Traffic Court Forum

METRO photo

By Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq.
Vehicle maintenance and safety Inspection

Kicking off a summer road trip? Remember, it all starts before you hit the gas. Ensuring your vehicle is in peak condition isn’t just smart; it’s the law. From tire pressure to oil levels, brakes to lights, and that ever-essential air conditioning system—every detail matters. States have their own safety requirements and ignoring them can lead to fines. So, whether you’re leaving from Setauket, NY, or anywhere else, make sure your vehicle meets the legal standards to keep your trip running smoothly.

Emergency kit essentials

Emergencies are the uninvited guests of road trips. A well-stocked emergency kit isn’t just good planning; it’s also about staying legal. Your kit should include basics like a first-aid kit, flashlight, spare tire, and jumper cables. But don’t stop there—some places require reflective triangles, fire extinguishers, and even blankets. Knowing what’s legally required where you’re headed can keep you safe and compliant.

Interstate driving regulations

Think traffic laws are the same everywhere? Think again. Each state has its quirks—different speed limits, seat belt rules, and cell phone use regulations. What’s allowed in one state might get you a ticket in the next. To avoid surprises, arm yourself with the knowledge of the rules of every state you’ll pass through. This isn’t just about power; it’s about taking control of your journey and ensuring a hassle-free trip.

DUI prevention and legal consequences

Driving under the influence: a surefire way to ruin your road trip. While blood alcohol content (BAC) limits vary slightly from state to state, the zero-tolerance message is clear. DUI penalties can be severe, from hefty fines to jail time, and can haunt you long after the trip ends. 

In New York, the legal threshold is .08% alcohol content in your blood, and it is the same in most states. The blood alcohol content is the percentage of alcohol in your bloodstream, measured by blowing into a breath machine or by blood taken by the police. 

However, at Glynn Mercep and Purcell LLP, we emphasize the importance of planning with sobriety in mind. It’s not just about staying out of legal trouble; it’s about keeping everyone safe.

It is crucial to bear in mind that while the recreational use of marijuana is permitted in New York, the legality of marijuana may vary in the states through which you travel en route to your destination or in the state of your ultimate visitation. Engaging in the possession or use of marijuana in non-compliant states could result in the need to retain an out-of-state lawyer and potentially necessitate your presence for subsequent court proceedings, which may entail multiple appearances.

Safe and legal rest stop usage

Rest stops are essential for a comfortable journey, but they come with their own set of rules. Stick to parking regulations to avoid fines and protect your vehicle from theft. Pay attention to posted signs and local laws—some places limit how long you can stay. Respecting these rules ensures a safe, legal break before you hit the road again.

TIP: In some states, such as New Jersey, it is illegal to pump your own gas. A gas station attendant must assist you with refueling.

Driving in summer weather hazards

Summer road trips can bring weather surprises. From heatwaves to sudden storms, staying safe means knowing the legal requirements for your vehicle in different conditions. Some states require headlights in rain or specific tires for wet roads. Prepping your car for weather hazards keeps you safe and on the right side of the law. If you are not sure of a particular state’s rules in this regard, and you don’t have running lights, you should keep your headlights on all of the time.

Environmental protection and legal compliance

On your road trip, don’t just enjoy the scenery—protect it. Littering can lead to hefty fines and harm the environment. Many areas have strict environmental laws to follow. Respecting these rules preserves natural beauty and keeps you from legal trouble, especially in those states where such regulations are actually enforced.

As you plan your summer road trip, remember that preparation is key. We know the importance of safe, legal travel at Glynn Mercep and Purcell LLP in Setauket. If you need guidance or legal help, our experienced team is here to assist. Make your trip memorable for all the right reasons. 

Safe travels!

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.

METRO photo

By A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

In last month’s column, we delved into the DMV point penalties for speeding violations in New York State. This month, we will explore the points assessed for other vehicle and traffic moving violations. Understanding these penalties is crucial for all drivers, as accumulating points can lead to higher insurance premiums, fines, and even license suspension. Below is a detailed look at the points assigned for various moving violations in New York State.

High-Point Violations (5 Points)

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is a very serious offense that can obviously endanger the driver and other road users. In New York, a driver can be found guilty of reckless driving for operating a vehicle in a manner that unreasonably interferes with the use of public highways or unreasonably endangers other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians. Law enforcement officials have wide discretion in determining what constitutes reckless driving. In order for a reckless driving charge to hold up in court, the prosecutor must prove that the driver was acting in a way that showed a disregard for the safety of others, in a manner that a reasonable person would not have done.

Failure to Stop for School Bus

Failing to stop for a school bus when it is picking up or dropping off children is a significant violation. This rule is strictly enforced to protect the safety of schoolchildren.

Improper Cell Phone Use

Using a cell phone while driving, unless it is hands-free, is deemed to be a significant distraction and is penalized heavily. 

Use of Portable Electronic Device (‘Texting’)

Texting while driving is considered one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. This is why it carries a severe penalty and is differentiated from “Improper Cell Phone Use,” which does not always cause a driver to look down to use their device.

Railroad Crossing Violation

Ignoring railroad crossing signals or attempting to cross when a train approaches clearly poses extreme danger and thus incurs a high-point penalty.

Moderate-Point Violations (3 Points)

Failure to Yield Right-of-Way

Failing to yield the right-of-way often leads to motor vehicle accidents and is taken seriously by traffic enforcement.

Running a Red Light

If a police officer observes a driver running a red light, this may result in a 3-point violation. However, if a driver is photographed by a road camera running a red light and receives a red-light ticket in the mail, this is a no-point violation. Our next column will discuss the reasoning behind this, outlining the various tickets you can receive due to cameras and video recordings.

Disobeying Traffic Control Signal, STOP Sign, or YIELD Sign

Ignoring these fundamental traffic controls is also very hazardous and results in a three-point penalty. And it is worth pointing out that you must completely stop your vehicle or risk a camera violation.

Improper Passing or Changing Lane Unsafely

Unsafe lane changes and improper passing cause many collisions, making them serious enough to carry a 3-point penalty.

Driving Left of Center/Wrong Direction

Driving on the wrong side of the road or in the wrong direction is obviously dangerous and penalized accordingly. Many severe injuries or even deaths are caused by this behavior.

Leaving Scene of Property Damage Incident

Leaving the scene of an incident without reporting can complicate legal matters and is thus penalized, even when no one is injured in the accident.

Child Safety Restraint Violation

While ensuring children are properly restrained in vehicles is crucial for their safety, the police give out more summonses for this than you can imagine. Violations here carry a three-point penalty.

Low-Point Violations (2 Points)

Inadequate Brakes (Employer’s Vehicle)

If an employer’s vehicle has inadequate brakes, it incurs a two-point penalty, emphasizing the importance of vehicle maintenance.

Failure to Signal

Not using signals to indicate turns or lane changes often leads to confusion and accidents. You have probably cursed (not out loud, of course) when a driver has done this in front of you on the highway. Take solace in knowing that this can result in a two-point penalty.

Improper Turn

An improper turn can disrupt traffic flow and cause accidents, warranting a two-point penalty.

Tinted Window Violation

Excessively tinted windows can impede visibility and are thus regulated. Violations here result in a two-point penalty.

Most Other Moving Violations

Minor moving violations that don’t fit into other categories typically carry a two-point penalty.

In conclusion, understanding the points associated with traffic violations can help drivers avoid infractions and the subsequent penalties. Always stay aware of traffic laws and drive safely to protect yourself, your passengers, and others on the road. If you find yourself facing a traffic violation, it is important to contact a knowledgeable attorney to understand your options and potentially mitigate the penalties. Remember, if you incur 11 points in an 18-month period, your driver’s license may be suspended.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association.

METRO photo

By Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Shannon L. Malone Esq.

Earlier in our series with respect to traffic infractions, we discussed proposed legislation that would increase the number of points associated with dangerous driving. These provisions would add point penalties to violations that presently have none. In this article, we will explore the existing Driver Violation Point System and provide readers with a quick reference guide illustrating the number of points associated with speeding violations in New York State. Understanding this system will empower you to make informed decisions about your driving habits and potential consequences. 

It is crucial to remember that if you accumulate 11 points on your driver’s license within 18 months, your driver’s license will be suspended. This is a significant consequence that can obviously disrupt your daily life. Exceptions to this point are rare. Nonetheless, you should consult an experienced attorney if you find yourself in this situation. Additionally, you must pay a Driver Responsibility fee if you accumulate six or more points on your driving record within 18 months.

Once 18 months have passed from the violation date, the points for that violation no longer count toward your total. However, the points do remain on your overall driving record, and your insurance company may use these points to increase your premium.

How Your Point Total is Calculated

Points are added to your driving record based on the date of the traffic violation, not the conviction. The point total is calculated by adding the points for violations occurring within the last 18 months.

Out-of-State Convictions

Suppose you are convicted of a traffic violation in another state, like Connecticut, New Jersey, or Florida. In that case, points are not added to your New York State driving record. Interestingly, however, if the violation occurred in Canada, specifically in Ontario or Quebec points are added because New York State has a reciprocal agreement with these provinces.

Insurance Premiums

Insurance companies have their own point systems and can increase premiums based on your driving records. Insurance companies almost invariably increase your premium if you are convicted of a moving violation such as speeding. Other moving violations that may affect your insurance premium are passing a stop sign, running a red light, and failing to yield the right of way.  For these reasons, it is always a good idea to consult a lawyer when you receive a summons for a moving violation, particularly a speeding ticket.

Check Your Points

New York State DMV’s “MyDMV” service allows users to check their points on their New York State driver’s license. Taking a DMV-approved Point and Insurance Reduction Program (PIRP) course (usually online) will help prevent you from losing your license if you accrue 11 or more points on your driving record. Four points are ‘subtracted’ to calculate a suspension if you have 11 or more points. The tickets/points do not physically come off your driving record, but this system can potentially save you 10 percent on your automobile liability and collision insurance premiums. This offers a glimmer of hope and control in managing your points and insurance premiums.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.

METRO photo

By A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

In the ongoing battle against impaired driving, the stakes couldn’t be higher. With potent synthetic drugs flooding into our communities, state legislators are feeling the pressure to modernize existing laws and ensure that those who choose to drive under the influence face appropriate consequences.

One of the primary concerns among lawmakers is the outdated nature of the current list of illegal drugs outlined in public health law. Democratic Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli pointed out the glaring flaw, stating that the list can’t keep pace with the rapid influx of new drugs hitting the streets. And he’s not alone in his sentiment; Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick echoed Magnarelli’s concerns, emphasizing the ease with which drug manufacturers can skirt legislation by altering chemical compositions overnight.

This legislative lag poses a significant challenge for law enforcement, making it increasingly difficult to prosecute impaired drivers effectively. As Magnarelli aptly said, “You can’t keep up with it.” This sentiment underscores what our legislature sees as an urgent need for updated legislation that can adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of drug abuse and impairment.

Thus, Assemblymen Magnarelli’s proposed bill seeks to overhaul New York State’s vehicle and traffic law. At its core lies a crucial revision: broadening the definition of “drug” to encompass any substance or combination thereof that impairs physical or mental abilities. This change is essential in recognizing the diverse array of substances capable of impairing drivers, ensuring that the law remains relevant and effective in safeguarding public safety.

However, not everyone is on board with Magnarelli’s proposal. Critics argue that the bill’s reliance on subjective judgment in diagnosing impairment may pose challenges. Yet, Magnarelli remains resolute in his conviction: “Don’t get behind the wheel.” For him, the message is crystal clear — driving while impaired is not worth the risk.

As the bill navigates through the legislative process, its fate hangs in the balance. With a version also under consideration in the Senate, the stage is set for a pivotal debate on how New York State can best address the issue of impaired driving. Be assured, however, that there has never been a time when it was more advisable for anyone charged with a drug and/or drinking-related offense to obtain experienced counsel to represent them in the courts of New York State.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association.

METRO photo

By Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Shannon L. Malone Esq.

New York State has fortified its “move over” law to extend protection to all road users, aligning with a nationwide trend. Effective immediately, this revision aims to safeguard motorists stranded on highways, echoing similar measures adopted by several states. 

Previously, signs have warned motorists on many New York State roadways that they must pull over as far over to the left as possible when an emergency vehicle is on the shoulder of a highway. 

Under Governor Kathy Hochul’s leadership, this legislative update emphasizes the paramount importance of road safety. State Senator Lea Webb spearheaded the bill, emphasizing its critical role in preventing tragedies involving stranded motorists.

The revised law mandates all vehicles on highway shoulders to be treated with equal caution, whether law enforcement, emergency responders, or stranded motorists. It’s a proactive step to ensure everyone’s safety.

Since 2012, New York has applied move over protections to cover emergency vehicles, hazard vehicles, and vehicles displaying a blue or green light. The rule requires drivers to exercise due care and change lanes when approaching the affected vehicles.

Sen. Lea Webb, D-Binghamton, wrote in a bill memo that while existing law has been effective in protecting law enforcement and emergency vehicles that are stopped on the side of roadways, “there are still tragedies each year involving other motorists that are killed or seriously injured while stopped on the shoulder to attend to an emergency.”

Gov. Hochul’s office said other vehicles stopped on the sides of highways have remained a safety hazard. From 2016 to 2020, 37 individuals lost their lives outside disabled cars in New York.

Hochul said the signing of the law is a significant step forward in reducing traffic-related accidents and ensuring the well-being of all New Yorkers.

“I want to thank Gov. Hochul for signing this legislation, which will extend safety protections to any motor vehicle that is parked, stopped, or standing on the shoulder of a parkway or controlled-access highway, increasing safety and saving the lives of New Yorkers,” Webb said in prepared remarks. “This bill will decrease the numbers of fatalities and serious injuries that occur due to crashes involving a stopped or disabled vehicle on our roadways.”

The new law took effect this month.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.

DMV has proposed to increase the point value for certain violations such as passing a stopped school bus. METRO photo

By A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

A. Craig Purcell

Back in September of 2023, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued a press release to announce proposals to strengthen regulations “to get dangerous drivers off the road.” These proposed amendments would bolster the state’s ability to remove drivers who engage in risky behavior and make it “more difficult for persistent violators to restore driving privileges.” 

These changes in regulations are part of a multifaceted strategy to combat reckless driving, which endangers everyone. 

Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, Mark J.F. Schroeder, stated that “the message is simple: If your actions behind the wheel put others in danger, you don’t belong in the driver’s seat. That’s why we are proposing significant and aggressive actions to protect other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians and children. Everyone deserves to feel safe regardless of how they choose to commute or enjoy our roads.” The amendments will: 

1. Increase the number of points associated with dangerous driving. 

The long-established Driver Violation Point System gives the NYS DMV a way to identify and act against high-risk drivers. The DMV assigns points for certain traffic violations. DMV is proposing to add point values to violations that presently have none. These violations include alcohol or drug-related convictions, driving without a license, and any violation involving speeding in a work zone, leaving the scene of a personal injury crash, or striking a bridge. DMV has also proposed to increase the point value for certain violations such as passing a stopped school bus.

2. Decrease the threshold at which dangerous drivers are disqualified from holding a license. 

Currently, if a licensed driver accumulates 11 points in 18 months, his or her driver’s license may be suspended. The DMV is proposing to amend that regulation to keep more habitual offenders from driving. The proposed amendment will increase the time frame that administrative action can be taken against a persistent violator from 18 months to 24 months. DMV is also proposing changes to the point system used to evaluate requests for re-licensure after drivers have been convicted of multiple reckless driving and similar violations. 

These changes will make it more difficult for drivers with many convictions to regain their driving privileges. During that evaluation process, DMV is also proposing a change that will allow the agency to consider an applicant’s driving history going back four years from the date they applied for re-licensure. DMV previously looked at a driver’s record going back three years.

3. Lower the bar for permanent license forfeiture for reckless drivers who continue to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

DMV is also proposing to reduce the number of alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions or incidents that would result in a permanent denial of a driver’s license application. Currently, where regulations stipulate that an application for re-licensure be denied if a driver has five or more alcohol or drug-related driving convictions, the DMV is proposing to lower that number to four or more alcohol or drug-related convictions. 

The DMV is also proposing to change regulations to allow for permanent license revocation after three alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions plus one or more other serious driving offenses. 

Other proposed changes will empower the DMV to deny an application for re-licensure for two years if the applicant has three alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions and no serious driving offense. Other applicants who meet the same criteria but have a current license revocation for an alcohol or drug-related conviction will face a five-year revocation.

We will keep the public informed on the progress of these proposals in the New York State Legislature.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association.

Stock photo

By Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Many of our clients have been inquiring about how traffic summons is being handled in Suffolk County, in particular, speeding tickets; the answers to these questions, depending on where in the county the ticket was received, tickets being prosecuted in the village in town, courts across Long Island may not be handled in the same way as those received elsewhere.

How is a speeding ticket handled if received in one of the five western towns of Suffolk County, Long Island?

For example, suppose you receive a ticket for speeding in the five western towns, Huntington, Smithtown Babylon Islip in Brookhaven, and not in an incorporated village, such as Head of the Harbor, Port Jefferson, Nissequogue, Islandia, and others. In that case, your case will be prosecuted in the central traffic court on Veterans Memorial Highway in Hauppauge in the H Lee Dennison building. The Suffolk County traffic and parking violations agency works in many ways, like the Department of Motor Vehicles.

How is the speeding ticket handled if received in an incorporated village or one of the eastern towns on Long Island?

Suppose you receive a speeding ticket in an incorporated village or one of the towns on the east end of Suffolk County, such as Riverhead, Southampton, East Hampton, or Southold. Your case will be prosecuted in the local court in that village or town. 

Each of these courts has its own rules concerning personal appearances; however, since the district attorney’s office in Suffolk County prosecutes speeding tickets and other moving violations, the same rules governing what dispositions of your ticket are possible in the traffic court in Hauppauge might not prevail. Specific plea-bargaining guidelines bind the prosecutors in the traffic court, while the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has its flexible guidelines.

Take-Away

It is important that your attorney is fully aware of the different prosecutorial guidelines that are in place in the particular court where your speeding ticket is pending. Many law-abiding individuals tend to plead guilty instinctively, especially if it’s their first ticket. However, pleading guilty can result in a heavy fine, a possible increase in your car insurance rates, and as many as 6 to 11 points on your driving license. 

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.