New York state DMV tests virtual hearings for traffic tickets

MANHATTAN — Red lights, stop signs, cellphones.

Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians can be stopped in their tracks on the road or when a police officer writes a moving violation. 

Non-criminal traffic tickets in New York City are processed by the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) which is affiliated with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. 

During the pandemic, many events moved on-line including hearings and trials. As other courts have reopened recently, DMV is reviewing and continuing virtual hearings for TVB.

Some may find the process more convenient. But others are raising concerns. People who want their day in court about a traffic ticket are discovering a new process. 

Attorney Steve Stites describes technical difficulties logging on and other concerns. 

“It would be one thing if you could opt in. But you’re not in the same room. You can’t see the officer and notes are on a computer screen,” he said. 

Javid Tariq is a driver and co-founder of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. 

“I think every driver has a right to speak face to face and explain,” he said.

They’re concerned about technical problems and the impact on driving records. 

Lisa Koumjian is DMV Assistant Commissioner.

“In the midst of the pandemic, the DMV is taking an efficient, common sense approach to conducting traffic hearings that is both safe and convenient for law enforcement and the respondents, some of whom do not even live in New York State,” she said. “We are developing our virtual hearing process, which is not yet deployed in every Traffic Violations Bureau, in a way that is fair and lawful.” 

Some state lawmakers don’t want to see it replace in person trials. New York State Assembly Member Michelle Solages who represents Elmont and Valley Stream has written a letter with some fellow lawmakers. 

“We are ready to move legislatively to fix this. We understand there are Covid concerns, but this is not a permanent fix or solution. It’s creating a bigger problems,” she said.

The virtual process is in place around the boroughs. It is being evaluated.