Saturday, March 12, 2016

One fact to be aware of when taking a plea on a speeding offense in New Jersey Municipal Courts

When taking a plea on a motor vehicle charge in Municipal Court, people are usually unaware that they face: 1) fines imposed by the municipal court including surcharges; 2) additional surcharges that may be imposed by Motor Vehicles separate and apart from the Municipal Court, which for cases like DUIs can be very steep; the points that are issued by Motor Vehicles as well as points that are issued by insurance companies.

When pleaing to a lesser motor vehicle charge, for instance downgrading a speeding violation, people are aware that they may have an option for a 0 point offense. The most common is the unsafe driving offense, but that is an expensive proposition where you will wind up paying about $439.00 with surcharges. There are other 0 point options available in some counties and in some municipalities but they are not always offered. Local counsel will know best whether there are choices for a 0 point plea other than unsafe driving. And if you do plea to an unsafe driving make sure you have not had two prior unsafe driving convictions in the past five years, otherwise you will face four points, not 0.

Depending upon your driving history a 2 point conviction but be an option. While I have not heard many attorneys discuss this, under New Jersey law, if you have a speeding charge under 15 mph, which is a 2 point offense, the insurance company is not to impose its own surcharges unless you have had a prior conviction within the past three years. If your record is clean, you may wind up paying less than for a 0 point unsafe driving.

The tricky part is the regulation seems to only apply to a 2 point speeding charge. It does not indicate that it applies to other 2 point convictions such as careless driving. Therefore, I would limit using this only in the face of accepting a 2 point speeding charge. Below is the actual citation.

§ 17:33B-14.1. Speeding violations, certain; surcharge unaffected

  • a.  In calculating a surcharge or other differential in rates based on motor vehicle penalty points promulgated by the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1982, c.43 (C.39:5-30.5), including any surcharge or differential based on the schedule of automobile insurance eligibility points promulgated by the Commissioner of Insurance pursuant to section 26 of P.L.1990, c.8 (C.17:33B-14), an insurer shall not consider any points assessed for a violation of any lawful speed limitation where the violator exceeded the speed limitation by less than 15 miles per hour, except that, the insurer may consider any such violations, in excess of one violation, of which the insured has been convicted in the three-year period immediately preceding the issuance or renewal of the policy. This section shall only apply to violations that occur on or after the effective date of this act, but shall in no case apply to a violation of subsection a. of R.S.39:4-98.
  • b.  As used in this section, “insurer” means and includes an insurer writing private passenger automobile insurance in the voluntary market and any insurance plan established to provide private passenger automobile insurance pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1970, c.215 (C.17:29D-1)


N.J. Stat. § 17:33B-14.1

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