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How our office restored a client’s New York State drivers license and driving privileges that had been suspended since 1983

At Palumbo & Associates, PC, we are not just experts in New York speeding and traffic ticket defense. We also represent clients before the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles in specialized proceedings and applications to either defend against administrative action taken against a motorist, or to apply to restore or renew

driving privileges after a revocation or suspension period. We represent clients in proceedings including but not limited to fatality hearings, medical review hearings, and special reviews for re-licensing after a DWI conviction and suspension.

We also do license reviews and consultations in order to either assist or represent a motorist in restoring driving privileges after a suspension or revocation. Restoring New York State driving privileges or a license after a suspension or revocation is not a straightforward task, as there are over 110 reasons why a NYS driver’s license or privilege can be suspended. Depending on the nature of the suspension, restoring a license or privileges can entail one or more of these steps:

  • Paying assessments directly to the DMV
  • Making payments online
  • Making payments by check or money order
  • Paying fines directly to the DMV
  • Paying suspension lift fees to the DMV
  • Paying suspension lift fees to a court
  • Paying fines to a court
  • Making a special application to the NYS DMV:
    • Insurance Services Bureau
    • Driver Improvement Bureau
    • Safety Hearing Bureau
    • Traffic Violations Bureau
    • Medical Review Board
    • Appealing prior adverse ruling(s) to the NYS DMV Appeals Unit
  • Personally appearing before a court
  • Entering a “Not Guilty” plea before a court
  • Post a bond before a court
  • Surrender on an arrest warrant before a court
  • Completing some sort of counseling, probation, or sentencing condition
  • Paying child support arrearages
  • Paying unpaid NYS taxes
  • Vacating prior conviction(s) that triggered the suspension(s) or revocation(s)
  • Vacating default convictions before the NYS DMV TVB

CASE STUDY IN RESTORING DRIVING PRIVILEGES

The client in question called us and related that he did not have driving privileges in over 30 years. He was in his late 50’s and in his youth was, as he described, “young, wild, and stupid.” He had gotten pulled over a couple of times in his 20’s, but he did not know exactly where. All he could tell me was that one was at a bridge in NYC and the other one upstate. He never answered the tickets and eventually computing technology got better, these outstanding tickets accrued to his NYS DMV record, and he was prohibited from renewing his license. He estimated he could not drive in over 15 years. He now wanted to restore his driving privileges, but did not know where to begin.

The First Step

He retained our office, and the first thing we did was run his driving abstract from the NYS DMV. The abstract provides us with a road map to figuring out why a motorist is suspended. However, it is only a starting point. From there we have to call the various courts and / or units of the NYS DMV which are administering the suspension and ask them what we need to do in order to get our clients suspension lifted.

In this case our client was suspended out of the Bronx Criminal Court for failure to answer tickets back in 1983, and also the Yonkers City Court for failure to answer tickets in 1991. The short hand resolution is to “pay the tickets,” but this is where you have to be careful because sometimes the medicine is worse than the poison.

The problem with blindly “paying the tickets”

Here is the problem with “paying the tickets.” There are 2 kinds of license suspensions in NY State –  procedural and punitive. A procedural suspension is for what happened here – ignoring the tickets. A punitive suspension or revocation is triggered when a motorist pleads guilty to something which the law then mandates as part of a sentence the license be suspended or revoked. For example, if a motorist is found guilty of driving without insurance under the law the motorists license must be revoked for 1 year. Consequently, if you clear a suspension for an unanswered failure to pay insurance ticket by pleading guilty to it, that will then trigger a minimum 1 year license revocation. Further, if you clear a suspension by pleading guilty to an auto crime such as reckless driving or aggravated unlicensed operation then you will accrue a permanent, unsealable criminal history.

The second step

So our next step was to find out what the tickets were written for. In the Bronx case by the mere fact that it was in criminal court I knew our client was charged with an auto crime such as reckless driving and, since he had not answered that case I knew that at least one of his 1991 tickets in Yonkers was for the crime of aggravated unlicensed operation.  So we had to call or go to both courts to do the rest of the investigation.

Clearing the Yonkers suspensions

The Yonkers case went pretty smooth. I called them and everything was handled over the phone and in writing with one letter I sent them identifying me as the motorist’s attorney so they could talk to me and my office. They could not find any record of the case other than what was on the driving abstract from the NYS DMV. After a day they got back to me and told me that they notified the NYS DMV that the tickets had been answered and the DMV lifted those suspensions. I re-ran the abstract and confirmed that in fact the suspensions were now vacated.

Clearing the Bronx suspensions

The Bronx case did not go so easy. First off, the Bronx Criminal Court will not deal with us or anyone for that matter over the phone on old unanswered tickets. Either the motorist or an attorney or representative from an attorneys office has to go in person to the Clerk’s Office. Due to the complexity of the situation we sent a lawyer from our office. The problem in the Bronx is that after a period of time they move their unanswered files to storage, which we had to complete a form for them to requisition the file from storage. Why they could not have simply mailed or faxed us the form I don’t know, but that’s the government for you.

The mystery numbers needed by the court

On the form they claimed that they needed a number which they told us was on our client’s driver’s license. We had the abstract which had all of the information that the license has but they said that it was none of those numbers, that it starts with 3 zeros, and without that number they could not pull the file from storage. So we thought that maybe there was some sort of number on a license similar to a credit card security code. However, when we contacted our client he had no such number on his license anywhere. Nor did I, or anyone in my office have a secret 3 digit code on the license. We then called the Bronx Criminal Court back and they insisted that there was a number on the license. I explained that perhaps it was on the license back in 1983, but not now. I had also looked up the court docket number for the Clerk and suggested that they could certainly pull the file with the docket number, but they insisted they could not and there was a number they needed which was on the license. When I asked the clerk to look on her license and tell me where it was on hers she hung up on me.

The only next step I could do would have been to bring a special proceeding to vacate the charges to a judge of the court. While THAT would have gotten the court clerk’s attention, it also would have been costly for my client and time consuming. So before we did that I had one more avenue up my sleeve. I am friendly with a couple of lawyers who work for the NYS DMV in Albany. So I gave them a call to ask if they knew anything about a triple zero number on drivers licenses.

Unlocking the mystery

When I got my friend on the phone and explained to her the issue, she immediately said to me “there are no numbers like that on a driver’s license. Back in the day ticket numbers in the Bronx all started with 3 zeros. What they need are the ticket numbers.” So I rhetorically asked my friend that since these tickets were written while Ronald Reagan was president, and totally ignored since then, how the hell do they expect my client to know the ticket numbers? She said “don’t worry about it, I can look them up…” I was put on hold for 3 minutes, after which time she gave them to me.

The happy ending

Our office immediately mailed the form with the numbers into the Bronx Criminal Court, and less than a month later we received a certificate of disposition dismissing the charges and vacating the suspensions. All in all, it took us 2 months to resolve a problem for our client that had persisted for 33 years. He then immediately went down to his local DMV office and renewed his driving privileges. Moreover, the legal fees for this service were under $1,000.00.

If you find yourself with your New York license or driving privileges suspended, give us a call at 914-777-2990 or e-mail us. We can do for you what we did for this client and all of our clients in this situation.