Drivers Could Plea Bargain Traffic Tickets in Buffalo

11:50 PM, May 23, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - An effort to save drivers money on their traffic tickets, while boosting Buffalo city revenue is underway in Albany.

Ever had a traffic ticket that you wanted to get out of or knock down the fine?

Drivers in Buffalo don't have the right to plea bargain these tickets. But, under a bill being debated in Albany, drivers would be able to do this if they're stopped in the city. Under the proposal, every violation from running a stop sign or illegally changing lanes, running a stop light, U-turn violations and speeding tickets, drivers would be able to fight to get lower penalties on by pleading guilty to the infraction. Then, they could bargain the cost of the violations to lower dollar amounts if they're stopped on Buffalo streets.

"Those are the same opportunities that other municipalities smaller than Buffalo, why shouldn't we have that same opportunity," said David Rivera, council member for Buffalo Common Council.

The Traffic Adjudication Bureau in the Ellicott Square Building handles these types of violations.

Currently, drivers can either plea guilty or not guilty to the ticket. They can also get a hearing if requested where a judge makes a final decision.

"What you're in a sense doing is relieving that burden of having to run a mini hearing on every single case that takes place," said State Senator Mark Grisanti, (R - 60th District).

Under the proposed law, drivers would be able to argue if the fine should be knocked down. Drivers that commit serious violations could go to driving school to make sure points are kept off their record and their insurance rates don't rise.

City officials like the bill because Buffalo would keep the fine money, as opposed to sending it to the state, which is currently being done. The state would hold onto surcharge fees.

"It would bring revenue to the City of Buffalo at a time when the City of Buffalo needs to raise revenue," said Rivera.

Grisanti says that Buffalo is losing out on dollars anywhere between $500,000 to $1 million per year.

"Other towns and villages, they rely on that revenue for various things that the town needs," he said.

The big question is whether Gov. Cuomo would sign the law if it's passed, or if a middle ground could be reached? Whatever would be passed though, it would mean the state would lose out on millions of dollars.

As for the politics behind it all.

The bill is in both chambers in the Legislature, but they're in different versions. Lawmakers have a month before they go on break. So over the next month, Grisanti says lawmakers will try to get one version voted on.

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