News10NBC Investigates: DOT unmarked SUVs are ticketing drivers in construction zones — but good luck pleading not guilty

DOT speeding tickets are hard to fight

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The New York State Department of Transportation radar SUVs are fining drivers for speeding through construction zones.

But if you want to dispute the $50 fine, there is no place to plead not guilty and, initially, there is no judge to hear your case.

I drove eastbound on Route 104 splitting Irondequoit and the city.

As I passed Portland Avenue I started to see the signs of up-coming construction.

Parked on the shoulder of 104 was an unmarked, white SUV. It was the state Department of Transportation radar SUV set up to catch people speeding.

Click here to find out where the DOT construction speed traps are located

“If you can’t dispute it and you can’t confront your accuser, it’s basically a money grab,” said Robert O’Dell.

O’Dell got a DOT speeding fine in September on this same stretch of 104. To fight it, the ticket gave him three options: Say the car pictured on his ticket was stolen, rented or sold.

Berkeley Brean: “On the ticket that you get it says you can dispute it.”
Robert O’Dell: “Yeah but there’s only three categories and none of them are innocent or not guilty.”

Brean: “What did you write on your dispute coupon?”
O’Dell: “I put another box on the coupon and put next to it ‘not guilty.'”

Brean: “I think your concern is that if you got stopped by a trooper or a deputy and they give you a ticket for speeding you’d be able to go to a court to dispute that. And in this instance you can’t do that.”

O’Dell: “You can’t do that here.”

The state DOT says if the owner can’t prove the car was stolen, rented or sold, another letter is sent “instructing the owner how to further dispute the matter” which could include “courts designated to handle traffic infractions.”

But the ticket doesn’t say that. It says if your dispute is rejected you will get “further instructions.”

The five-year test period of these DOT speeding cameras started in April.

Brean: “I think what the state will say is that speed through construction zones is a real problem and they have to do something about it.”
O’Dell: “It is. It’s a big problem just like school buses, passing them is a big problem. But when you’re in a hurry and you don’t see that sign and there isn’t any obvious construction, a lot of people are probably going to fall into that same trap.”

O’Dell believes there was no active construction going on where he got the ticket.

The DOT could not tell me how many fines have gone out.

It does say between 2010 and 2016 there were 3,500 accidents in construction zones and 50 people killed.