The Myth: Police officers don’t come to court.
The Reality: In New York City, the police show up in court almost every time.
Police have better things to do than show up to testify for my little, meaningless traffic ticket. Don’t they?
In New York, if the police officer wrote you a ticket, he or she has every intention of appearing in court.
The City has entire police commands dedicated entirely to traffic enforcement. The Citywide Traffic Task Force (CTTF) spans all five boroughs with hundreds of police officers whose job is to write traffic tickets. Every NYPD precinct has officers who specialize in traffic violations. And it doesn’t make any sense for these officers to write the ticket and not show up in court.
When clients ask me if the cop will appear in court, I ask them, “Do you show up for your job?” They say yes, and I say, “This is the officer’s job.”
Officers who write many tickets have traffic court appearances etched into their regular schedules. Some officers will appear in court every Monday morning at 8:30. Others will appear every Tuesday at 10:30. And some others write so many tickets that they may come to traffic court two or three days each week. These court days are a routine part of their schedules. In many precincts, officers stand to lose vacation time and other benefits if they miss court dates. I personally know police officers who have not missed a single court date in ten years.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. Some police officers do not appear. Things happen. An emergency, illness, or personal matter may interfere. And officers do eventually retire or leave the force.
In general, expect your officer to appear in court, ready to testify. If you are handling your case on your own, you will be expected to present your version of events in court after the officer does the same. You might win, but it probably won’t be for a reason as easy as the cop not appearing.
If you have an attorney, you have better odds of winning due to a police non-appearance. Attorneys know when officers are not in court. We know the officers by name, and we recognize their faces. We also will usually know if an officer is about to retire in the near future. And we know more detailed factoids. For example, we will be aware if the officer did not show up the day before, which may mean he is less likely to show up today; or if the officer recently had a court schedule change, which may reduce the probability of him appearing at the next court date.
I also have the ability and knowledge to reschedule cases multiple times, which increases the chance of an officer no-show. And I charge flat fees, so you don’t pay more money for more court dates.
Nothing in New York comes easy. If you do fight your ticket, expect the officer to be there and ready for you. Hire an attorney to save yourself from having to attend court and to give yourself a better chance at a good outcome.