Buffalo’s own “traffic court” opening for business

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – After years of disappointment in Albany, Buffalo officials finally got state lawmakers, and Gov. Cuomo, to approve a “traffic court” for city drivers–something the surrounding suburbs have had for years

Buffalo’s new Traffic Violations Agency is set to open Wednesday morning at City Hall, giving the city the same authority for processing tickets and collecting fines as suburban courts. Buffalo Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer is the Acting Executive Director for the new agency.

“We are now giving the residents of Buffalo, and people who drive through Buffalo, the same option that a lot of towns and villages had that we never had before.”

Until now, drivers cited for moving violations in Buffalo would answer to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles Traffic Violations Bureau at the Ellicott Square Building, while suburban drivers would go to the town or village traffic court where the ticket was issued.

As of Wednesday , if you get a traffic ticket in Buffalo, you go to City Hall, not the DMV, and the new procedure could have a profound effect on drivers’ licenses, their auto insurance rates, and the city budget.

Suburban drivers’ tickets could be plea-bargained down to lesser offenses, but the DMV does not have that authority. Drivers with Buffalo tickets could either plead guilty to the violation, and take the points; or plead not guilty, go to trial, and take their chances.

Helfer explained, with the new Traffic Violations Agency, drivers now have options that were not available before.

“They can also come in and have a consultation with our prosecutor and maybe plead that down to a traffic violation, or some sort of a ticket that doesn’t put points on their license.”

An added benefit for the city’s treasury: When the DMV adjudicated traffic violations, part of the fines and costs would go to the state. Fines from tickets handled at City Hall go to the city, just as they do in the suburbs, which could bring in as much as $2 million a year.

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