Traffic Court: From Trials to Conferences

Update on changes in how traffic tickets are handled in most NY courts.

Traffic courts in most of New York are changing how they handle cases. What happens when you send in a "not guilty" plea? It used to be that most courts would schedule a trial date. You, or your lawyer, would show up and either make a deal or do a trial.

This process appears to be changing. Under a new state law, traffic courts will now schedule a "pre-trial conference" first. A few courts were already doing this. The police officer who wrote the ticket does not have to come to the conference. The change is, at least in part, to reduce the expense of police overtime.

What does this mean? If you're hiring a lawyer to help with your case, it shouldn't mean much to you. Your lawyer will handle the case and it shouldn't change anything on your end.

If you're handling it on your own, it changes the gambit many play where they show up and hope the cop doesn't appear. That was never much of a strategy anyway since the officers rarely failed to show.

It also means you're more likely to have to make an extra trip to Court. In some cases you'll come to the pre-trial conference but you won't be able to resolve the case. Then you'll have to come back for trial.

Please note that the change does not apply to Traffic Violations Bureau cases, which cover New York City, parts of Suffolk County, and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester. They operate under a different system.