A judge has dismissed a class action lawsuit filed against the DMV claiming that cyclists were being wrongly charged an extra $88 for violations, in addition to receiving unwarranted points on their drivers licenses.
The problem stemmed from the fact that the DMV was issuing cyclists the same online forms filled out by drivers paying off moving violations, despite a moving violation in a car being somewhat different than a moving violation on a bicycle. (Average bike weight: 20 pounds. Average car weight: 4,000 pounds.)
Still, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty ruled that the plaintiffs "failed to outline a clearly established constitutional or statutory right to be free from overcharges and points on licenses," since the complaint does not demonstrate that the DMV intended the overcharge to happen. In Crotty's eyes, they also failed to "allege on ongoing violation of federal law."
The DMV did redesign the tickets near the beginning of the year, plaintiffs' attorney Steve Vaccaro told Gothamist, and initial reports of the new tickets began cropping up this spring. "It's been a few months since we heard of a ticketed cyclist being threatened with license suspension, so it seems to be working," he said.
This, of course, doesn't account for the cyclists who unknowingly paid the surcharge, erroneously assuming the form handed to them was the correct one. According to Crotty, those suckers are just out of luck:
Prior to bringing suit, Plaintiffs' counsel and a New York State Senator adopted the common sense approach of trying to resolve the problem. They contacted the DMV, pointed out the violations, and requested corrective action. Defendants promptly initiated the actions requested, and have since implemented the prospective relief sought in Plaintiffs' complaint. Defendants have (1) segregated bicycle summonses into a separate processing basket to "reduce the occurrence of data entry errors," (2) reminded staff and agencies about the proper handling of bicycle violations, (3) modified the UT-60 ticket, bicycles is "$0"); and (4) modified the DMV website, (adding the following language to the website: "If you plead Guilty to an offense committed while operating a bicycle or in-line skates you are not required to pay a surcharge. Convictions for bicycle/in-line skate offenses do not result in points on your driving record").
Having achieved success by using common sense, Plaintiffs abandon that approach and sue anyway. They argue that their claim is not moot for three reasons, none of which have merit.
Vaccaro is unsure how many cyclists are walking around $88 lighter and three license points heavier, but he estimates it's quite a few!
"It's a shame that judge was content to leave hundreds or perhaps thousands of cyclists who were overcharged the $88 over the past however many years without remedying it in federal court," he said.
Read the whole opinion below: