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New York Traffic Violations Legal Blog

"Innocent until proven guilty" applies to speeding violations

Many of us are familiar with the concept that people who have been accused of crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Maybe we only know this as a phrase police use in television shows, but it is in fact a very important legal principle. It means that once a person has been accused of a crime, they have the right to due process and to defend themselves against the charges. This principle applies to all kinds of crimes.

Some speeding violations don't fall under criminal law, but the basic principle applies to speeding violations as well.

Texting while driving at issue in homicide case

Lawmakers in every state have struggled to come up with ways to address the threat of drivers looking at their phones instead of at the road ahead of them. In New York, using a handheld telephone or portable electronic device while driving is illegal and punishable by steep fines and other penalties. New Jersey has a similar law, and police in that state have handed out more than 10,000 citations for cellphone use and other distracted driving over the past year.

Recently, New Jersey put a woman on trial for vehicular homicide after allegedly a pedestrian was killed in an accident the prosecution argues was the result of texting while driving. News reports said this is the first texting-and-driving homicide case in the state's history.

Study finds widespread problems with Breathalyzer devices

When they have pulled over a driver on suspicion of drunk driving, police have several ways of collecting evidence to show that a driver was intoxicated. They write up a report in which they document their observations, including the words and actions of the driver, whether they smelled alcohol on the driver's breath, and how the driver performed simple tasks, such as walking a straight line. But some of the most effective evidence they gather is the result of a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, test. An adult whose BAC is 0.08% or higher is legally too drunk to drive.

The most common way of administering a BAC test in New York and throughout the nation is through a chemical breath analysis device, commonly known as a Breathalyzer. But these devices are not always reliable.

How many points can I accrue before I lose my license?

New York's Driver Violation Point System is confusing to many drivers. Many people do not realize how close they are to losing their driver's license until someone alerts them to how many points are on their record.

The big number to know is 11. A driver who gets 11 points against their record within an 18-month period faces the very real possibility of having their license suspended.

Can I legally use my phone for navigation while driving?

New York's law against texting while driving is strict. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile device while you drive. This means you can't talk on a phone if you're holding it while driving. You can't use your phone to send or retrieve texts, emails or the Internet. You can't use your phone to take or view photos, and you can't play games with it. The only exceptions are for dialing 911 or otherwise contacting emergency services about an emergency.

So, where does GPS fit in with this? Many people use their smartphones or portable GPS devices to assist with navigation when they are driving to an unfamiliar place. Is this against the law?

License restrictions for repeat offenders

New York's drunk driving laws impose harsh penalties for a first offense, but they get much harsher if the driver offends again. A repeat offense doesn't mean just another offense within a year or two; the time period covered can be 25 years or even more.

In New York, the penalties for drunk driving offenses come not only through the criminal justice system, but also through the administrative process overseen by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV's Drinking Driver Program has a series of regulations designed to keep repeat offenders off the road. These make it much harder for a person whose license has been revoked to get a new license, even after they have served any sentence or paid any fines.

Do cameras mean safer streets, or just more traffic tickets?

For years, activists have urged New York City to do something to protect pedestrians from traffic accidents. The city's latest answer? A network of cameras that will monitor the streets, detect cars that are going too fast, and send their drivers speeding tickets in the mail.

Critics say the new initiative won't do much to improve pedestrian safety, and is primarily motivated by the desire to fill city coffers with the fines drivers will have to pay.

New York's zero tolerance law

Vehicle accidents are a common cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 20, and in an effort to make driving safer for individuals in this age bracket, many states have adopted zero tolerance laws. Our state has a zero tolerance law in place that criminalizes the presence of practically any alcohol in the system of an underage driver. The idea behind these laws is that by penalizing drunk driving in young people, fewer drunk driving accidents involving teens will occur.

The intent of the law is noble, but as with other drunk driving laws and processes, there are problems with its execution. A teen who is suspected of drinking and driving may be stopped and assessed for intoxication. If their blood alcohol concentration shows any signs of intoxication, they may be subject to a license suspension and fines.

What is inattentive driving?

Distracted driving is the general term that New Yorkers may use to refer to any activity that takes a driver's attention off of the road. Often times, distracted driving is caused by cell phone use. Texting and driving, making phone calls, checking email and surfing the web are all common ways that drivers become distracted by their technology. Those who are suspected of distracted driving can be sanctioned for their alleged actions.

However, the state of New York also targets drivers who engage in other allegedly dangerous behaviors while driving. Any of these activities may make a driver inattentive to their driving responsibilities, and therefore, those drivers are considered inattentive drivers when they do them. Inattentive behaviors can include, but are not limited to, driving while tired, driving while distracted and driving with one's eyes off of the road.

Special rules apply at train crossings

Many goods are carried through the state of New York on trains. These massive vehicles are an efficient way to haul large loads over long distances. Because trains travel on tracks that may cross the roads that readers drive on, individuals should be aware of just what is legal to do at such intersections.

New York drivers are expected to abide by all railroad crossing signs and indicators that show a train is approaching an intersection. It is not always possible to tell how fast a train is moving and it can therefore be dangerous to vehicles and their passengers to attempt to cross tracks when trains are near. Additionally, drives should not cross train tracks if they cannot fully clear the tracks on the other side or may get stuck on the tracks because of forward traffic.

Call 212-257-8321 to receive a free, no-obligation ticket evaluation from The Law Office of Craig Bondy or reach us by email.

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