A traffic charge in New Jersey is contestable in court. If you are not happy with the charge and feel it was unfair, then you can go before a judge and make your case. I did some research on how to plead not guilty to a traffic violation in New Jersey. Here’s what I found out.
First, you need to know when to defend yourself.
When Should You Defend Yourself Against a Traffic Violation in NJ?
The question is whether it is worth it to fight the traffic ticket in court. One way is to decide whether you got a simple traffic ticket or not. Let’s start with examples of simple traffic charges.
- Using a no-passing zone
- Not keeping right
- Careless driving
- Not paving the way for an emergency vehicle
- Improper passing
- An improper U-Turn
- Following very closely
- Not maintaining a lane
- Wrong backing
- Refusing to stop
- Passing a school bus
- Not signaling a turn
- Improper backing
All these violations are in the New Jersey Statute(39:4-82 and onwards). They are simple offenses because you can state your case and be pardoned even without a lawyer. However, you could accumulate some crazy points from the, leading to a harsh suspension and fine.
For example, improper passing is subject to a 4 points penalty. If you had two points before, this makes it six, subject to a fine of $150 every year for three years. You don’t want that to happen.
In addition, you need to know offenses that are not simple so that you get yourself a good attorney.
Tough offenses tie you down with fines, revocation of license, and even worse, a jail term.
Note: You cannot make the mistake of defending yourself in this one without a lawyer.
Okay? So, what are these offenses?
- Driving while drunk
- Driving while suspended
- Breath test refusal
- Breath test refusal/li>
- Driving while on the phone
- Reckless driving
- Speeding(15 miles+)
- Driving a vehicle not insured
- Escaping the scene of an accident
Now you know where your traffic violation ticket lies. What follows is to defend yourself. There is a process to take. Let’s look at it in the next section.
How to Plead Not Guilty for Traffic Tickets?
- By pleading not guilty, you gain the right before an NJ judge. You could show up to court on the date exhibited on the traffic ticket and tell the judge you wish to plead guilty.
- A recommended approach: Notify the courts within three days of that one printed on your ticket or call the NJ municipal court dealing with your citation and inform them.
- On doing the above, a clerk will tell you to show up in court on the date indicated on the traffic ticket or schedule a hearing date.
- Before pleading not guilty, ask yourself several questions apart from the fact that it could be or not a simple ticket. So, what are these questions:
- Do you have any proof(legal proof) and the means to present your evidence appropriately?
- What are the chances your conviction could add points to your license? If so, will the addition of points lead to a license suspension?
- Are you available for the multiple court appearances, if any?
- Could this conviction result in jail time? This depends on your traffic offense.
If you are comfortable with the worst scenarios in any of these, then game on. It is time to fight your charges in court. So, how do you go about it?
- First, talk to the state prosecutor so the two of you can work out a plea agreement. The plea could take the form of you pleading guilty, therefore, getting a lighter punishment.
Note: Before agreeing to a plea, that accepting you are guilty significantly affects your case.
- Secondly, not taking a plea means you face the judge. There is a chance your case may be postponed in case you need an attorney.
Note, the courts could assign you a public defender just in case the traffic ticket result could lead to jail time. Or, in a case where you can’t afford a traffic ticket lawyer.
- Then, present your evidence alongside any witnesses before the judge.
- Finally, the judge looks at evidence presented, the case you or the attorney makes, and what the witnesses as and issues a verdict.
The result of your case could be good or bad. Nevertheless, what are the consequences of the verdict?
Well, you’re about to find out in this next segment.
Consequences of Municipal Court Verdict for Traffic Violation in New Jersey
It is important to anticipate any ruling from a judge in New Jersey about a traffic case. Therefore, it is important to know what a good or a bad verdict will do for you. Let’s start with a good verdict.
Effects of A Positive Verdict
If found not guilty, several things will happen, as follows:
- The charges will be dropped
- You will not pay any fines or ant suspensions
- You will not be required to pay hefty insurance rates
- No points added to the driving record.
But what if you lose the case?
Implications of a Negative Verdict
This implies being found guilty of your traffic violation. The result is:
- Jail time: usually depends on the seriousness of your traffic offense
- Points added to your record
- Suspension of the driving license
- Community service
- Compulsory enrollment to the New Jersey impaired driving facility
- A fine: you may be required to pay all of it on the day of trial. If not able to raise the money, then you could be allowed to do it in installments.
Beware: If you possess a commerce DL, then you need to talk to inform your employer of your violations within the 30 conviction days.
After this ruling, you may want to appeal the guilty verdict. Well, here’s what to do and expect:
- Appeal the verdict within 20 days of getting it
- A judge in New Jersey’s Supreme Court will go through the first hearing, and any evidence presented.
- Then, the judge will make the judgment on your case.
Note that it will cost you $100 filing for the appeal and additional amount for transcription. So, how should you go about the appeal process?
Appealing A Traffic Ticket Verdict in New Jersey
The steps are simple, as follows:
- Fill Form A, which is a Notice of Municipal Court Appeal
- Fill Form B; a Transcript Request municipal court. Ensure you order an original and copy of the original written record of your hearing. This form should help you do it.
- Mail or take Form A (above) to the Municipal Court that found you guilty. Do this in the 20 calendar days(weekends and holidays counted) of being found guilty.
Note: If this 20-day deadline expires before your submission, the appeal hearing will not happen.
- Deliver or mail a copy of Form A to a prosecutor within five days of mailing Form A to the Municipal Court
- Fill Form C, also known as Certification of Timely Filing. This document tells the court that you sent the necessary documents early and to the right places.
- Finally, send a copy of Form A and original of C to the Criminal Division Manager at the Superior Court. This should be no more than five days after the original copy A.
It is at the Criminal Division Manager’s office where you pay the $100 for filing your Notice of Appeal by money order payable or checking to New Jersey treasurer.
If you cannot afford the $100, you could request court staff at Superior or Municipal Courts, to help you with how to apply for a waiver on your filing fee.
Bonus recommendation: Have a checklist of each of the above steps to help with the appealing process so that you get it right.
Finally, you need to decide whether you need a lawyer or whether you wish to represent yourself. If you need a lawyer, then you could:
- Contact the NJ Attorney Referral Office
- Contact any Bar Associations in your state or county to refer you as a lawyer who could assist with the case at a reasonable price.
All that remains is not heading to court and having your last hearing. All the best in your appeal! I hope you will win this time.