By Madina Toure
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into a law a bill introduced by state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) that eliminates fines and forfeitures for drivers whose tickets have been dismissed.
The law, which Cuomo put his pen to Dec. 22, prohibits municipalities in New York state from assessing and collecting these additional fees associated with dismissed traffic and vehicle violations. The law will go into effect in 120 days.
In the past, when a traffic or vehicle ticket was issued to an individual for a violation, there were typically accompanying administrative fees, fines, penalties or forfeitures. But when a violation was dismissed, the additional fees remained.
DenDekker said he came up with the bill and reached out to Avella to have him sponsor the bill in the Senate.
The assemblyman said a few of his constituents contacted him, saying they had received violations in Nassau County, and when they went to court to fight the tickets, they were told by the judge that while the ticket was dismissed, they would still be assessed a $30 administrative fee. He felt he could not resolve the issue, as it occurred in Nassau County.
But after hearing a CBS News special report on the fees in Nassau County, he realized how widespread the issue is and the number of people affected, in addition to those in his district. He discovered the loophole, which he said some municipalities were apparently using to raise revenue.
“In my opinion, though, it is unfair to the justice system,” he said. “The idea of justice in our country is that you should be able to—when you’re accused of something—go to court and if you win in court, you are vindicated and there should be no fine or penalty assessed to that.”
Avella said he was happy to introduce the bill, noting that local municipalities probably make a “sizable amount of money” from the fees.
“Just the processing of this type of fee has a certain amount of cost associated with it, so to make it profitable for a municipality to do it, it’d have to be a significant amount,” he said.
Alec Slatky, legislative analyst for government affairs for Triple AAA Northeast, said the purpose of the law is to ensure that innocence does not “come at a price.”
“We know times are tough and localities, they need to find ways to raise revenue, but it should not be on the backs of motorists and drivers who did nothing wrong,” Slatky said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour