Can a speeding ticket at the TVB be reduced?

There is never an plea bargaining at the NYS Traffic Violations Bureau but it is possible to get a certain type of speeding ticket reduced.

I would say that at least once each day I'm asked whether we "can get rid of the points or lower the speed or otherwise reduce a ticket at the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) in NYC."  Each time I give the same response and explain that there are no reductions at the TVB, there is no plea bargaining, it's not like the local village, town and county courts where negotiation is part of the process. 


Actually, there are no real exceptions.  There never is any plea bargaining or negotiation.  However, there are certain types of speeding tickets where a slight reduction is possible.  In a typical speeding case, the officer will generally offer evidence of a visually estimated speed and a mechanically measured speed (radar, laser, speedometer).  The visual estimate essentially serves as the officer's probable cause to pace a car or fix his laser or radar on a car and ultimately issue a summons based on the mechanically measured speed.  In some cases, the visual estimate is lower than the speed cited on the ticket and it may be smart for an attorney to argue that the charge on the ticket should reflect the visual estimate, not the mechanically measured speed.

For example, consider a situation where an officer visually estimates a vehicle to be driving 50 mph in a 30 mph zone.  He then rases his laser gun and measures the vehicle speed at 52 mph and issues a ticket for 52 mph in a 30 mph zone.  The difference between 50/30 and 52/30?  It's two points (four instead of six) and $300 in state surcharges (surcharges kick in at six points).  Thus, the estimated speed may be quite preferable to the actual cited speed in some cases. 

Can a TVB attorney make this happen?  It depends on a few factors:

  • What was the estimated speed?  Does the estimate take the motorist to a lower speed category?
  • What was the speed charged?  Few judges will move to a lower category if it requires more than a 3mph drop.
  • What is the officer's tolerance?  What is the average difference between his estimated speeds and the actual speed?
  • Who is the judge?  Some are more open to this than others and some are willing to drop the speed farther than others.
  • Is it smart?  What consequences will the driver face even if convicted of the lower speed?  It might not make sense.

Note that these reductions are not plea bargains.  They are amendments of the original speeding charge to the lower category based on the officer's visual estimation.  No speeding ticket can ever be lowered more than one speeding category and certainly no speeding ticket will ever be lowered to a non-speeding violation.

Also note that our goal is always to get a case dismissed.  We are forced to hold a hearing on every single case as a result of the strict no plea bargaining policy.  As an attorney, if I'm at a hearing, my goal will always be to win--no points, no fine, complete dismissal.  That said, if I feel a case is heading towards conviction for one reason or the other, it may be smart to investigate whether the judge would consider dropping the speed down a category based on a visual estimate.  It's a rare opportunity for some flexibility in an otherwise very rigid system.

Scott Feifer