*Updated June 7, 2021
New York is a popular vacation destination for Californians and vice versa. Californians visiting the East Coast, especially outside New York City, may find it necessary to rent a car in order to get the most of their vacation. For the most part, a California driver’s license extends your driving privileges to New York and the other 48 states. However, it means big trouble if you end getting hit with a speeding ticket or other traffic violation while in New York.
If you think you can just ignore a ticket you get while out of state, think again. New York and California (along with 43 other states and D.C.) all share driver information with one another (known as the Drivers License Compact). As such, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will be notified if you receive a speeding ticket while on vacation or business in New York. The same is true if you have a New York license and get a ticket while in California.
CA vs. NY Drivers' License Points
California almost always assesses points against you for any tickets received while driving out of state, including tickets convicted of in New York. However, the two states have very different point systems.
California assesses one point against your driving record for the vast majority of traffic violations, regardless of where they occur. Exceeding the speed limit, for example, is a one-point violation, whether you drove five miles-per-hour over the limit or 25. The same is true of minor offenses such failing to use a turn signal, red light violations, texting while driving, etc. Serious violations such as drunk driving, hit and run, reckless driving, or even driving on a suspended license are two-point violations. Points will linger on your driver’s license for 39 months after the date of the violation (three years and three months). A California driver can see his/her license suspended or revoked if he/she accrues either four or more points in 12 months, six or more points in 24 months, or eight or more points in 36 months.
Distracted Driving: Beginning July 1, 2021, the violation for distracted driving in California for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in one point being added to a driver’s record. This applies to the violations of talking or texting while driving (except for hands-free use) and to any use of these devices while driving by a person under 18 years of age. (AB 47, Daly; 2019)
While California will never assess more than one or two points per violation, New York’s point system is much more complicated. Each violation can result in a different number of points. For example, red light violations carry three points, but texting behind the wheel carries five points. A ticket for speeding varies depending on how fast you are going:
In New York, drivers who end up with 11 or more points on their license will have their licenses or driving privileges suspended. For California drivers, that may seem like a lot, but it is an easy amount to reach using NY’s point system. For example, drivers in NY who are caught and convicted of both texting while driving (five points) and driving 22 mph over the limit (six points) will have their license suspended. In California, those violations would only incur one point each.
What do NY’s points mean for California drivers? Drivers from California who accrue 11+ points based on New York’s point system will see their driving privileges within NY suspended. This suspension will be noted by the CADMV which has the right to “honor”the suspension. But even if it doesn’t, CA points that result from a NY ticket can lead to suspension in CA just like any other CA points.
What Fine Will CA Drivers Pay in NY?
Drivers from California who get ticketed in New York will end up paying a fine to New York. The agreement between CA and NY means that the latter sets the fine. California cannot collect a fine for an NY traffic ticket and will not charge drivers for the equivalent violation in the state.
In New York most ticket fines start at $150 but can be more than $600. Each ticket will also come with a mandatory surcharge of $88-$93 per violation, in addition to the fine itself. That means the above example of a texting while driving and speeding 22mph over the limit could cost $636 ($150 fine for texting, $300 fine for speeding, and a $93 surcharge per ticket).
That’s not all! Drivers who receive six or more points in NY will also be subject to what the state calls a Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA). A DRA costs drivers, even those out of state, $100 per year for the next three years ($300). Each point over six costs an additional $25 per year for three years ($75 total). Again, using the above example, which would result in 11 points, the total cost would be $1,311--$636 in fines and surcharges, plus a base DRA of $300 and $375 ($25/point x 5 points x 3 years) for each additional point up to 11.
That’s not even getting into the cost of reinstating driving privileges.
How an NY Ticket Impacts CA Auto Insurance
Unfortunately, the fines, surcharges and DRAs are not even the most expensive part of getting a ticket in New York. The worst comes when your auto insurance provider gets wind of the violation. A simple speeding ticket can increase your premiums by as much as 21%! In California, the average premium is around $1,962 each year, which means that same ticket could result in an additional $412 per year for at least three years.
What Should California Drivers Do?
Drivers with a California license who get a ticket while in New York have options. They could pay the ticket, but the risk of high fines and the potential impact on auto insurance premiums make that the least desirable choice. The best bet is to hire a skilled attorney with experience fighting tickets in New York, including for out-of-state drivers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam H. Rosenblum, Esq. is the principal of The Rosenblum Law Firm. The Rosenblum Law Firm’s skilled criminal defense and traffic violations attorneys have a reputation for aggressive representation for anyone facing criminal charges and traffic violations that may result in jail time, heavy fines, points and license suspension or revocation.
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