upstate New York traffic sign

The Myth: 3 Text Violations, Lose License

The Myth: If you get 3 texting tickets, your license will be suspended.

The Reality: Maybe, maybe not. Having a lawyer sure helps, though.

If you’re ever driven in upstate New York, you’ve probably seen the following sign:

State Law

3 Text Violations

Lose License

To borrow from our British former colonizer, this is bollocks. It’s not true.

Now, don’t get me wrong: 3 text violations is a bad thing, something you, as a driver, would do well to avoid.

Texting is prohibited by VTL 1225(d), which also outlaws other electronic device usage (emailing, surfing the web, playing Angry Birds, etc.) while operating a motor vehicle in motion. For that reason, we usually call them “electronic device” tickets, as opposed to just “text violations,” like on the sign.

A texting violation results in five points on your New York record, so that means 3 text violations is 15 points.

But, if you’ll indulge me in some lawyer-talk for a minute, this sign is not precise.

For one, if you get 3 electronic device violations in your entire lifetime, your record isn’t that bad. Let’s say you get convicted of an electronic device ticket issued in 2015, then another in 2017, and another in 2019. Those tickets are in different eighteen-month periods. You’re very unlikely to be suspended for this.

(Side note: “unlikely” does not mean “impossible.” If you see a bad judge, especially when unrepresented, you might get suspended under this fact pattern.)

Now, let’s change the facts a bit to make it worse for the driver. Let’s say you get 3 tickets in the same eighteen-month period, and you’re eventually found guilty of all three. Not good. Now, you’ve got fifteen points on your license.

Certain suspension, right?

No, not necessarily.

Although you’re officially at a major risk of being suspended with 15 points, there is no state law that requires this. It’s up to the judge.

Judges have discretion — some of them may not suspend you for 15 points, while some may suspend you for less than half that many.

Some judges will give you four points of credit for a defensive driving course, so if you have a number of pending tickets, make sure to have a course on your record.

If you have an attorney, you’re much less likely to be suspended with 15 points. In fact, most of the time, my clients with 15 points are not suspended. I’ve personally represented clients with more than 15 points that avoided suspensions.

I know what to say to the judge, which judges are more lenient with sanctions, and how to play the system to your advantage in a way that makes suspensions less likely. Even if you do get suspended, I can often get shorter suspensions than you would receive on your own.

Even if you’re unrepresented, you might not get suspended for 3 electronic device tickets — or you could get suspended for a very long time. Ultimately, it’s up to the judge.