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How to Fight a Traffic Ticket in New Jersey

A traffic ticket or citation is issued when a law enforcement officer finds a road user violating New Jersey traffic laws. The ticket typically details the violation, driver, and vehicle involved and other descriptive information. If the violation is severe, the officer will take the offender into custody in addition to issuing the ticket. Depending on the offense, getting a traffic ticket in New Jersey presents the recipient with two options: contest the ticket in court or admit guilt and pay the fines in addition to any applicable sanction or contest the ticket in a New Jersey court.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

Is it Worth it To Fight a Traffic Ticket in New Jersey?

It depends. A person can successfully contest an unfair traffic ticket in court with adequate information and preparation. If the contest is unsuccessful, the original fine will not change. If the violator is sure that a second violation is very unlikely, then paying the ticket may be worth it. However, the violator must bear in mind that having a traffic ticket on his/her driving record often translates to higher insurance premiums and annual surcharges.

Ways to Fight a Traffic Ticket in New Jersey

Upon receiving a traffic ticket, the individual must respond within thirty (30) days or on the date specified on the ticket. If the individual chooses to fight the ticket, they must enter a not guilty plea on the date of arraignment, after which the court will schedule a hearing date. In the meantime, the individual may choose self-representation or hire an attorney. Two significant differences in either option are the attorney’s experience and resourcefulness. But an individual who knows state traffic laws relating to the traffic violation and can articulate his/her case has better chances (See Title 39 of the New Jersey Code Annotated).. Furthermore, having a good recollection of the events leading to the citation and finding witnesses can be very helpful. Each party makes arguments before a judge instead of a jury.

Alternatively, the individual may hire the services of an experienced attorney. Considering the punitive implications of accruing points from traffic tickets, this is a good investment. The attorney draws upon legal experience to develop arguments that strengthen the case. The attorney also cross-examines the issuing officer and attempts to demerit the prosecutor’s statements.

The choice of how to contest a traffic ticket is the violator’s decision. If the person is convinced that they have justifiable reasons for committing a minor traffic infraction, then self-representation is a viable option. However, a limitation of self-representation is that if the individual loses, he/she cannot file an appeal without an attorney.

How to Fight a Traffic Ticket Without Going to Trial

Out-of-state violators can fight traffic tickets without physically being in court. To do this, the individual’s attorney will submit an affidavit of hardship that precludes the individual’s presence in court and empowers the attorney to take legal actions in their stead. Resident violators do not have this luxury. However, for either violator class, the time window between arraignment and hearing gives the individual and his/her legal counsel time to strike a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Until the court opens for a hearing, striking a plea bargain is the only way to fight a ticket without trial. Once the trial begins, however, this option weakens considerably. A disadvantage of plea bargains is that it does not exonerate the violator. Instead, the individual concedes to the traffic violation in exchange for lighter punishment like probation, community service, or complete a driver improvement program (DIP). The court generally encourages plea deals to save the state time and resources better spent prosecuting severe criminal cases.

How Do You Get a Traffic Ticket Reduced in New Jersey?

The court bases traffic ticket fines and penalties on the penalty points based on a point schedule. The point on a ticket corresponds to fines—sometimes up to hundreds of dollars. With the aid of an attorney, the violator may convince the prosecutor to reduce the point valuation—this often involves changing the offense’s classification. For speeding tickets, it is possible to reduce fines by proving that the individual drove at a speed lower than stated on the ticket. In addition to reducing the penalties, the individual may apply for a payment plan that allows them to pay the fines in installments over a period. The presiding judge will grant such a petition if the violator demonstrates financial need or extenuating circumstances.

Can You get a Speeding Ticket Dismissed in New Jersey?

It depends on how strong a case the defendant has. After entering a not-guilty plea, the violator and legal counsel, as well as the assistant district attorney and issuing officer, will have to appear in court on a hearing date. The defense may move to dismiss the ticket if the officer fails to appear in court, if the prosecutor fails to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, or if the defense can challenge the officer’s observation. For speeding tickets, questioning the officer’s observations is a strong point for the defense. Likewise, gross misconduct by the officer or clerical error on the ticket is a valid ground to submit a motion to dismiss.

What Happens if You Plead Guilty to a Traffic Ticket in New Jersey?

Deciding to pay a traffic ticket is an automatic guilty plea in New Jersey, and the violator will have to pay the traffic fines stated on the ticket. The DMV will also automatically assess the penalty points against the individual’s driving record. The consequences of a guilty plea range from increased insurance premiums to surcharges. Surcharges are the most punitive consequences for pleading guilty. For example, driving without a license is subject to a surcharge of $100 per year for three (3) years in addition to a fine of up to $500 per NJSA 39:3–10. The individual will also have points assessed against his/her driving record. Accruing as many as 12 points within three years results in the suspension of the driver’s license.

Furthermore, offenders to plead guilty run the risk of being tagged as a habitual violator. If this happens, the violator runs the risk of imprisonment, fines, or a combination of both. For example, a second offense of driving without a license is subject to five (5) days in jail. The misdemeanor and imprisonment will also remain on the individual’s publicly available criminal record. Members of the public, prospective employers, and government agencies have access to these records.

How to Find a Traffic Ticket Attorney in New Jersey

Given the punitive nature of traffic violations in New Jersey, having an attorney is almost indispensable. The best way to find a traffic ticket attorney in New Jersey is through a referral from a friend, family member, or a trusted source.

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