Speed limits, like traffic tickets, are infuriating. If you've been pulled over for speeding, your first feeling might be resentment at the injustice of it. Chances are, there was someone else speeding nearby, but an officer made a partly arbitrary decision about your speed, and pulled you over. As the officer approaches, you might fantasize about moving to Germany, where you could use the largely speed limit-free autobahn without fear of molestation for your velocity. These will overpower quieter thoughts – about, for example, how higher speed limits dramatically increase road fatalities, or about how just the other day you were shouting curses at a driver who shot past you on the right, going over the speed limit, but still slightly slower than you were going just now, before the officer's lights made your heart drop to the floor mat.
No, when the officer tickets you, you'll be feeling a mix of anger and shame, and this will only grow more righteous when it comes time to pay the fine. You will think then of all the tiny towns on Western New York highways that rake in fines far out of proportion to their populations. You feel like a victim of highway robbery: you can accept points on your license, raising your driver's insurance prices, or you can plead down and pay the town for an imaginary parking violation.
Once the officer has written a speeding ticket, there's no simply getting “rid” of it. But that doesn't mean you have to accept the charge or the penalties. If you know what to expect beforehand, and have an experienced traffic lawyer in Buffalo NY to guide you, you can move past this unfortunate incident with minimal consequences.
FINES AND OTHER PENALTIES FOR SPEEDING TICKETS
According to a Buffalo News study released earlier this year, courts in the eight counties of Western New York collected $31.5 million in fines from vehicle and traffic violations in 2015. About half of that money stays with the towns and a portion goes to the respective counties, while around 39 percent goes to the state government.
In most cases, a speeding ticket fine will range from $45- to $600. The amount depends on how fast you were going, where you were speeding, and whether you're a repeat offender.
You may also face a moving violation surcharge, depending on the municipality that has levied the ticket against you. Surcharges are a way for the local government to extract more money from an individual who pleads guilty to or is convicted of a traffic violation. If an officer wrote you multiple tickets for one traffic stop, you could get a surcharge for each one.
In addition, there may be a Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee. This fee is only required when you receive six or more points on your driving record within an 18-month period. The fee starts at $100 per year for three years, but can go up by $25 per year for each additional point above six points. (So, if you're required to pay a Driver Responsibility Fee, you'll have to pay at least $300 over three years.)
There's very little question about the nature of these fines and other monetary penalties: they may be punitive, and they may be corrective, but at their core they are revenue-generating devices, designed to take advantage of people who do not have necessary experience or legal counsel to challenge the charges in court.
“POINTS” AND PREMIUMS: THE EFFECT OF SPEEDING TICKETS ON DRIVER'S INSURANCE
Unfortunately, the potential costs of a speeding ticket go beyond the fines, fees, and surcharges. A speeding ticket will also automatically add “points” to your license. The breakdown is below:
|Miles Per Hour Over the Speed Limit||Number of Points|
|1 to 10||3|
|11 to 20||4|
|21 to 30||6|
|31 to 40||8|
|Anything over 40||11|
Points added to your license will probably lead to increased insurance premiums. There's no good way to predict the exact amount, as each insurance companies uses its own calculations based on a driver's age, history, and car, among other factors, to calculate risk and set premiums. You will need to contact your insurance company after being convicted to learn what your new premium will be.
The bottom line, though, is that any ticket leading to points on your license will cost you money. Points only count toward your total for 18 months after conviction. Once this period has elapsed, the number of points on your license will be reduced – although the penalties will stay on your driving record forever.
ADDITIONAL CONSEQUENCES: LICENSE SUSPENSION AND JAIL TIME
On top of fines, points, and premium hikes, the DMV may suspend your license if:
- You accumulate 11 or more points within an 18-month period.
- You have three convictions (including speeding) within an 18-month period.
- You do not pay a fine or answer a traffic ticket.
Jail time is rarely a consequence of a speeding ticket, but it is possible. You may be facing jail time if you are a habitual offender or if your speeding ticket was complicated with another charge. For example, an officer could charge you with reckless driving if you have “unreasonably interfered” with the proper use of a public highway, or “unreasonably endangered” others using the highway. This broad definition leaves much up to the officer's and judge's subjective discernment. One common cause of reckless driving charges is speeding while using a cell phone. A charge of reckless driving could lead to a maximum of 30 days in prison.
DEFENDING AGAINST SPEEDING AND OTHER TRAFFIC CHARGES
You may not have time to appear on your own behalf in court to plead “not guilty”; and you probably have an incomplete understanding of how traffic courts work and what strategies you might use to plead down successfully. If you plead guilty to a $45 traffic ticket it may end up costing you much, much more, both in fees and insurance premium hikes. You should consider contacting a Buffalo traffic attorney who can help you achieve a better result.
An experienced traffic ticket attorney can help you in several ways, from questioning whether an officer had good reason to pull you over, to waiving your right to an appearance in court. Depending on the facts of your case, an attorney might be able to reduce your charge to a parking or other non-moving violation, lowering the amount of money you'd have to pay, keeping points off your license, and avoiding an insurance premium hike.
As a former prosecutor turned defense attorney, Drew Fritsch has tried countless traffic violation cases in Western New York. If you'd like to discuss your case, call or fill out our online form today to set up a free consultation at our Buffalo, NY office.