Out Of State Drivers With Suspensions in New York

This is a blog posting about drivers that are not licensed in New York but have suspensions in New York. There are some urban legends and misconceptions out there that this post will hopefully clear up. 

One thing that has to made clear from the outset: You cannot just ignore tickets in other states. In the vast majority of situations, if you get a ticket out of state and you ignore the ticket then your home state will be notified and your home state will suspend your license. Whether this ticket will appear on your record in your home state and whether it will affect your insurance is a different story, but you generally cannot ignore an out-of-state ticket.

Another important issue that has to be made clear. A state can suspend you from driving in their state even if your license is from another state. For example, if a New Jersey resident with a New Jersey license gets 11 points in 18 months in New York, then New York can suspend their New York driving privileges. New York cannot suspend a New Jersey license but they can suspend New York privileges. This means this New Jersey driver can drive anywhere in the United States but not in New York State. If you drive in New York with suspended privileges in New York you are subject to arrest and criminal prosecution.

As mentioned above, if you ignore a ticket in another state then your home state will generally suspend your license until you clear up your out-of-state ticket. However other than for ignoring tickets in other states, your home state will generally not suspend you for tickets in another state. For example, in the case above, New Jersey will not suspend where a New Jersey driver gets 11 points in 18 months in New York while New York suspends the driver’s New York privileges (unless the NY points cause too many points in NJ as well).

Here is the tricky part: It happens very often that an out of state driver does not know that their NY privileges are suspended and drives in New York as if everything is fine and dandy. They get pulled over, police officer runs their record, and they are arrested for driving with suspended privileges.

This is the classic example of how this happens: Let us call our person Aaron. Mr. Aaron grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and received his first driver’s license in New York when he was 17. At 24 he marries and moves to New Jersey. Aaron eventually switches his license from New York to New Jersey. All this while he continues driving in New York. When Aaron is around 30 years old he get a couple of tickets in New York. In New York if you get 6 points or more in 18 months you have to pay a Driver Assessment Fee. This is a separate fee that gets billed in the mail from the DMV and is not part of the fine you have to pay online if you plead guilty or part of the fine that the judge imposes if you are found guilty.

The Driver Assessment Fee Processing Center is a separate entity within the DMV and they are very backwards. When they send Aaron his bill for the Driver Assessment Fee they will not send it to his New Jersey address but will send it to his old New York address. This is because New York creates a “phantom” driver license number for anyone with a ticket in New York. If you previously had a New York license then New York will utilize your old New York driver license number. Therefore the Driver Assessment Fee Processing Center will send the bill to the address associated with the New York driver license number, which is the old New York address. It does not matter if the court was sending court dates to the new and proper New Jersey address. The Driver Assessment Fee Processing Center is sort of a separate entity and will send the bill to the old New York Address. Aaron hasn’t lived at his New York address in 15 years. His parents also moved out. The person living there now has no idea what this bill is and throws it in the garbage.  Aaron does not pay the Driver Assessment Fee and gets suspended. Aaron did nothing wrong here and he changed his address properly.  Unfortunately people like Aaron are arrested on an almost daily basis in New York State for driving with suspended privileges.

Here is another twist:  Out-of-state drivers with suspensions in New York often get pulled over multiple times without the police officer even realizing that they were in fact suspended in New York. The reason for this is as follows: someone has a New York license and gets pulled over the first thing the officer does is run their New York driver license number to see if they are suspended. Someone with a New Jersey license gets pulled over and the first thing the police officer does is run their NJ license to see if they are suspended. Our Aaron has his driving privileges suspended in New York, but his New Jersey license is perfectly clean because New Jersey does not suspend for failing to pay a New York driver assessment fee.  So if the police officer just runs Aaron’s New Jersey license then Aaron will not run into any trouble. If a police officer wants to find out if Aaron has his privileges suspended in New York he can’t run his New Jersey license, but has to check Aaron in the New York database using Aaron’s name and date of birth. Once the police officer does that, Aaron will come up as suspended in New York. Most police officers do not bother doing as much either because they are lazy or they do not realize it makes a difference. This is why Aaron can get pulled over a bunch of times in New York while being suspended in New York and avoid getting arrested, but years later he can get arrested because this police officer was super diligent and ran Aaron’s name and date of birth through the NY database.  When the police officer tells Aaron about the suspension, Aaron is incredulous. “How is that possible, I paid the fines in full and never got anything in the mail” Also, “I got pulled over a bunch of times and no one told me anything!”  All this is true, but Aaron’s excuses will fall on deaf ears and Aaron will likely get arrested.

There are a few other scenarios that out of state drivers can get into trouble in New York, but the scenario described above is probably the most typical.  The moral of the story is that if you have an out of state license and received traffic tickets in New York State you may want to ensure that your New York privileges are okay.  While it is pretty simple to get your own driving record from the state in which you are licensed it is not that simple to get your New York record if you are not licensed in New York. The Benjamin Goldman Law Office can help. For a nominal fee we can run your New York record to ensure that you are in good standing in New York.

Written By: Benjamin Goldman, An Award Winning Traffic Lawyer in Albany, NY. The Benjamin Goldman Law Office 243 S Allen St Suite 104, Albany, NY 12208 (518) 660-1950

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