In a previous blog I explained that one doesn’t not have a statutory right to a speedy trial in a New York traffic violation case (such as speeding, red light, stop signs violations, etc). Does this mean that a New York court can take years to schedule your trial? The answer is yes and no. While there is no statutory right to a speedy trial in a traffic violation case, the courts have held that one charged with a New York traffic violation has a constitutional right to have his or her trial held within two years. This constitutional right is found in CPL § 30.20 which basically states that after a criminal prosecution is commenced the defendant is entitled to a speedy trial. This section does not set forth what constitutes a speedy trial however. It also applies to traffic violations because for purposes of procedure, traffic violations are treated as misdemeanors. See VTL § 155. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution also guarantees a right to a speedy trial even in traffic violation cases.
Numerous New York court cases have held that the speedy trial provision found in CPL § 30.20 applies to traffic violation cases. The question becomes therefore, what is considered an acceptable time frame within which one charged with a New York traffic violation must be brought to trial in light of CPL § 30.20? Two years seems to be the limit provided the delay is not caused by the defendant. Below are reviews of relevant cases:
In People v. Thorpe, 160 Misc.2d 558, 613 N.Y.S.2d 795 (1994) the Appellate Term dismissed a conviction due to an unexplained two year delay in bringing the case to trial. This is the case to rely on when making a speedy trial motion. See also People v. Matera, 2003 WL 21974065 (N.Y.Sup.App.Term), 2003 N.Y. Slip Op. 51180(U)(unexplained delay of over two years in bringing traffic infraction to trial warranted dismissal); People v. Rogoish, 2003 WL 21700087 (N.Y.Sup.App.Term), 2003 N.Y. Slip Op. 51120(U)(unexplained delay of over three years in bringing the traffic infraction to trial warranted dismissal)
Therefore, if you are charged with a traffic infraction in New York and never receive a trial notice, don’t call the court. Contact an experienced traffic court firm such a Tilem & Campbell and we will run your license to ensure that you didn’t miss a date. Then we will sit back and wait. If the trial notice comes more than two years later, Tilem & Campbell will file a written motion seeking dismissal. Finally, the above analysis and laws do not apply for tickets handled by the DMV Traffic Violations Bureau. Those tickets have are handled under a different set of rules which I will discuss in a future blog.