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New York City: One Big Bad Apple

Ever hear the term “double jeopardy?” If you have, then you probably know that double jeopardy basically means you can’t be punished twice for the same crime. In other words, no double punishment! We’ve had a lot of calls recently about New York City’s (NYC) “double punishment” for overlength/overwidth tickets. But wait a minute! How can NYC get away with it? Isn’t double punishment illegal? Isn’t double punishment a violation of your constitutional rights? What’s going on here?

In this column, we’ll get to the bottom of what New York, and particularly NYC, is doing to drivers when it comes to overlength/overwidth tickets. Here’s the truth.

Question: I was delivering a load in downtown Manhattan and the officer gave me four tickets! Two were New York tickets for overlength/overwidth and two were NYC tickets for exactly the same thing. Isn’t that double punishment?

Answer: Yes! It’s double punishment but not for the same violations. Let’s explain. OK, what you have in your hand are four tickets. Two from the state and two from the city. Even though the state and city tickets appear to be exactly alike, two were written under state laws and two were written under city laws. That’s right, two different sets of laws. So, even though the tickets look the same, they’re really not double punishment.

Question: I called the court in Manhattan to find out how much the fine on my overlength/overwidth tickets were and was told that I’d have to personally appear. Can’t I just pay these tickets by mail?

Answer: No! If your tickets are double punishment city/state overwidth and overlength tickets, you (or your attorney) will usually have to appear in court. The reason an appearance is usually required has to do with the particular court these violations are sent to and the fact that the fines can be up to $1,000 each!

Question: If I’m delivering in NYC, how do I get in and out without getting “double punishment” for overwidth/overlength tickets?

Answer: Avoid Broome Street! Most of these NYC double punishment tickets are written on Broome Street, which is right next to Canal Street. Canal Street is a truck route and Broome isn’t. Remember, these overlength/overwidth laws were enacted because drivers were trying to avoid the $70 toll required to get in and out of NYC. To avoid the toll, a driver enters NYC via the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, from Staten Island to Brooklyn. This is “free inbound.” The driver then leaves NYC via the Holland Tunnel, which is “free outbound.” Reverse this route and it could get very expensive because you must cross Manhattan at Canal Street (where traffic moves about 1.5 mph). Many drivers know how backed up traffic usually is on Canal Street and opt for Broome Street, where the NYC Police Department is waiting.

FYI: When you try to take an “interstate legal” vehicle into New York City, be careful! You could receive the following tickets:

VTL 385 (3)
Semi-trailers shall not exceed 48 feet.

VTL 385 (4)
The total length of a combination of vehicles, including load and bumpers, shall not exceed 65 feet (complete tractor and trailer.)┬áNote: This 65-foot restriction doesn’t apply for vehicles that are being operated on any qualifying or access highway on the interstate system. Specifically, Interstate 95 between I-287 and I-295; between I-495 and Nassau-Queens border. Remember, none of this route is in Manhattan. A 72-foot interstate legal rig, with 8 foot 6 inches of width is not legal in Manhattan, no matter what the toll problems are.

This is a NYC law and it’s the same as the NY State law, except that 45 feet is the limit.

VTS 385 (1)
No vehicle shall be over 96 inches wide plus safety devices, or 8 feet, except that on the qualifying highways, a vehicle may be 102 inches wide plus safety devices. In NYC, The 102-inch wide vehicle is legal only in areas with 10-foot wide lanes.

We hope you can use the information in this column to help with every day, real life problems you face on the road. We invite you to send us any questions or comments you may have regarding transportation law to Road Law, 1330 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 215, Oklahoma City, OK 73106; fax to (405) 272-0558 or contact us through our website at We look forward to hearing from you.