In 2009, 52% of all speeding tickets issued by municipalities were pled down to a lesser charge in order to avoid the state surcharge and maximize local revenues.
The Justice Court Fund, established in 1944, contains revenue generated by New York’s 1,246 town and village justice courts. These courts, which mostly decide traffic offenses, small claims matters, and orders of protection, are often the only point of contact that citizens have with the justice system.
This 2010 Justice Court Fund report from the New York State Comptroller was released following a number of information requests from New York state agencies as well as the NY Office of Court Administration’s 2006 “Action Plan,” which laid out fiscal reporting requirements for the state’s town and village courts.
- These ten New York town and village courts raised the most revenue in 2009: Southampton, Amherst, Colonie, East Hampton, Hempstead, Port Chester, Cheektowaga, Clarkstown, Wallkill, and Freeport.
- The state’s share of justice court revenues increased from 41 to 47% between 2000-2009, while the town and village share decreased from 52 to 49%.
- In 2009, towns kept an average of 42% of the $183.5 million collected in their courts, while villages kept an average of 67% of the $62.8 million collected in their courts. This disparity comes from the types of cases each type of court handles—villages tend to have more local ordinances (e.g. speed zones, building codes) which allows them to keep a greater share of the revenue, whereas town courts are more likely to collect revenue from violations where the state surcharge applies.
- In 2009, 52% of all speeding tickets issued by municipalities were pled down to a lesser charge in order to avoid the state surcharge and maximize local revenues. Of the speeding violations that were pled down, 80 percent were amended to either parking-related offenses or failure to obey a traffic signal.
- Between 2005 and 2010, the state increased or added mandatory fees and surcharge for certain offenses five times, resulting in numerous changes implemented on five different dates. Multiple ad hoc changes over many years have resulted in a system that is complicated and difficult to administer.
- The state and county share of justice court revenues fund an array of specific programs, including legal services for indigent defendants, crime victims’ services, and driving while intoxicated (DWI) education programs.