A downward spiral for Adrian began in 2015. It started with a series of moves and job changes. Then he failed file his 2015 and 2016 taxes because he never received his W-2s. Monthly child support deductions from his paycheck were due to the state, but were never paid because Adrian could not keep a job. To make things worse, an unanswered ticket for texting while driving and speeding sat in a pile of mail on an old table.  Previous speeding tickets caused his car insurance rate to spike.  Overwhelmed, Adrian let his insurance lapse, reasoning he would take the subway to work in Manhattan, New York. But, one day while in a jam, Adrian drove his truck to work and was pulled over by an officer for passing a stopped school bus. Adrian was issued two more tickets – a school bus and a no insurance ticket (VTL §§ 1174-(a) and 319-1).

Many of Adrian’s woes can cause a suspension and/or revocation of a driver’s license.  Such as failure to pay child support, not paying taxes, acquiring 11 points to one’s driving record in an 18-month period, and operating a motor vehicle without insurance. These are examples of some ways that a person’s driver license can be suspended and/or revoked. But, the loss of driving privileges may not the only consequences.

For example, Adrian’s lapse in insurance will trigger a license and registration suspension. However, a one-year driver’s license revocation will result for a driver involved a traffic accident without insurance coverage. Also, license plates must be surrendered to the DMV. Upon eligibility to reapply for a driver license, a driver will first have to pay a $750 civil penalty. In fact, in almost all cases where a person is reapplying for his or her driver license after it has been revoked, a one-time $100 fee is charged.  Additionally, a suspension termination fee must be paid to have a driver license returned after it has been suspended.

Is there anything that can be done if a driver has been default convicted in a New York City Department of Motor Vehicles, Traffic Violations Bureau (NYC DMV TVB)? If so, what is the process? These are questions that many people have asked. The good news is that being default convicted is not the end of the story. There is a continuation that will provide a glimmer of hope for a driver who is in the unfortunate predicament of having been default convicted.

A default conviction occurs when a person is issued a traffic ticket, and fails to let the DMV TVB court know whether he or she is pleading guilty or not guilty. In this instance, the driver will be “default convicted” by the DMV court. Meaning that after a certain amount of time goes by and the DMV court does not receive a plea, the DMV TVB will enter a guilty plea for the traffic offender, “convicting” him or her of the charge. This is the same as entering a guilty plea by paying the fine, or being found guilty by the judge after trial.

The first step in trying to “undo” a default conviction is applying to have the case “re-opened.” This means submitting An Application to Reopen a Default Conviction to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Traffic Violations Division in Albany, New York. The application is a formal written request to have a default conviction reopened. The application itself is straightforward and asks for information such as driver’s license number and address. A written explanation of why the driver did not answer the ticket is also required. Additionally, supporting documentation must be submitted. The great thing is that there is not a time limitation on when an application can be submitted. For example, a driver can submit an application to reopen a NYC default conviction 3 years after he or she was convicted.  

What does it mean to be default convicted in New York City? What are the consequences of being default convicted? And why should you care?

Being default convicted in NYC can be a very big deal and cause serious headaches for a driver- even for an out of state motorist. But, before getting into the details, it is important to understand the structure or procedure of the courts in the five New York City boroughs: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

New York City Default Conviction

The courts in these boroughs are run by the Department of Motor Vehicles, Traffic Violations Bureau (NYC DMV TVB). Because the courts are run by an Administrative Agency and not the city, town or village, they abide by their own set of rules. The most noticeable difference between a DMV TVB and other courts is that there is no “plea bargaining” or negotiating tickets. This means that you cannot talk to the officer or prosecutor and ask for a parking ticket instead of what you were originally charged with. Rather, every ticket must go to trial. Yes, a real trial where direct testimony and cross-examination will take place. At the end of the trial, the judge will decide whether or not the driver is guilty of the original charge. If the judge decides that the driver is guilty, then points will be added to his or her driving abstract (driving history) and other negative consequences can accrue, like a DMV assessment fee. Click here for a more detailed discussion of the New York State Driver Responsibility Assessment.

Daniel and his mom had spent the morning school shopping in Yonkers, NY.  The stores were busy, and fitting rooms even more so.  When they finally made it home, Daniel asked if he could ride his bike to his friend’s house.  On the verge of a migraine, his mother said yes because she thought the peace and quiet would be nice and she could rest. Sadly, Daniel would never wear the school clothes he and his mom had spent the morning trying on and selecting.  Nor would Daniel show his friend his new backpack. A couple blocks away from home, a teenager who was texting and driving, struck and killed Daniel.

As a new school year begins and summer days linger on, young bicyclists will be sharing the road with motorists.  A review of the laws that govern bicyclists will help drivers keep aware of cyclist and help them stay safe. Bicyclist Rules of the Road

It is important to remember that bicyclists have the same right to share the road as motorists.  The right-of-way must be yielded to them, just as it would be any other car.  The same laws that apply motorists also apply to bicyclists.  When sharing the road with bicyclists, give them space. Also, reduce speed your speed possible because passing cyclist too closely creates air pressure that can push them off balance. 

DACA and Advanced Parole

Maria knew someday she would receive this phone call.  Like all bad news, you never think today will be the day.  But, today was Maria’s day. Her dad is terminally ill with cancer and today’s phone call revealed her father had taken a turn for the worst and time was of the essence.

Only once had she met her father face to face at Friendship Park. Their encounter was through steel bars and they connected by a light brush of their fingertips.  

After her divorce, Maria’s mom had moved to the U.S from Mexico.  Maria was just a baby and her older brother Gustavo was a toddler at the time.  Although Maria nearly lived her entire life in the U.S., she is an undocumented immigrant. A spark of hope ignited in Maria when President Obama instituted the DACA program.  Maria learned of a nonprofit immigration legal service provider through a referral program at her high school in Bronx, NY that helped her apply for DACA. Before long she had a social security number and got a job.

Antonio always left too late for work.  His job was exactly 12 minutes away on a good day. He knew this because he had timed the commute.  His shift started in 10 minutes and he frantically sped towards the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, NY. Two blocks from work he encountered stopped cars. He angrily muttered, “Why are they stopped?!” He made the split-second decision to pass them in the left turn lane. What he did not know or see, but soon realized, was that the cars had stopped for a stopped school bus.  Had the children been any closer to the middle of the street, he would have plowed through the group of them. Many years have passed since this incident, but a sick feeling always overwhelms Antonio when he recalls how he could have killed those children.

As another school year is scheduled to begin, it is important to refresh our memory of the traffic law regarding school buses.  These laws keep our children safe as they travel to and from school.  Keep in mind that most injuries and deaths occur when children are crossing the street after exiting the bus. Please slow down until you have passed them.  Violations of traffic laws regarding school buses carry a steep penalty.  A conviction for failing to stop for a school bus carries a 5-point penalty, maximum fine of $1,000 after a third offense in three years, and your driver license will be revoked for a minimum of 6 months after a third offense in three years.  Additionally, the Driver Responsibility Assessment fine is charged when convicted of 6 points or more within an 18-month period. 

What then are the traffic laws regarding stopped school buses, and what vehicles are considered school buses?  A school bus is painted yellow-orange, has red lights on top, and a “SCHOOL BUS” sign.  Included under the protection of school bus traffic laws are vehicles that transport disabled persons. On all roadways in New York State, when a stopped school bus flashes its red lights, traffic that approaches from either direction, even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway, must stop at least 20 feet away from the bus. This applies even in front of the school and in school parking lots. When the red lights stop flashing or when the bus driver or a traffic officer signals that you can begin driving again. 

A vacation was just what Liza Peeza needed after finishing her first semester at PACE University in Manhattan, New York.  Her ambition in life had always been to become a lawyer.  The reality of long days of school, studying, and temporary jobs had taken their toll.  Liza met her sister AJ and they were headed for home. A road trip with her sister would be nice, but the drive to California would be a killer — over 1,000 miles. As Liza roared through the open road, her hair blew in the wind and she smiled at the fact that home was just 50 miles away. Oh, home sweet home! Flashing lights and a blaring police siren jolted Liza from daydreaming of home. This could not be happening! Noooooooo! Liza was being pulled over for speeding – allegedly going 75 mph in a 55-mph zone.  How would this out of state ticket affect Liza’s NYS driving record?

Liza worried about the ticket on her spotless driving record.  Her worries were soon put to rest when she learned that virtually all out of state traffic convictions do not add violation points to your New York State driving record.  The exception to this is traffic offenses committed in Ontario and Quebec in Canada. 

She was even more delighted to learn that New York State will not suspend a person’s driver license if he or she fails to answer a California traffic violation (scoff). In fact, California is one of six states in which a NYS drivers license will not be suspended for failing answer a traffic violation.  The other states are Alaska, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Wisconsin.  In all other states, your New York State driving privileges will be suspended until you submit proof to the NYS DMV that you have resolved your outstanding ticket. 

Aggressive Driving or Road Rage

That morning had just been bad from the moment Liza Jane opened her eyes, awakened by the sound of her cell phone being hurled off the dresser by Toby, the cat. A slight headache from the stressful day she had yesterday still lingered. The silver lining of Toby waking her up was she forgot to set her alarm, and now had 45 minutes to get to her super important appointment in Mt Vernon, NY. Thankfully the roads were not slick this morning, but the other drivers were so slow!!! With teeth clenched, Liza Jane sped and weaved in and out of traffic. A mile from her destination, Liza Jane rear-ended grandma Emily. Witnesses later told police about her aggressive driving.

What does New York State define aggressive driving as? How does it differ from road rage?  Aggressive driving may include speeding, tailgating, frequently changing lanes while not using your signals, passing on the shoulder of the road, running stop signs, and/or red lights, passing a stopped school bus, and being a nuisance to others who are in a vehicle, on a bicycle, or on foot.

Road rage, however, is an escalation of aggressive driving. Road rage incites a driver to either attempt, or to actually cause damage, to another driver. A driver acting out of road rage also makes others fearful by his or her angry hostile behavior. The two can also be thought of this way: aggressive driving generally involves a traffic safety law violation; whereas, road rage usually involves criminal actions or attempts of violent behavior.

Family Based Immigration Petition

Imagine this: You get to see your mom every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 2pm and only your fingertips can touch through the steel fence. Is she imprisoned? No, actually friends tell you that you are one of the lucky ones to be able to see your mom at Friendship Park on the weekends. Friendship Park is a bi-national beach park, located on the US-Mexico border in San Diego-Tijuana. Families who are separated due to immigration issues are known to travel long distances to meet at Friendship Park to see loved ones.

Living in the United States as an undocumented immigrant is a risk that approximately 11 million people take daily. Why do people take this risk? While reasons vary, one contributing factor is that before President Trump took office, ICE agents generally would not deport an individual unless they had a criminal record, posing a threat to society. However, 2017 has seen an aggressive change to deportations resulting in many being deported who have no criminal record. 

What is the process an individual can take to change his or her status to avoid the situation families who meet at Friendship Park find themselves in? One possible solution is to apply for a Green Card.

In hindsight it was an impulsive and irrational decision, but short of going back in time, the next best thing is to learn from your choices. That is how Shelly felt anyway. She married Dan a week after set met him at Whole Foods in Briarcliff Manor, New York. At the time she was certain that she had found her soul mate.  Now, over a decade later, Shelly was truly in love and wanting to remarry.  Except, she and Dan had never legally divorced.  This was a problem because she was living her dream life in Croton-on-Hudson, New York and engaged to the love of her life.  The bigger problem is that Shelly had no idea where to find Dan. How could she divorce him?

This situation happens more than one may imagine.  New York State matrimonial law (more formally know as New York State Domestic Relations Law) requires a spouse to be notified personally when their mate files for divorce.   What is the process when the estranged spouse cannot be located?  This process is known as Divorce by Publication.  A judge must approve the use of this process. Before this approval is granted, the spouse seeking a divorce, must prove they have completed a thorough search for their spouse. This is done by filing several documents with the court, including an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, which outlines all the ways you have searched for your spouse. 

Divorce by Publication - How To Search For Your Spouse

By what methods can you search for your spouse?  There are a lot of different ways to do this. For examples include: