{FAQ} Albany Traffic Court

After three or four years in the clear, I got a speeding ticket last January that, in all honesty, I didn’t deserve (I guess driving karma exists). Thanks to a butthead officer and that little piece of paper, I was forced plead my innocence in the basement of City Hall on Tuesday at 9am. To pass the time, I decided to write an FAQ for Albany Traffic Court. Enjoy.

You get pulled over and the officer gives you a ticket. What do you do now?

Unless you get a ticket for “parking on pavement” (which, what the fuck were you doing?) you check the box that says “innocent” and send the ticket to the address listed. You could go to trial on the date they give you on the ticket but, I’ve never done that…I like to drag these things out.

What happens next?

You wait. And wait. And wait. Then, the week you forget that you ever got a ticket and hope that they did too, you get a letter in the mail telling you to show up at traffic court on X date at X time. Put it in every calendar you own. Take the time off of work. You don’t need to miss traffic court. It’s frowned upon.

What if I miss traffic court?

The court tells DMV that you didn’t appear and then DMV send you a letter threatening to suspend you license if you don’t contact the court by a certain date.  And it says if they suspend your license a warrant will be issued for your arrest or something scary like that. Anyway, why did you miss court? You had plenty of time to plan.

What do I do on the day I have traffic court?

Show the fuck up. Seriously. Besides that, show up early. Your letter may say you have court on May 3 at 9am but, that really means you should be there at 8:30am to sign in.  The earlier you get there, the earlier you leave.  Also, bring lots of quarters. You pretty much have to park on the street to get to Albany City Hall. The more quarters you have, the better. You’ll be stuck in the basement for a while and leaving to put quarters in the meter is a risky move. You don’t want to get a parking ticket while you’re in traffic court. I mean, who wants to pay $40 ($65 after 20 days) on top of the fine they just gave you in court. I speak from experience.

I’m in City Hall. Where the heck is traffic court?

The basement. Go down the stairs and turn to the left. You’ll most likely see a small crowd gathering in a dingy hallway.  Now walk to the end of the hallway and go through the door on your right into the courtroom. That’s where you sign in.

Now what?

Now you wait for someone to call your name for your “conference.” Don’t think you’ll get a say in what happens to your ticket. When they call you, be friendly, pleasant and fairly agreeable. Plead your case but, don’t push. The people you’re meeting with don’t care that you were signing along to Katy Perry and totally got lost in the magical lyricism of “Firework” (nor does anyone, really, if that’s your case).

I had my conference and they’re reducing my ticket because xyz!

Of course they are…that’s why you go to traffic court. Now be grateful, walk yourself back to the courtroom and take a seat. When the bailiff tells you not to talk, use your phone, eat or drink, he’s not kidding. He will remove your ass from court at the first sign you can’t follow directions.  That includes you, pregnant lady.

Just sit patiently and wait for the judge to enter and then for your name to be called. When that happens, walk up the the table, plead “guilty” to the reduced charge and see the clerk as directed. When asked for your plea, it is not “guilty, I guess” or “not guilty but, I guess guilty since I have to.” Say either of those and you’re going to have a problem.

What kind of resolution should I expect?

Expect nothing.  However, your ticket will most likely be reduced based on the severity of what you did and your driving record. You’ll also receive a fine and a surcharge on top of that fine. If it’s reduced to a 0 point offence, there’s no fine but you still get to pay that awesome surcharge.  You can opt to have 30 days to pay or you can pay that day. Unlike 3 or 4 years ago when I was there, they take credit cards.  Now walk out of the courtroom and sprint to your car before your time expires.

Finally, make sure you pay the fine and stop getting caught up in Katy Perry songs while driving.

Unnecessary or possibly necessary disclaimer: This is all based on my personal experience, lack of a book while waiting and ill-fated humor. Use my advise at your own risk.

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4 thoughts on “{FAQ} Albany Traffic Court

  1. Hi,
    I came across your blog for this specific post and i just have to say its awesome….I just got a speeding ticket (55 on a 30 on Central ave) a week ago. I mailed in my “not guilty” plea…and am now waiting for a court date….problem is I’m leaving the state for 2 weeks in august…do you think i’ll have a court date mailed to me by then or will it take longer? This is my second summons in over 7 years, the first one was for doing 28 on a 15 at suny albany campus and that sent me to guilderland traffic court (which was dismissed since the officer didn’t show up) so i honestly don’t remember how long it took for me to get a court date…anyway do you think there is a chance mine will be reduced or dismissed as well? Thanks!

    • I’m not really an expert in this so, take this as an opinion and not professional advice or anything. It’s completely unrealistic to try and predict how long it will take for them to send you a court date but, Murphy’s Law says it will arrive while you’re away. However, it is unlikely that the date will be within a week of you receiving the summons so, I wouldn’t worry too much. The best thing to do would be to call the court to see if they have scheduled you for a date and if not, ask when you should expect it after explaining your situation. If the date is while you are away, you can petition them for a new court date but, there is a time limit in which to do so.

      I would imagine that you will get the ticket reduced but, definitely not dismissed. Just make sure you show up on the date that you are supposed to.

      • They only send out notices once every three years. So 3 years after sending the first thing back to the court and assuming they saw that the ticket was a mistake – I got a summons to appear.

        I’m a truck driver, and I live in Oregon. I only got the notice because happened to be home that week – and “in between” jobs, so had no way to appear and no way to pay.

        By the time I finally get them to tell me how much to pay and send them my credit card info, etc. Then I think it’s over.

        Nope, 3 years later, almost to the day, I get another notice that my credit card didn’t go through and I still have to pay. I found your blog trying to look up a phone number and address to track down this ticket they STILL want to harass me about.

        Slow enough to set a world record I’m thinking!

    • I work at one of the busiest Vehicle & Traffic law firms in the area, so I thought I’d add some information for those coming here and asking questions like Libra here. (btw, thanks Cassie for the awesome blog post. Not only was it helpful, but it was also enjoyable to read and had me laughing. It’s like a little internet jewel).

      Anyway, a few things to remember:

      1) Check the address on your ticket. Many, many people get their license suspended because the court sent your Notice of Pretrial Conference to an address where you no longer receive mail. If the address on your ticket is old, contact DMV to update it! (You can get a separate ticket for that anyway).

      2) After you send in your Not Guilty plea, call the court clerk – (518) 453-4630 – to make sure they got it. Courts lose stuff too!

      3) Whatever you do, don’t plead Guilty. There are so many unforeseen problems that you may have to deal with if you plead guilty. A LOT of people will admit to themselves that they were speeding or whatever, and figure they’ll just plead guilty and pay the fine. Then they realize how high the fine is, how many points they just got, what points exactly mean, etc. and then they wish they could reverse their plea (you can, but it’s expensive and doesn’t always work).

      4) Just get a lawyer. There are tons in Albany that have very affordable fees. Just spend the $100, $150, $195, whatever it is, and let them worry about it. Especially in Albany, even high speeds are frequently reduced down to parking tickets. You might even get your charges dismissed without having to take time off work to wait in line and then say something stupid that will F up the whole case.

      5) Remain calm and drop the attitude. A speeding ticket is not the end of the world and you probably WERE breaking the law anyway. You think it’s ok to do 70mph down Washington Ave because you’re late for work or grandma died or have to take a dump, but you’re wrong. Unless you are an authorized emergency vehicle with flashing lights, IT IS ILLEGAL TO SPEED. That’s it. You may not like the laws, but they are the laws and traffic court is not the place to change the law. The same logic applies to any other charges you may be faced with. Be happy that the system works like it does and get a reduction with less/no points and lower fine. Your “I never do wrong” attitude will get you nowhere.

      Oh yeah, and don’t call and argue with the court clerks. They will remember you.

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