A Guide to the Traffic Violations Bureau

A Guide to the Traffic Violations Bureau

The Traffic Violations Bureau, often referred to as TVB, is a division of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. The Traffic Violations Bureau is entrusted with resolving non-criminal traffic violations within New York City, and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester, as well as significant sections of Suffolk County. The idea behind the establishment of the Traffic Violations Bureau was to reduce the large volume of these traffic cases from the normal courts.

Purpose of the Traffic Violations Bureau

Unlike a true legal court, the Traffic Violations Bureau is an administrative agency that is a part of the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has different procedures regarding certain elements such as having rules of evidence to its threshold for conviction of traffic violations. The function of the judge at the Traffic Violations Bureau is performed by the administrative law judge.

The sole options at the Traffic Violations Bureau for a defendant are to either plead guilty or plead not guilty. You cannot ask for plea bargains at the Traffic Violations Bureau, nor can the judge lower the charge or the penalty. Instead, he or she can only rule guilty or not guilty based on the stated charge of the violation. The Traffic Violations Bureau judge is not given the authority to increase the fine, nor is he or she given the authority to suspend a license. At the Traffic Violations Bureau, there is no complete right to a supporting deposition, and the rules on admissibility of hearsay evidence are much less strict than that of a regular court. Usually, the traffic hearing only consists of each side presenting their story, the allowance of hearsay eliminating the need of court formalities such as swearing the witnesses in and other procedures.

Appeals from Traffic Violations Bureau rulings are made not to a higher court, but rather to the Appeals Processing Unit of the Department of Motor Vehicles. There is an appeals fee of $10, which must be paid to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. If the Traffic Violations Bureau appeal is against the guilty verdict itself, rather than opposed to the penalty, a transcript of the case must be ordered, which has an additional fee of $50.

Criticisms of the Traffic Violations Bureau

Because the rules of evidence of the Traffic Violations Bureau, particularly the admissibility of hearsay and the right of discovery, are more relaxed than in an actual court, the Traffic Violations Bureau system has often been criticized to be a difficult and biased system. It has also been criticized due to the lack of an option to plead in order to lesser charges, which is usually found in traffic court.

The threshold of conviction at the Traffic Violations Bureau is having convincing and clear evidence, rather than the general definition of having proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Another criticism of the Traffic Violations Bureau is that this lower standard makes conviction much easier. However, others have argued that this streamlined process, along with having a judge who is an expert on traffic law, results in a fairer trial for the parties involved.

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