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Hire a lawyer for a traffic ticket? Fuhgeddaboudit! I have a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy…

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There once was a time in the not too distant past when all it took was to know someone to make a speeding or traffic ticket disappear and “sleep with the fishes” for good. Back in the “good old days” there nothing was electronic,

videoed or taped. You could call a police department and rant with impunity to the sergeant that you played high school ball with about the “little punk kid” on his shift that just wrote you up for running a stop sign in your neighborhood that you have been ignoring since you got your license when you were 16. The sergeant would call the kid in, ream him up one side and down another, rip up the ticket, and have him walking a beat for the rest of the shift as punishment for being so stupid as to give a home grown local that dropped the sergeant’s name a ticket. And even the ones that slipped through the wire, all you had to do was have your buddy Vinny Bag of Donuts whose wife used to baby sit the cop that gave you a ticket reach out to the kid and make sure he didn’t come to court that day and * POOF * case dismissed.

Yup, those really were the good old days. However, today we live in a new world and the good old days are gone forever. There is simply no reaching out to a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who can make your New York speeding ticket disappear. There are several reasons for this. First off, everything the police do nowadays is video and audio recorded. While the police have discretion as to whether or not to issue a ticket, if they do they are being recorded doing it. Intentionally destroying a traffic summons or any official record or report is a felony, so that’s just not going to happen after the fact.

And even if a cop or police supervisor wanted to destroy a summons, it would be quite impossible to do. This is because with rare exception the tickets are now electronic. The police cars have printers and while you as the motorist receive a hard copy, the summons is digitally recorded and then electronically transmitted to the court, where it is uploaded into an electronic file. There is simply no way to delete the ticket once it is written.

There is still though the old standby that people believe that they can get away with. This is reaching out to somebody that knows a guy that knows a guy that knows the cop who can whisper in the cop’s ear to not show up in court for your ticket. I have to admit, I am sure if you know someone REALLY close to the cop then this still probably has the potential of working. However, for the vast majority of yourselves who are you kidding, you don’t know anyone that close to the cop.

There are several problems with this method. First and foremost, “back in the day” the police officer that gave you the ticket prosecuted it. So if he failed to appear to prosecute it, the ticket had to be dismissed. However, that is no longer the case. Today across New York State, either the County District Attorney or an attorney appointed by the jurisdiction to be a special prosecutor prosecute the speeding and traffic tickets. Also, the tickets are not tried on the first court date. The first court date is a conference date, which is the date you and the prosecutor try to resolve the case through a plea bargain. So you as the motorist would have to go to court and turn down any plea offer made, and then the case would be set down for a second date for trial.

It is at this court appearance where it would be critical for the police officer to not show. However, this necessitates that you make 2 court appearances and consequently have to take 2 days off from work. And, trials don’t start at 9:30 a.m. they are the LAST THINGS the court does because they take the longest. This means that while YOU have to be there at 9:30 a.m. because if you are not there the matter is defaulted and your license is suspended, your case may not be called for trial until 3:30 p.m. Also, just because the cop fails to appear there is no guarantee that the prosecutor won’t ask for and adjournment, or the court will realize around 2:00 p.m. that there are too many things on the calendar and tell you to come back another day for trial. Or that a bomb scare, fire drill, or personnel illness will not force a cancellation of your case for another day. So now you will have to make THREE COURT APPEARANCES.

And this is the scenario that will occur if all goes to plan. What happens if the cop that was not supposed to show “didn’t get the memo.” Now what? Now what do you do? Do you know how to do a trial? No, not a chance. Do you accept the offer for a parking ticket which you turned down 2 months ago? Surely you jest. That offer was THEN this is NOW. That offer is dead and buried, never to rear its ugly head again. You see, by turning down a offer to close the case on a small fine and no points, you made the prosecutor work, which is the worse thing you can do to a prosecutor. You made him subpoena the officer, pull calibration and training records, and interview and prepare the officer for trial. The prosecutor’s work is done the only thing left it the fun part, part of which is watching you suffer. All day long.

Perhaps though you can grab a lawyer – you know one of those guys walking around in a suit. Surely they will help you. And you would be correct this is a viable option. However, consider this. When is it cheaper to call a plumber – when the pipe seems to be making noise and leaking or after it bursts and is flooding your house? Your pipe didn’t just burst, it exploded with the force of an atomic bomb. Sure, a lawyer will take your case. But, it’s not as though the only thing on his agenda for that day was whatever he was doing there before he met you. He probably has a full day scheduled in the office, or other court appearances. To sit there all day in court with you will require that he gets his other matters adjourned or covered, which is going to cost him extraordinary expenses which YOU have to pay for. The business interruption of having to stop what he would otherwise be doing in the flow of business is also going to cost him money which YOU have to pay for. There is uncertainty as to when he is going to get out of court and whether he may have to come back another day which YOU have to pay for. Hiring a lawyer like this cost thousands, not hundreds.

And there is a simple reason why the cops show up in court even though they were supposedly not going to appear. The local towns are cash strapped. So what they do is schedule the court date for when the cop is on duty. It’s pretty hard to fail to appear when dispatch orders you to go to  court. Conversely, when the cop is scheduled to be there off duty it is far too lucrative to not show up. Most cops make a minimum of 4 hours time and a half for a court appearance. That’s 6 hours of overtime, usually for little more than 2 hours. That’s a payday of $300.00 for a cop that earns $90,000 a year.

The main reason though that the police show up to court is simple – they are smart. You see, reaching out to the cop to persuade him to not appear in court is the crime of witness tampering. If the cop does not show upon request, he is just as guilty in the conspiracy as you are, whether or not he gets something in return for failing to appear. Prosecutors take this crime very seriously. In 2011 dozens of New York City Police Officers were arrested and indited for ticket fixing. They continue to be tried and convicted through the time of this blog post.

If you receive a traffic summons don’t think you’re slick and can “squash” the ticket. This is not a third world country and the 70’s went out with wide lapels and disco. The best thing to do is reach out to a qualified and knowledgeable traffic court or speeding ticket defense lawyer.