1123 (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 1980) held that the detention of a person by the police for the purpose of issuing such person an appearance ticket creates an “arrest situation” justifying a search of such person just as if they had been formally arrested, doesn’t it follow that the police would have to Mirandize this so-called “arrested” person before questioning them? Why should the police get the benefit of deeming the person “arrested” so they can search them but not allow this “arrested” person the benefit of his Miranda rights just like any other arrested person?

One stopped by the police is clearly not free to go. In People v. Wallgren, 2011 NY Slip Op 51556U, (N.Y. County Ct. Aug. 16, 2011) the police officers testified at the probable cause hearing that defendant’s vehicle was driving erratically and they stopped it only to check on the driver’s “welfare.” However, as observed by the court, the officers were not concerned about the driver’s welfare but instead immediately launched into a DWI investigation:
Notwithstanding both officers’ testimony regarding the welfare
check, Officer Einsfeld, upon approaching the driver’s window,
asked whether the defendant was drinking prior to driving, where
the defendant came from and where the defendant was going.
These questions were clearly indicative of a DWI investigation,
not a welfare check and are designed to solicit incriminating
evidence from a motorist.

Furthermore, the police admitted that “when a police officer activates the police lights, the person is supposed to stop and is not free to leave until the police speak with the person.” Id. The court therefore concluded that the police testimony established that the defendant was in custody from the very inception of the defendant’s encounter with the police: “By [Officer Einsfeld’s] testimony alone the custodial status of the defendant from the very inception was admitted by the police.” Id.

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Have you been charged in New York with “speed not prudent” by an officer who did not witness the alleged offense? Were you involved in an accident and then issued a ticket for an infraction by an officer who did not witness the accident? Judge Malone of the Justice Court of Mendon, New York, noted in People v. Genovese, that the practice whereby police officers in New York issue tickets for traffic infractions they did not witness occurs every day in lower courts across the State.

One of the most common scenarios is where an officer arrives upon the scene of an accident he did not witness and, after conducting an “investigation”, concludes that one of the drivers (or the only driver if it was a single car accident) had to be driving at a speed not reasonable and prudent and issues a traffic ticket to the “offending” driver charging him or her with violating VTL 1180(a) – “Speed Not Prudent” – which states that:

No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable
and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual
and potential hazards then existing
.

This practice is wholly improper. First, as detailed above, a police officer cannot issue an appearance ticket for a traffic infraction not committed in his presence. Second, “[t]he mere happening of the accident because of the skidding of [driver’s car] did not warrant the conclusion that there had been negligent operation of a motor vehicle or that the statute had been violated.” Weisinger v. MacDuff, 285 A.D. 607, 611 (1st Dept. 1955). To be guilty of driving faster than is reasonable and prudent, the conduct of the driver must constitute more than mere error of judgment or simple negligence. People v. Benway, 41 Misc.2d 39 (1963) see also Hessney v. MacDuff, 284 A.D. 70, 72 (4th Dept. 1954)(Negligent operation of a motor vehicle may not be inferred merely because a car skidded or an accident happened); Fake v. MacDuff, 281 A.D. 630, 633 (4th Dept. 1953)(The fact that the car skidded or slid off the road does not, standing alone, even constitute ordinary negligence).

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If you are charged with Driving While Intoxicated [VTL 1192(2), (3)] in New York, the criminal defense attorney you choose can be one of the most important decisions of your life. Are you going to retain a “read-em-and-plead-em” hack, the lawyer who handled the closing when you purchased your home, the lawyer who drafted your Will or are you going to retain a lawyer well versed in the law, science and procedures associated with DWI cases?

Are you going to choose an attorney that has experience not just in DWI cases; but also in winning Driving While Intoxicated trials? Make no mistake about it, district attorneys and prosecutors know full well which attorneys are capable of actually taking a DWI case to trial. An attorney’s trial ability often plays a role in the plea bargaining offer. If your attorney has no trial experience, plea bargains all of his or her cases, always backs down at the last minute and accepts whatever offer the prosecution has made and has shown him or herself to be incompetent in the few hearings or trials he or she has done, the prosecutor has no real concern that the case will ever go to trial. If the prosecutor knows that in the end, your attorney will “plea you out” the prosecutor has no incentive to offer anything other than their standard policy offer.
Of course, accepting a plea bargain offer in certain cases is advisable. However, a detailed “risk/benefit” analysis must first be done. If the prosecution wants you to plead guilty to misdemeanor DWI with three years of probation and you’re a first time offender and the case did not involve any accident or injuries; their might not be any risk associated with going to trial because it’s very unlikely you would be sentenced to anything more than probation if you lost at trial.

A lawyer should not advise a client to accept a plea bargain unless that attorney has thoroughly investigated the case. That includes listening to, and investigating, not only a defendant’s claim of innocence, but the facts, circumstances and issues concerning probable cause to stop the vehicle, the legality of the roadblock, the administration of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, the timeline of events, the officers involved, the administration of any breathalyzer testing, blood drawing, urine collecting and other issues that can arise in DWI cases.

In certain Driving While Intoxicated cases it might be advisable that the attorney visit the scene of the stop. The attorney might view the area where the defendant performed the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. The attorney might even travel the route the defendant traveled prior to being pulled over. If the defendant claims he or she only had one or two drinks, credit card statements from the restaurant or other establishment where the defendant was prior to being stopped by the police might be helpful. Interviews with employees of the establishment where the defendant drank might reveal a witness to defendant’s drinking. Are their any witnesses to defendant’s driving?

Only after a searching and diligent review and investigation of the above factors as well as the relevant statutes, regulations and case law can an attorney render an opinion on a plea bargain offer. Most importantly however, the attorney who conducts the case review must be extremely knowledgeable and experienced in DWI defense. An attorney can spend countless hours reviewing and investigating all aspects of a Driving While Intoxicated case with zealous enthusiasm, however, if that attorney simply doesn’t know the laws, rules, regulations, case law, science, toxicology, breath testing, chemical testing, police procedures, etc., that lawyer’s opinion on a plea bargain offer will be no better than flipping a coin.

In a recent decision, the New York State Appellate Division unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling which granted a defendant’s motion to vacate his guilty plea in a Driving While Intoxicated case. The Court concluded that “[d]efense counsel failed to conduct any investigation, make any motions, or even view the video of defendant’s breathalyzer test before negotiating a plea bargain whereby defendant would plead guilty to the top count of the accusatory instrument.” People v Rivera, 2012 NY Slip Op 43, 1 (1st Dept. Jan. 5, 2012).
In support of its decision, the Court observed that there were defenses that should have been investigated including matters affecting the accuracy of the breathalyzer result. Furthermore, the Court explained that, because the defendant had no prior record and no accident occurred, it was extremely unlikely that he would have received a jail sentence had he lost at trial. Therefore, the “defendant received little, if any benefit, by pleading guilty to the top count without ever having received even a minimally accurate assessment of the strength of the People’s case.” Id.

The Rivera decision unfortunately does not indicate the sentence defendant received as part of the plea deal or what his Blood Alcohol Concentration was. In fairness to the attorney that represented defendant in Rivera, if his BAC was alleged to be, for example .16 or .17 and the plea offer didn’t require probation, than Rivera did receive some benefit. Specifically, he avoided probation, which can be difficult for some. For example, in Westchester, avoiding probation is a major consideration on DWI cases because DWI probation in Westchester County can be fairly onerous.

Nevertheless, the Rivera decision should put all defense attorneys on notice that it is unacceptable to advise a DWI client to plead guilty to the top charge without first conducting any real investigation into the strength of the prosecution’s case. The Rivera decision should also put everyone who is charged with DWI on notice that they should speak with several attorneys and get several opinions prior to retaining an attorney. And, the attorney they retain should be knowledgeable specifically with DWI cases.

Generally, if you are charged with Driving While Intoxicated and have no prior criminal history; there was no accident; no injuries; no property damage and there are no allegations that you were driving in an overly reckless or unreasonable manner, be very careful if your attorney recommends you plead guilty to the top charge with probation – be even more careful if your attorney makes such a recommendation very early in the case.

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The New York State Legislature has acknowledged that CPL140.10(1)(b) prohibits an officer from making an arrest or issuing an appearance ticket for a traffic infraction not committed in his or her presence and has determined that there are only three specific traffic infractions where an officer should be allowed to arrest or issue an appearance ticket despite the fact that said infractions were not committed in the officer’s presence.

Specifically, the New York State Legislature has authorized an officer to arrest or issue an appearance ticket in lieu of arrest where the motorist leaves the scene of an incident involving property damage in violation of VTL 600(1) or leaves the scene of an incident involving injury to certain animals in violation of VTL 601.

Indeed, VTL 602 states in pertinent part that an officer may arrest “in case of violation of section six hundred and section six hundred one, which in fact have been committed, though not in his presence, when he has reasonable cause to believe that the violation was committed by such person.” Therefore, with regard to VTL 600(1) and VTL 601, both non-criminal traffic infractions, the Legislature has determined that officers may arrest or issue appearance tickets even where said infractions are not committed in the officer’s presence.

Additionally, the Legislature has authorized an officer to arrest where the motorist has committed the violation of Driving While Ability Impaired by alcohol in violation of VTL 1192(1) if the motorist was involved in an accident. The relevant statute, VTL 1194(1)(a) states in pertinent part:that a police officer may arrest a person, without a warrant in case of a violation of subdivision (1) of section 1192 of this article, “if such violation is coupled with an accident or collision in which such person is involved, which in fact has been committed, though not in the police officer’s presence, when the officer has reasonable cause to believe that the violation was committed by such person.”

Accordingly, only if a motorist is believed to have committed VTL 600(1); VTL 601 or VTL 1192(1) involving an accident can an officer arrest even though these non-criminal traffic infractions were not committed in the officer’s presence.The Legislature’s Exclusion of Some Traffic Infractions From The Precepts Of CPL 140.10(1)(b) Establishes An Irrefutable Inference That Those Not Excluded Were Intentionally Not Excluded
That an officer may not arrest for non-criminal traffic infractions not committed in his presence except where said infraction is for violating VTL 600(1); VTL 601; and VTL 1192(1) involving an accident is supported by the Latin maxim “inclusio unius est exclusio alterius”. What this Latin Maxim means is that where a law expressly describes a situation where it applies, an irrefutable inference arises that what was excluded or omitted was intentionally excluded or omitted. This ancient rule of statutory construction is codified in New York Statutes 240 titled “Expression of one thing as excluding others”.

Section 240 states in pertinent part: “where a law expressly describes a particular act, thing or person to which it shall apply an irrefutable inference must be drawn that what is omitted or not included was intended to be omitted or excluded.” In other words, where a statute specifically mentions that said statute applies to one category of persons, said statute irrefutably implies the exclusion of other persons not specifically mentioned was intended by the Legislature. See e.g. Combs v. Lipson, 44 Misc.2d 467 (1964)(Holding that the express grant of power to one person excludes by implication the grant of same powers to another.).
The New York Legislature has in fact judicially created several exceptions to the general rule found in CPL 140.10(1) which prohibits an officer from making an arrest or issuing an appearance ticket for non-criminal traffic infractions not committed in his presence. These express exceptions created by the legislature pertain to violations of VTL 600(1); VTL 601 and VTL 1192(1) involving an accident.

It must be noted however that the Legislature did not except any other non-criminal traffic violations from the precepts of CPL 140.10(1). Therefore, under New York Statute 240, there is an irrefutable inference that the Legislature purposely chose not to exclude any other non-criminal traffic infractions from the precepts of CPL 140.10(1)(a).

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New York’s “move over” law was expanded starting at the beginning of this year (January 1, 2012) making it applicable to not only emergency vehicles that are stopped on the side of the road but now to “hazard vehicles”. The law, which originally went into effect last January originally only covered “emergency vehicles” those vehicles which are displaying either a red light or a combination of red and white lights such as a police, fire or emergency medical vehicle. Now, as of this year, the law also applies to “hazard vehicles” those vehicles which display one or more amber lights such as tow trucks, road service vehicles and highway crews.

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Sec 1144-a requires that drivers on a limited-access highway or parkway to exercise “due care” when approaching an emergency or hazard vehicle and defines due care as requiring at a minimum that the driver move from the lane adjacent to the shoulder where the emergency or hazard vehicle is stopped. In other words if the emergency vehicle is stopped on the right shoulder and you are driving in the right lane, you must move over to the center lane as you pass the emergency or hazard vehicle. Since moving over is not always possible on busy New York highways, the law does set the condition that you should move over only if it complies with other New York Vehicle & Traffic Laws such as moving from lane unsafely under V&TL 1128 and disobeying a traffic control device under V&TL 1110. In other words, if it is not safe to do so you or it is otherwise illegal to move over you should not. Rather, in that case you should slow down.

Violating the new “move over” law is a traffic infraction under New York Law punishable by a fine of $150, 2 points on you license and up to 15 days in jail although it should be emphasized that jail in not a likely possibility and that the points have been improperly reported in the media. The points count toward suspension of your driver’s license and/or the driver responsibility assessment.

Motorists should be warned that when section 1144-a originally went into effect last year the police were very aggressively enforcing the new law. We fully anticipate that the police will be aggressively enforcing all of the new provisions of section 1144-a. In addition motorists need to exercise extreme caution when they attempt to move over. The purpose of the law is safety and changing lanes create another risk. Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1144-a makes clear that you must observe all other Vehicle and Traffic Laws including but not limited to using your turn signal, changing lanes safely, complying with lane markings, signs and speed restrictions.

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In New York there are two different Driving While Intoxicated charges. Driving While Intoxicated under VTL 1192(3) is based upon the officer’s opinion that a motorist is intoxicated. This charge has nothing to do with one’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and is referred to as common law DWI. The other Driving While Intoxicated charge in New York is based solely upon one’s BAC being at or above .08 as determined by a chemical test such as a breathalyzer type test and is found at VTL 1192(2).
When one is charged under VTL 1192(2) based upon a BAC of .08 or above, the allegation of a BAC of .08 or above must be supported by non-hearsay evidence. What is called the accusatory instrument will be deemed insufficient if the allegation regarding the .08 BAC is not supported by non-hearsay evidence. In other words, it is insufficient for one officer to allege that the defendant’s BAC was .08 unless that officer administered the test or witnessed the test.
For example, in People v Bonner (Lisa), 31 Misc. 3d 142A (App. Term 2nd Dept. 2011), the Court found the Information (accusatory instrument) insufficient where Officer
Montemurro alleged that defendant’s breath test result revealed a .16% BAC but he did not state that he had administered the test, or observed the test being conducted. Furthermore, the Intoxilyzer 5000 printout card which had allegedly been annexed to the information for the breathalyzer test result included the signature of another officer who had conducted the breathalyzer test. Further, the printout that was signed by another officer did not attest to any personal knowledge nor was it properly verified.
Accordingly, the Court found that the lower court should have granted defendant’s motion to dismiss because “[t]he information did not set forth nonhearsay allegations which, if true, established every element, and defendant’s commission thereof, of the offense charged.” Id.

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Capping an unbelievable three weeks, New York Criminal Defense Firm, Tilem & Campbell plea bargained three cases with truly remarkable results. While, Tilem & Campbell has successfully gone to trial and won many criminal cases, it does not always take a trial to get a successful outcome in a criminal case. With experience and expertise the lawyers at Tilem & Campbell are often able to negotiate truly spectacular deals for their clients. Having two former prosecutors obviously helps.

In the first case resolved in late June, our client was charged with shooting at an individual with an illegal handgun. The client was charged with felony Reckless Endangerment and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, both felonies. On the Weapons charge the client faced a prison sentence of 15 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of 3 ½ years in prison. On the Reckless Endangerment in the first degree charge the client faced up to 7 years in prison. After months of litigation and negotiation, the client pled guilty at the end of June to a class “B” misdemeanor with no jail, no probation and only a conditional discharge. The “B” misdemeanor the client pled guilty to was an Attempt to Commit the Crime of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree.

In the second case resolved just two days ago, the client was charged with the felony of possessing 4 illegal guns in Rennselaer County, New York. In New York, possession of 3 or more illegal guns elevates the crime to a class “D” felony, punishable by up to 7 years in prison. The firm was able to negotiate a plea bargain for this client in which he pled guilty to a “B” misdemeanor and again received no jail, no fine, no probation but just a conditional discharge. In addition, the Judge signed a “Certificate of Relief From Civil Disabilities” which is a certificate that relieves the holder of all bars to employment that may be imposed by law as a result of a criminal conviction.

New York Traffic Ticket lawyers are monitoring New York’s recently enacted Texting While Driving Law which was made tougher this week after a new law signed by governor Cuomo went into effect. The new law makes Texting While Driving a primary enforcement statute. This means that a police officer may stop a vehicle because the driver is observed violating this statute. In the past, a police officer could only stop a vehicle for a reason other than texting while driving and then issue the summons for Texting While Driving if there was probable cause to believe that the operator also committed an offense under New York Vehicle & Traffic Law (VTL) 1225-d. .

While New York VTL 1225-d is usually referred to as New York’s Texting While Driving Statute it punishes a broad range of conduct that does not involve texting or even using your cell phone. For example the statute is entitled “Use of Portable Electronic Devices” and defines portable electronic devices as any: hand-held mobile telephone (cell phones), PDA (personal digital assistant), handheld device with mobile data access (such as a IPAD, IPOD, or Tablet or GPS), laptop computer, broadband personal communication device, pager, two-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device. This list seems like it would encompass pretty much any electronic device you can conceive of including devices that are commonly used in cars such as I-Pods and navigation devices.

In addition, if you simply are holding the device while viewing it that is considered viewing and there is a presumption built into the statute if you hold the device while driving in a “conspicuous manner” you are presumed to be “using” the device. This all means that simply holding any electronic device in your hand while driving can cause you to receive a three point ticket punishable by a fine of up to $150 plus a surcharge of a minimum of $80 for a total of $230. Plus there of course exists the possibility of insurance surcharges or increases and if you accumulate 6 points, additional fees under the Driver Responsibility Assessment.

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