Sunday, February 22, 2009

Can You Plea-Bargain in a Traffic Case? That Depends

The New York Times:
For years it was a normal routine in traffic courts in towns and villages across New York State: Drivers would negotiate at the courthouse with the state trooper... who cited them for moving violations to reduce the charge. The judge would then make it official.

But the State Police, citing ethical concerns, issued an order in 2006 banning the practice....Now, some lawyers have taken an unusual approach to challenge the ban: fighting tickets using a law established after the Civil War to protect the rights of former slaves.

The lawyers have cited the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which mandates that laws be applied equally to everyone, to argue that the State Police policy prevents drivers from receiving equal justice. Whether a driver can negotiate a lower fine, the lawyers say, depends on where they get a ticket and from whom.

Even routine traffic tickets can have serious impacts on a driver's insurance premiums and, in some cases, their license to operate a motor vehicle. Drivers who receive a ticket should always consider contacting a competent attorney of their own choosing before pleading guilty or attempting to plea bargain the ticket.