Ignoring a traffic ticket in New York State won't make it go away. There is no statute of limitations for traffic tickets, and they don't expire. A person who doesn't respond to a traffic ticket may see their license suspended. However, New York State has recently passed a law that allows drivers who have not paid their parking tickets to do so on a payment plan instead of having their license suspended, as long as they respond to the ticket.
What Happens After Receiving a Traffic Citation in New York
Once a driver gets a traffic ticket, they must respond with a guilty or a not-guilty plea, which they may enter by mail. If they don't respond, a suspension of their license will occur. A person with a suspended license cannot drive – doing so is a criminal offense called Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO), of which there are three levels.
Second-degree and third-degree AUOs are misdemeanors, and first-degree AUO is a felony. Getting caught can lead to a permanent revocation of their license, vehicle impoundment, jail time and fines of up to $5,000.
New York has reciprocity with several other states and will notify the state where the driver holds a license, informing the motor vehicle department about any suspensions due to unresolved tickets. Their home state can then suspend their driver's license. Even if their home state does not do so, New York will suspend their driving privileges, which means they can no longer drive in the Empire State.
Ignoring Traffic Court or Failing to Respond
Under state law, a person who responded to a traffic ticket and pleaded not guilty, but who fails to show up on their assigned court date will also see a suspension of driving privileges. If they do this in New York City, the Traffic Violations Bureau will find them guilty by default, require them to pay a fine and place points on their driving record.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) usually sends out a notice to the driver before they suspend their license, but once the driver gets a ticket, it is their responsibility to respond, show up in court and pay the necessary fees.
Driver's License Suspension Reform Act
In June 2021, New York's Driver's License Suspension Reform Act went into effect. The DMV ended the suspension of driver's licenses for unpaid traffic infraction fines and fees in an attempt to stop penalizing people for poverty. If they cannot pay the fines, fees or surcharges to a traffic ticket or summons, the state will help them set up a payment plan of $25 per month, or 2 percent of their net monthly income, whichever is more. The DMV sends written notices to drivers with license suspensions for lack of payment to let them know they could enter into this payment plan.
Drivers in New York must still respond to a traffic ticket or summons and can have their licenses suspended for other reasons, including failing to respond to a traffic summons, receiving 11 points or more on their driver's license in an 18-month period, or driving while under the influence (DUI.)
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.