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NY Phone-in Testimonies & Fifth Amendment Violations

police on phone

How Phone-In Testimonies Can Impact Your Case

Traffic courts in New York reopened in July, but things are a little different. Not only are safety measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but courts have adopted a questionable method to “safely” to operate hearings: Phone-in testimonies.

While New York motorists are allowed to send a written testimony by mail instead of appearing in court, NYPD officers can deliver their testimonies over the phone. As a result, motorists’ Fifth Amendment rights can be infringed, potentially increasing the number of guilty verdicts throughout the state.

What Is the Fifth Amendment?

The Fifth Amendment establishes a series of rights for civil and criminal court proceedings. An element of this amendment states that “ No person shall be … compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law …”

New York traffic court proceedings during COVID-19 could violate motorists’ Fifth Amendment rights to due process if their prosecuting police officer is allowed to testify over the phone, but they are not. Motorists can choose to appear in court or submit a written testimony but aren’t permitted to phone-in as NYPD officers can.

This isn’t fair.

New York’s temporary traffic court system poses several threats, such as:

  • The new written testimony system is difficult for drivers to navigate, and one mistake could result in a guilty verdict. Also called a Statement in Place of Personal Appearance, a written testimony must be received at least two weeks before a motorist’s hearing date. At the hearing, a judge will hear the police officer's testimony (in-person or over the phone) and then read the defendant’s written statement into the record. After reviewing their statement and evidence, a judge will decide whether they’re guilty or not guilty.
  • Officers may make mistakes, such as summoning the wrong driver to court, that cannot be disproved. For example, officers incorrectly transcribe license numbers all the time, so if the wrong motorist appears in court, there is no way of correcting this mistake if the arresting officer isn’t present.
  • Judges can’t obtain the valuable information needed to make a fair judgment. They can’t read an officer’s notes, facial expressions, reactions and body language with phone-in testimonies.
  • Low-income New Yorkers are disproportionately impacted by summons, according to a recent study from New York Law School’s Racial Justice Project. People who can’t afford to pay their tickets have a harder time maintaining their driving privileges, and phone-in testimonies are not helping the problem.
  • Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) drivers may lose more income. TLC drivers’ livelihoods depend on having a license. COVID-19 has already taken away a significant source of their income, and a suspended license may eliminate their financial stability altogether.

If you got a traffic ticket in New York, protect your rights and retain our proven traffic ticket lawyer as soon as possible. As a former traffic court judge, founding attorney Martin A. Kron knows what it takes to protect your rights and defend your case. He is accommodating to the fluid COVID-19 situation and will leverage his experience and competence to fight your ticket effectively.

Don’t wait to contact (212) 235-1525 right away, as the outcome of your New York traffic ticket could depend on it. We look forward to defending you.