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By Michael Arbeit
Founding Attorney

Generally, trial lawyers will tell you that you can fight anything. With a rolling stop, things are a little more complicated. In this article, we will discuss how failing to stop at a stop sign is fightable, what a rolling stop is, why it is harder to fight, and how a lawyer can help you get the best possible outcome.

General Approach to Fighting a Ticket for Failing to Stop

The easiest way to understand many legal concepts is through hypotheticals. Taking an imaginary situation and working through it can help us understand the various elements at play. This is no different. Suppose you are driving down the road and fail to stop at a stop sign. An officer sitting nearby observes you doing this, pulls you over, and issues you a ticket for failing to stop. How can this case be fought? There are several ways which include demonstrating that the officer didn’t see what they thought they did, illustrating that the sign was not there or was obscured, and establishing the existence of a special circumstance.

Perhaps the most successful tactic for winning a failure to stop ticket is to prove that the officer was incapable of seeing what they claim to have observed. Typically, a factor of geometry, suppose in your case, the officer was sitting far down a side street, thus not to be observed by those seeking to run the sign. You, unsure of the area, see the stop sign but stop rather far back. The officer was unable to see that you stopped but, nonetheless, you did. Even better would be if the officer could not actually see the stop sign, but was only able to see the intersection. 

An alternative would be to prove that you did not stop at the stop sign because you didn’t see it. Bad vision and negligence are not going to cut it as far as your defense goes but, sometimes, signs may be overgrown with vegetation, turned by a storm, or, even, stolen by local teenagers. In such a circumstance, many judges will not hold you responsible for failing to stop at a sign that there was no way for you to see. This is not a guarantee, however. 

Rolling Stops Are Entirely Different

A rolling stop, different from the above hypothetical. When a person commits the traffic infraction of a rolling stop, they slow down but do not come to a complete stop before continuing through the intersection. These are harder to win at trail. To understand this, we have to look at the anatomy of a crime. Generally, crimes are composed of two components: actus reaus, the thing does, and mens rea, state of mind. If we are talking about assault, hitting a person is the bad act and doing that intentionally is the mental state. The problem with most traffic offenses is that they are strict liability crimes. This means that they do not require a mental state. To be guilty of running a stop sign, all you need to do is actually run the stop sign. The reason does not really m matter. 

The second thing that makes a rolling stop case harder is that ignorance is not a defense to a crime. If we step back from talking about legal theory and just think practically for a moment, if all we had to do is claim that we did not know something was illegal to get off the hook for it, then people would never be convicted. After all, how do you prove that someone knows something? Practically all this means that the theories of defense available for a rolling stop are rather limited. The facts that the judge will be presented with are that an intersection exists with a stop sign, you, clearly, knew that it was there since you closed down, and you completely failed to stop. If you argue that you didn’t know that you had to come to a complete stop, the ignorance is no defense thing will come into play and the methods discussed above for fighting a typical failing to stop ticket would not be as believable.

The unique facts of your case may be different, however. It is essential that, should you receive a ticket like this, you consult a skilled traffic lawyer. Hopefully, what you have read so far has illustrated the nuanced approach necessary when righting traffic tickets. Lawyers like Michael Albeit understand the law and the logical implications associated with arguing one theory over another. 

Trial Might Not Be the Answer, But Lawyers Can Help

If your rolling stop is not something that can be won at a trial, you should still consult a lawyer. Michael, for example, provides free consultations, so it does not cost anything to personally hear how he can help. Many times in situations such as these, skilled attorneys can help obtain plea bargains that minimize the consequences for your driving privilege. In New York, you can only obtain so many points before you are required to pay a fine, in addition to any fines from the tickets. Additionally, if you get too many points, you will lose the ability to drive for some time. 

Besides, when you get points on your license, oftentimes, insurance carriers raise your rates. The cost of insurance alone can, typically, be a hundred of extra dollars a year. By pleading for a non-moving violation, a lot of these consequences can be avoided. While it may be hard to beat a rolling stop outright, thanks to a skilled attorney, you can ensure the best possible outcome. If you have received a ticket for a rolling stop, contact Michael A. Arbeit, P.C. today to schedule an initial consultation.

About the Author
Michael A. Arbeit, P.C. is devoted to all Criminal Defense and  Traffic related matters.  Michael practices primarily in the Criminal and County (Supreme) Courts in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens County, Kings County, New York County and the Bronx County.  Michael is also licensed to practice law in the Federal Courts of the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) and the Southern District of New York (SDNY).