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Court Decides if Defendant Has Right to Speedy Trial after Traffic Infraction


The defense motion to dismiss the charge of Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol, a traffic infraction, pursuant to the speedy trial provisions of Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) is denied. While CPL does not apply to traffic infractions there is a constitutional right to a speedy trial which has not yet been violated.

A New York DWI Lawyer said it is undisputed that fifty-two days between the accused man’s arraignment and the complainant being ready for trial are chargeable to the complainant. The accused argues that the case should be dismissed as more than 30 days have passed since the accused man’s arraignment, the time allowed to be ready for trial on a violation.

Criminal Procedure Law establishes that when the accused is not in custody, the complainant must be ready for trial within 90 days if the highest crime charged is a class A or unclassified misdemeanor which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than three months or within 60 days if the highest crime charged is a class B misdemeanor which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of less than three months or within 30 days if the offense is a violation.

However, a Nassau County DWI Lawyer said the statute is noticeably silent on the issue of whether a person charged with a traffic infraction has statutory speedy trial rights. The Appellate Term Second Department has twice held that CPL is not applicable to traffic infractions.

Trial courts are divided on this issue. Most trial courts have held that CPL was inapplicable in matters concerning traffic infractions, as CPL only applies to felonies, misdemeanors and violations. However, a contrary view postured by the judge held that CPL applied to traffic infractions since Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) stated that traffic infractions shall be deemed misdemeanors and all provisions of law relating to misdemeanors except as herein otherwise expressly provided shall apply except that no jury trial shall be allowed for traffic infractions. Therefore, the court concluded, the prosecution had 60 days, the period for class B misdemeanors, in which to be ready for trial.

Nowhere does VTL state that traffic infractions are to be handled like class B misdemeanors. Similarly, the speedy trial statute only applies to unclassified misdemeanors if the accused faces a term of imprisonment greater than 3 months. No matter how tortured the reasoning, a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law is not a misdemeanor. VTL clearly states that a violation of DWAI shall be a traffic infraction and shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $300 or more than $500 and/or up to 15 days in jail.

A New York DWI Lawyer said the Penal Law makes it clear that a traffic infraction is not a violation it is instead a unique non criminal offense. A violation means an offense, other than a traffic infraction, for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of fifteen days cannot be imposed. Accordingly, a traffic infraction cannot conveniently be treated as a violation for procedural or speedy trial reasons as the Legislature has expressly excluded a traffic infraction from the definition of a violation.

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