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Story - News

Aug 29, 2012 9:12 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Knowing How To Play The Speeding Ticket Game

Sep 4, 2012 12:11 PM

The young man was clocked going 45 mph in a 25-mph zone, and he did not seem ready to contest the charge. The assistant district attorney standing at the rail dividing the courtroom at Southampton Town Justice Court was holding the case file, which included a supporting deposition from the officer who issued the speeding ticket. The defendant, in his mid-20s, wearing droopy jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt that showed off intricate tattoos on his biceps and forearms, did not seem inclined to plead his innocence to the attorney sizing him up.

As it turns out, he didn’t have to.

The ADA asked if he’d had any speeding tickets in the last few years, and if he had any points on his license. The young man’s denial seemed to be honest.

“Okay, I’ll cut you a break,” the ADA told the young man, whose shoulders slumped in relief. “I can reduce this to an infraction, which means no points.”

A few minutes later, Southampton Town Justice Andrea Schiavoni called the young man up to the other side of the rail. He stood at attention as the judge asked if he would like to plead guilty to a parking violation and pay a $70 fine, plus a $50 surcharge, to the state. He nodded, said “yes” softly, and noted that he’d pay the fines immediately.

For members of the general public, at least those who don’t have criminal tendencies, getting a speeding ticket is their most likely brush with the law. The seemingly ever-growing number of fines and surcharges listed on the back of the ticket envelope can be stress-inducing. Then there’s the realization that the points on their license can send their insurance premiums upward for years to come, probably inflating the ultimate cost of the ticket by hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

And, of course, there is the hassle of going to court, which seems to fluster anyone who does not spend a lot of time there. Do you spend a few hundred dollars on a lawyer? Will it save you any money?

It turns out, at least for those who show up for their scheduled court appearance rather than mailing in a payment, that the price of a speeding ticket is not always as high as it would appear to be.

Based on observations made throughout a busy summer of traffic court, tackling a speeding ticket in the East End’s justice courts is largely a matter of horse-trading, negotiating with attorneys and, to a certain extent, luck. The court, the judge, the size of the caseload carried by an ADA, and whether or not drivers hire an attorney to represent them can all dictate how much of a hill must be climbed to get the fines, and other potential punishments, reduced.

A Tale Of Two Courts

Once upon a time, the best-known secret to beating traffic tickets was requesting a supporting deposition from the officer who issued the ticket; if the officer failed to follow up and mail the document, it meant an automatic dismissal of the ticket. That window has largely closed—officers are on to that game.

And so the example set by the young man and at least five other speeders who were lined up behind him, sans lawyers, now seems to be the ideal scenario for a lead-footed motorist. But two days after the young man in Southampton Town Justice Court walked out of the courtroom $125 lighter in the wallet but free from future burdens, a very different scene unfolded in a similar courtroom to the east.

That morning in East Hampton Town Justice Court, a well-dressed, middle-aged man approached the female ADA on the other side of the rail. A placard on the bench indicated that Justice Catherine Cahill was presiding that day. The ADA looked at the file containing the man’s ticket and supporting deposition from the officer and looked up at the man with a grim face.

“The best I can do is reduce this to a three-point speed,” she said to the man, who stood stiffly, staring down at the file in her hand, as though there were a note in it that told her not to let him slide. “This judge will not allow us to reduce these more than that.”

The man played his only card, not sure if there was a protocol to what he understood was the proper way to proceed: “I’d like to request that it be reduced to no points altogether,” he said.

The ADA smiled slightly and lowered her head before looking up again with a sympathetic face.

“She won’t agree to that—I can tell you that right now,” she responded. “Three points is the best I can do. You can take a defensive driving class and they will take some off for that. Or you can ask for a trial.”

The man hesitated, then nodded his head and sat down to await his turn before Judge Cahill, contemplating if he would just take his medicine or try to fight on.

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I used to get a lot of speeding tickets when I was younger - all of them in the town of southampton. I showed up for court every time rather than send them a check in the mail. I used that supporting deposition to get out of several tickets without paying a dime, but this article is right that it doesn't really work anymore. Westhampton cop cars print the full supporting dep out in their patrol car right at the traffic stop and hand it to you with your ticket, so there goes that. Still it doesn't ...more
By Brian Bailey (36), Southampton on Aug 31, 12 7:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
...Or, wear your seatbelt, use your turn signal and obey the posted speed limits....
By EQMama (29), East Quogue on Aug 31, 12 10:19 AM
I got a ticket in the dead zone once - Quogue for allegedly speeding on Dune Rd when I drove past a cop who was stopped on the side of the road talking to someone; I thought he stopped me for crossing the double line as I went around them because I could see him a half mile away. I requested the deposition and that was a free ride, if you can call spending two or three hours in court a free ride. The man could not write a sentence in the English language! He identified me as driving a "radio ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Aug 31, 12 11:29 PM
radio car = police car (pd)
By theprogram (37), east quogue on Sep 2, 12 12:20 AM
Many years ago, when I was very, very, VERY young, I was stopped in RIverhead for making a left hand turn on a red light. It was actually yellow and I was determined to fight it. I did some research and found that, at that time, case law required that the cop citing you had to be able to see the light that YOU saw. He couldn't park in such a was as to see the light for cross-traffic and deduce that if it was green for him, then it was red for you. Since that was precisely what he had done, ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Sep 2, 12 1:20 AM
2 members liked this comment
Ah - so we FINALLY learn the tale behind HHS's hatred toward police. Nice to know it is something you've held onto since you were a very very VERY young man.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 4, 12 2:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ouch.. names and everything. Eep... be glad Dobbins isn't on the force anymore.
By Allergic2Stupidity (77), Riverhead on Sep 10, 12 4:47 PM
"Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give A Damn"
By BlackDog (47), Boca Raton on Sep 2, 12 4:11 PM
You hit the nail on the head Black Dog ... so THIS is HHS really deep psychological problem with police and anyone else with "authority" (or more factual knowledge?) because obviously s/he has one ... Very, very funny! Had HHS not been so involved in his own traumatic, pathetic little world he might have pointed out to Brian Bailey that ADA's are NOT "Court appointed", but County paid officials who work for an elected official. As a matter of fact, while a prosecutor may make an offer on a case, ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Sep 2, 12 4:30 PM
What makes you so boldly sure that was directed at HHS?

Possibly it's you that has an issue, yes?

Seems to me the point of his post had nothing to do with authority and everything to do with the character/conduct of a person in a court of law. I saw nothing but a warning.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 2, 12 4:54 PM
to Board Watcher:

By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Sep 2, 12 6:25 PM
2 members liked this comment
The bulk of the cidiots have gone.Soon the bloated police forces will have no one to prey on but the locals.Prey they will.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Sep 4, 12 1:59 PM
2 members liked this comment
LOL @ TianaBob, prey on the locals..... just listen to EQMama, wear your seatbelt, use your turn signal and obey the posted speed limits.... = no tickets.........

Funny how you all get mad at the cops for giving tickets yet its ur own actions that get you busted and its the cops fault.....

By tookatz (83), westhampton beach on Sep 12, 12 5:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By ShawnChristman, Montauk, New York on Feb 10, 15 9:57 AM