Coming soon to Buffalo: talking down traffic tickets

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – State lawmakers approved a measure this week that could cut some slack for drivers who get traffic tickets in the City of Buffalo.

It’s the kind of break drivers in the suburbs are already afforded: the ability to plea bargain.

The changes in New York Vehicle and Traffic Law would allow drivers who get tickets for moving violations in Buffalo to accept a citation for a less serious offense, like a parking ticket or seat belt violation.

As the law stands now, drivers who get tickets in the city are not allowed to plea bargain traffic violations.

“You don’t get the chance to go to traffic school, if it is your first time. None of that makes a difference. It’s whatever is on the ticket, and that is what people have to do, and that is only in the City of Buffalo, and not the suburban municipalities,” said Common Councilman Demone Smith.

The Masten District councilman led the city’s effort to support changes in the law by passing a resolution, last week. Smith says a traffic ticket conviction puts points on your drivers license, and that can raise your insurance premiums.

“Buffalonians already pay the highest amount of insurance in the area, and so it is a ‘win-win’ for not only the residents, but also the city, because the city also has the opportunity now to keep home some of the dollars from the traffic infractions.”

When a driver is stopped for a traffic violation in the city of Buffalo, the case goes to the Traffic Violation Bureau, located on the third floor of the Ellicott Square Building, downtown. It is run by the State Department of Motor Vehicles, and most of the penalties and fines go to the state. Very little comes back to the City of Buffalo.

Officials have not decided what branch of city government would implement the ticket takeover. The violations could go to Administrative Adjudication Bureau at City Hall, or they could be heard at Buffalo City Court. Another option could involve sending city prosecutors to adjudicate the tickets at Ellicott Square, during the transition.

In any case, the city’s takeover could boost revenues by about $3 million a year, and Smith likes that.

“This is huge for the city. This is a big win for the city and its residents.”

The measure passed both the State Senate and Assembly, Thursday night, but does not become law until Governor Andrew Cuomo signs it.

According to official sources, negotiators at the highest levels of state government are working on plans for turning the traffic violations over to the city.

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