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The New York DMV Points System: Yes, We Went There

What is the meaning of life?

Is there life after death?

How does the New York DMV points system work?

At this stage in my career, I’d much prefer if clients asked me the first two questions, just for sake of variety. But of course, I am often gifted question number three, and while I know the answer, it’s hard to explain. But what’s truly frustrating is, many clients simply do not want to hear the correct answer — they have become so married to a myth that they will not accept reality.

As you no doubt know if you are on this web page, being convicted of most traffic violations in New York will mean points on your driver’s license. As you likely already know, there is an eighteen-month window in which those points have an effect.

Eighteen Months: What Does It All Mean?

In twice the gestation period of a human being, points arrive on your license like an unwelcome visitor, trodding all over your home in their mud-caked boots, and then depart, whisking away with the same fury with which they arrived.

YOU

Welcome to my license! Would you like some lemonade? I know you will be here for 18 months.

POINTS

Got anything to eat? Nice, leftovers!

YOU

Um, well, I was going to heat those up for dinner tonight. But sure, help yourself.

POINTS, burping loudly

Got any milk? Nothing washes down leftovers like some cold milk, you know what I mean?

POINTS grabs the milk, removes the cap and drinks straight from the carton.

YOU

Yes, points on your license are quite the unwelcome guest, and they stay there for eighteen months. But you already knew that. So what does it mean?

Many of my clients believe that, if they reschedule their tickets for over eighteen months, they will not accrue points from those tickets even if they are found guilty.

I’m not sure how this came to be so widely believed. But it is wrong, and it does not make sense.

Let’s put this to the extreme, to make it very clear how silly this concept really is. Please consider the following scenarios.

SCENARIO 1: The case of New York’s worst driver.

Imagine that in the year 2017, you got a different moving violation every single day. On January 1, a two-point ticket for improperly turn. On January 2, a four-point speed. January 3, a three-point red light. And so on and so on, until December 31. Impressive!

You plead not guilty to each of your 365 tickets and reschedule them all a few times. In the year 2020, you go to trial for all 365 tickets (that’s practically a full-time job!) and are found guilty 365 times.

Do you really think that, after all of this, you have a clean license?

Ahem, no. That would be ludicrous. By the third conviction, you might lose your license. After a few more, you would be revoked. You will owe an unfathomable amount in fines, surcharges, fees, driver assessments, and insurance premiums.

SCENARIO 2: Let’s make this more realistic.

In January of 2017, you get a five-point cell phone ticket.

If you plead guilty the same day, you will get five points on your license.

If you are convicted at trial twelve months later, you will get five points on your license.


If you are convicted at trial twenty-four months later, you will get five points on your license.

If you are convicted at trial thirty-six months later, you will get…okay, I assume you get the idea by now.

This means that if you get an eleven-point speeding ticket, and are convicted at trial three years later, the judge can (and many will) suspend your license, even though the summons is old. Why? Because you have eleven points on your license.

If you get a six-point speeding ticket and are convicted at trial three years later, the State will charge you a driver’s responsibility assessment fee, even though the summons is old. Why? Because you have six points on your license.

Conviction Date Versus Issue Date

You see, the conviction date is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the date the ticket was issued.

(Side note: this only addresses how the DMV views points. If you drive a taxi, you also need to concern yourself with the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which uses a different methodology that I won’t delve into here.)

On that date, the eighteen-month period begins. If you get another ticket within that eighteen-month period, those tickets are viewed as one and the same if you plead guilty or are found guilty in court. This means that upon the second conviction, the judge will see both tickets.

Example: You get a six-point speeding ticket in January 2017. You plead guilty to that ticket the next day. You get a second six-point speeding in January 2018 (twelve months later) and plead not guilty. You are found guilty at trial two years later, in January of 2020. The judge, after this conviction, will see both convictions — in other words, you’ll have twelve points on your license. You will owe the equivalent driver’s assessment, and the judge can suspend your license.

Example 2: You get three cell phone tickets at various points in the year 2018. In 2021, you are convicted of each at trial. The tickets are all three years old by this point, but upon the third conviction, the judge will see the other two, and you can expect a suspension. If you throw a fourth cell phone ticket in there, you might very well get suspended once for the second conviction, again for the third, and yet again for the fourth.

Example 3: You get a six-point speeding ticket in January 2017, and another one in January 2019. Even if you are convicted of both, they did not fall in the same eighteen-month period and will not be counted together, either by a judge or by the DMV. But you will still get points on your record for the tickets, regardless of when the convictions occur.

So what does this all this mean?

For all of the confusion about points, and eighteen months, it’s quite simple.

Don’t assume that delaying your trial will have an effect on the points — it won’t.

The best way to keep your license clean is to not get tickets, and to win the ones you get. If you’re unlucky enough to get a ticket, hire our law firm, and you will have the best possible chance to win and keep your license clean.