Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
Now NY Prosecutors Will Know if Your 'Broken Tail Light' Was Actually a Speeding Ticket
Monday, March 03, 2014 - 02:45 PM
The state's Department of Motor Vehicles is making 10 years' worth of past tickets available to prosecutors—including the original ticket charge, regardless of whether it was reduced to a lesser charge.
“By giving prosecutors a more complete story of a person’s driving history, they can make informed decisions and help ensure that potentially dangerous drivers no longer fall through the cracks,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “These reforms will protect motorists and make this a safer New York.”
That view was echoed by Joseph McCormack, who prosecutes traffic crimes in the Bronx District Attorney's office. "It's always better to know," he said. "More information is better than less information."
He said that this kind of information is particularly helpful when it comes to plea bargains. "When I'm deciding what if any plea offer I would give, I'd want to know what their history was in driving, right?" he said. "Have they been a bad driver for a long time, and getting tickets, and not becoming safer?"
Example: "Let's say you have a guy who comes in and is speeding in a school zone," McCormack said. "And you see he's had multiple speeding violations in the past, then the penalties are going to be higher." Previously, only data on convictions was available to prosecutors. If habitual speeders routinely pled their tickets down to lesser charges, prosecutors would not have easily found out.
In New York State, over 100,000 speeding charges were pled down to “parking on pavement”—a charge that allows drivers to avoid getting points on their license.
Juan Martinez is an attorney with Transportation Alternatives. He said the DMV's move was "really commendable—a really big step" and would help put focus on the "small percentage of drivers who are really reckless."
In New York City, speeding is the top contributing factor when it comes to traffic fatalities.
"To the extent that we know that somebody keeps on pleading down a speaking ticket to parking on a pavement, maybe this time we can say ‘wait a second, we’re not going to plead you down this time,'" said Martinez.
New York State access to this information is restricted to district attorneys and paralegals and investigators under their supervision.