Hi there. This question is geared primarly towards students studying in or familiar with the traffic laws of the state of New York. I'd really appreciate any input you guys have.
My roommate recently pleaded Not Guilty to a (rather trumped up, in my opinion) speeding violation near the town of Colonie, NY. Here's the story:
My roommate was driving from NYC to Saratoga Springs, NY. When she merged onto US-87 from the NY State Thruway, she encountered a good deal of traffic. She immediately moved to the left lane to get away from the traffic that was exiting (US-87 has 3 lanes in that area). Immediately in front of her was a state trooper. Due to her preoccupation with changing lanes, she missed a speed limit sign that read 55 mph. The thruway limit was 65 mph. For the next five or six minutes, she followed behind the state trooper, all the while waiting for an opportunity to move back to the middle lane, as she didn't feel comfortable driving behind a trooper for a prolonged period of time. I believe her having to wait so long to move back to the middle lane demonstrates two things: the high volume of traffic and the relatively identical speeds at which vehicles in the middle and left lane were traveling. As it turned out, the trooper changed into the middle lane, and my roommmate continued at 65 mph, as she was still under the assumption that speed limit had not changed between the thruway and US-87. The trooper then slowed down while in the middle lane, and my roommate took the opportunity to get out of the left lane (and in front of the trooper), because there was traffic tailing her that was even faster than 65 mph. 3 minutes after moving into the middle lane, my roommate pulled into the far right lane, intending to take the next exit so she could get a better look at the map she was using to navigate to Saratoga. As soon as she pulled into the right lane, the trooper turned on his lights/siren, and pulled my roommate over. He asked her why she had been tailing him at 85(!)mph "back there." She maintained that she was going nowhere near 85mph, stating that she made sure not to go over the limit of 65. The trooper then laughed at her and told her that the limit was actually 55. He then wrote her a ticket for a 85 in a 55. My roommate says "he was a jerk the entire time" (yes i know that has no bearing on this case, but thought I'd mention it).
My roommate agrees that she is at fault for not noticing the change in speed limit. However, she states there is no way she was going 85, as she kept looking at her speedometer, wary of the fact that she was behind a trooper.
Court summons were received in the mail today. Trial date is at the end of the month. She is a physician that is on call the night before, and won't be able to get to Colonie in time (it's a three hour drive). I'm fairly certain that she'll fit the "good cause shown" clause and get a postponement. Here are some questions that I'd appreciate input on.
-If the trooper was indeed travelling 85mph, was he required to have his lights/siren on?
-Not to mention, if he was travelling that fast, the volume of traffic dictates that the cars in FRONT of him were travelling that fast as well. I find it hard to believe that he chose the car directly BEHIND him at random to charge with speeding, and only after she had already travelled a few miles and slowed down, changing lanes to the right twice.
-Does the trooper's decision to pull my roommate over approximately 10 miles after she initially merged onto US-87 have any bearing on this case? My initial inclincation is to say "No" as the trooper's jurisdiction lies within the entire state of NY.
-I'm from TX, and we can request jury trials for any fines > $25. What's the rule in the state of NY? If she can play the system and piss off the judge by requesting a jury trial, she will. (Would this request be denied due to an "untimely nature"?)
Any and all responses are appreciated.
I'm not an attorney, but worked for several prosecutor's offices in NY as an investigatory paralegal. This is NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE, but rather just my take on the situation:
1. No, the trooper did not have to have his light/siren on. The law does not require him to do so unless the situation is of an emergency nature (and this was not)
2. The New York State Police have jurisdiction throughout the State of New York
3. You have no right to a jury trial for a traffic infraction in the State of New York.
Hope this helps a little.