A Recent Change In Motor Vehicle Law That Can Affect You!

November 22, 2014

The New Jersey Appellate Division made a significant change in a statute commonly used for plea bargaining moving traffic violations in the municipal courts in the State of New Jersey. The affected statute is N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2, which is a subsection of the Careless Driving statute. This is commonly referred to as the “no-point downgrade” or simply a “97.2”. The benefit of this statute is that for the first time it is used, the defendant receives a fine, court costs and a $250.00 state surcharge, but there are no motor vehicle points assessed to the driver’s license. If this statute is used a second time by the same defendant, the fine is $100.00 more expensive, plus court costs and the surcharge, but there are still no motor vehicle points assessed.

The change in the law applies to situations where the statute is utilized for a third time. Prior to the Appellate Division’s interpretation of the statute, a defendant could use this statute a third time and still not receive any motor vehicle points only if more than five years passed between the second time and the third time. Otherwise, the Motor Vehicle Commission would automatically assess four points for the third plea or conviction. However, the Appellate Division has now interpreted the statute to mean that
any third or subsequent pleas/convictions for N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2 will result in four motor vehicle points being assessed, regardless of the amount of time that has passed since the second plea/conviction.

What this means for you is that if you are in a municipal court, facing a charge that could potentially be plea bargained down to this no-point statute, it is imperative that you are aware of your prior motor vehicle history. You can request that the prosecutor run your driving abstract is run to see what history you have to ensure that you are not in a situation where you mistakenly plead to N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2 unknowingly for the third time, and are assessed four points by the Motor Vehicle Commission.
The municipal court has no obligation to check your driving abstract prior to accepting your plea, so you will have no recourse if you fail to check your history before entering a plea. Also, the municipal court will not re-open your case if you do happen to mistakenly plead to this statute for the third time, so take the time to find out your driving history.
It is worth it!

Categorised in: Traffic Violations