Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Monday, August 09, 2010

From time to time we are asked to appear for a client in traffic court. It's an interesting process in its way, a great leveler, and of course it is very much bulk justice. In fact, many district attorneys, their resources taxed by other priorities, delegate their authority to prosecute VTL cases to the police agencies which issue the tickets, including the Division of New York State Police. The Jodhpurs Gang has a policy against plea bargaining, and it turns out that if they object to a reduced charge the courts do not have the discretion to accept such a plea. People of State of New York v. Francis G. Christensen.

The argument in support of the State Troopers refusing to plea cases has some merit: "[W]e believe that there is an inherent outward appearance of unfairness and duress when a motorist is forced to plea bargain his or her case with the arresting officer, the very same officer who stands as his or her accuser, and also as the primary prosecution witness…The result can be the perception of favoritism, prejudice or, even worse, bribery." Fair enough, but what that means to me is that the cops should not be standing in for the prosecution in the first place.

When discretion is removed from any legal process that process suffers in my view. The whole system grinds away, and we are all strapped to it, like something out of the Perils of Pauline. I understand what the Second Department is saying in the Christensen case, but it points to a deeper problem.

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