Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ithaca DWI Lawyer: What Happens When You Fail to Appear for a New York Traffic Ticket?

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FTA or Failing to appear for Court in New York State can be a big deal for a number of reasons. Depending on whether the stop of your car led to a violation level traffic offense or a criminal level traffic offense can lead to greatly different outcomes. The ticket on it's face merely shows the location of the court, and the specified time and date for your physical appearance. There is no contact phone number, email, fax, or much in the way to explain the process. But what if you fail to appear? What happens then?

If You FTA then a New York Town Court Can Issue a Bench Warrant and/or Suspend Your Driving Privileges  



Little, seemingly hole in the wall Town and Village courts in New York State have tremendous power. FTA for a violation leads to a driver's license suspension.

If you are issued a traffic ticket that is just a violation level offense, and you don't appear at your scheduled date then that New York Court will notify the DMV which will then notify you home state DMV. The notification won't be to tell them what a responsible person you are but that you are NOW Suspended under New York law for failing to answer to your charge or charges. Your state DMV will then reciprocate with a suspension of your driving privileges at home.

If you FTA for a misdemeanor level offense, such as Reckless Driving under NYS VTL 1212, or Aggravated Unlicensed Operation under NYS VTL 511 then the judge will issue a Bench Warrant for your arrest. You may ask, well wouldn't I know that my traffic ticket was issued for a crime? Wouldn't I have been arrested, booked, and fingerprinted for something like that?

Not Everyone Charged with a Crime in New York State is Formally Arrested and/or Fingerprinted

State troopers and sheriff's deputies often issue a bunch of traffic tickets and some of these violations may really be Misdemeanor (criminal) level offenses. The tickets need to be examined to evaluate the level of the offenses. They usually have you come back to the police station or trooper barracks at the time of your court appearance or soon thereafter. It is in their discretion entirely, whether to formally book and arrest you or just issue tickets, but it happens very frequently Upstate that you are released to return at a later date. This even happens with some DWI cases.   

Are There Any Good Defenses for Failing to Appear for Court in New York State?


Good causes for failing to appear could be a serious illness for you or a close family member, natural disasters, hospitalization, incarceration, treatment and/or rehabilitation for a serious illness, death of a close relative, and any other unforeseeable circumstance. These should be discussed with your defense attorney as well as providing proof and documentation.

Bad reasons are I forgot, or I lost my Court paperwork, or my car wouldn't start. At the very least the Court should be contacted with plenty of notice, and a request to adjourn (delay) the proceedings.