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What Are Traffic Violations and Infractions In New Jersey?

New Jersey traffic violations and infractions refer to criminal and civil offenses disobeying the state’s Motor Vehicle Laws. These offenses and their associated penalties differ based on the gravity and circumstances of the violations, and associated penalties. Generally, traffic violations are sanctioned by the state and local law enforcement agencies, the various city Municipal Courts, as well as the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. In New Jersey, traffic violations are categorized into disorderly persons traffic violations and felony traffic violations. While a number of traffic-related misdemeanors are payable offenses, a mandatory court appearance is still required as with traffic felony offenses. Under the New Jersey Traffic Code, traffic infractions are payable offenses that require neither mandatory court appearances nor jail time.

What are Felony Traffic Violations In New Jersey?

Some traffic offenses violate both Section 39 of the New Jersey Annotated Statutes and the New Jersey Criminal Code. These traffic crimes, often very serious, are classified into indictable crimes (felony) and disorderly person offenses (misdemeanors). Felony traffic violations are typically subject to gross fines, license suspensions, and prolonged prison sentences. In addition to these, felonious traffic offenses in New Jersey are heard in criminal courts, documented as criminal records, maintained by the New Jersey State Police, and appear in regular background checks.

Like some US states, New Jersey State Statutes does not make Driving With Influence (of drugs or alcohol) a felony offense. DWI cases in the state are generally handled by municipal courts in a non-jury formation and typically do not constitute criminal records. However, a drunk driver may be charged with a felony if the impairment led to a ghastly accident causing serious bodily injury or death. Also, a traffic crime may become indictable for suspended drivers repeatedly driving on a suspended license following a DUI conviction.

New Jersey indictable crimes are categorized on a four-degree basis, with first-degree crimes being the most severe and fourth-degree offenses carrying the least penalties. Typically, most traffic felony crimes are lumped under the umbrella of third-degree and fourth-degree crimes. Aggravated DUI, for instance, can be classified as a third-or-fourth degree felony depending on the circumstances and frequency of the crime as well as the offender’s criminal history. However, a fatal drunk driving offense may be charged with a variety of indictable crimes, including reckless vehicular homicide, aggravated manslaughter, and in some cases, assault by auto. Under N. J. S.A 2C:12–1c, these crimes are indictable to the second degree with a possible penalty of 5–10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $150,000.

Third-degree indictable crimes are punished as follows:

  • A fine of up to $15,000 (N. J. S.A § 2C:43–3)
  • Imprisonment between 3 and 5 years (N. J. S.A §2C:43–6)
  • Yearly surcharges between $1,000 and $5,000
  • License suspension for up to 10 years
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device when the license ban is lifted
  • Mandatory community service or probationary terms stipulated by the court

Fourth-degree indictable crimes are punishable by a fine

  • A fine up to $10,000 (N. J. S.A §2C:43–3)
  • Imprisonment not exceeding 18 months (N. J. S.A §2C:43–6)
  • Loss of driving eligibility
  • Probation and parole conditions

In New Jersey, indictable traffic offenders, charged to either the third or fourth degree, usually do not go to jail. However, this does not apply to repeat offenders. Habitual motorists may be sentenced using the Extended Sentencing Guideline codified under N. J. S.A §2C:44–3. A common question in New Jersey is whether an indictable driving offense counts as a strike in the three-strike law and the short answer is yes. Most charges stemming from an accident that caused bodily harm or death to another are categorized as violent crimes, and these include vehicular homicide, and DUI manslaughter, among others.

Examples of Felony Traffic Violations in New Jersey

Common traffic offenses recognized by New Jersey Law as felonious or indictable include:

  • Driving while suspended: This is a fourth-degree indictable crime (N. J. S.A §2C:40–26, R. S. §39:4–50)
  • Leaving the scene of an accident: Otherwise known as hit-and-run, leaving the scene of an accident in which one or more persons are hurt or dead is a third-degree felony in New Jersey. This crime is charged under both N. J. S.A §2C:12–1.1 and Traffic Code §39:4–129.
  • Vehicular homicide: This traffic crime is classified as a second-degree indictable(felony) offense as dictated by N. J. S.A 2C:11–5.
  • Assault by auto: Codified under N. J. S.A 2C:12–1(c), this traffic offense may be charged as a second-, third-, or fourth-degree felony depending on circumstances. Assault by automobile, in the presence of no aggravating factors, becomes a fourth-degree indictable offense if a DUI or reckless driving resulted in a relatively minor bodily harm to another individual. This crime is stepped up to a third-degree felony if the defendant was intoxicated, and the incident occurred within 1000 feet of a school zone. Assault by auto, in extreme cases, may be escalated to a second-degree crime if an intoxicated driver caused serious bodily harm to another individual within 1,000 feet of a school zone.
  • DWI with a minor child in the vehicle: N. J. S.A § 2C:24–4 and Revised Statutes §39:4–50.15(b) empowers New Jersey prosecutors, courts, and law enforcement to indict drunk motorists guilty of child welfare endangerment in a criminal court. Such offenders, depending on the circumstances, are often charged with a second- or third-degree felony.
  • Intentional attempt to elude a law enforcement officer: As per N. J. S.A 2C:29–2, motorists are charged for indictable crimes if they knowingly flee or attempt to flee after receiving a stop signal from a patrol officer. Although this crime is a third-degree offense, it rises to the second-degree if the attempt to elude or flee threatens to cause death or serious bodily harm to another person.
  • Forging motor vehicle title papers: Offenders convicted of this crime are guilty of a third-degree crime (N. J. S.A 2C:21–4.8)
  • Removal or alteration of identification number or mark from a vehicle: This crime is a third-degree offense if the value of the motor vehicle parts exceeds $500. If under $500 but above $200, this crime is a fourth-degree indictable offense.

Indictable or felony traffic crimes in New Jersey are tried by a jury in the superior court of the county where the incident took place.

What are Traffic Misdemeanors in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, misdemeanors are referred to as disorderly persons (DP) offenses. Traffic misdemeanors in the state refer to lower-level crimes that are less serious than a felony but still carry detrimental penalties such as huge fines, up to 12 months in jail, and inconvenient probationary terms. A typical example of a traffic misdemeanor in the state is running a red light. Patrol law enforcement agencies usually issue traffic citations to DP offenders, requiring them to pay or fight the ticket in the municipal court. However, those who left their traffic citations unattended may risk getting arrested.

Generally, the penalty for traffic misdemeanors in New Jersey may include a fine of up to $500, excluding court costs, as well as 2–3 demerit points on drivers records. Depending on the frequency and circumstances of a misdemeanor traffic crime, violators may be sentenced to up to 30 days in county jail.

In New Jersey, traffic disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) are ticketed by local law enforcement, filed at the Municipal Courts, heard by sole judges, and accessed by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Examples of Traffic Misdemeanors in New Jersey?

  • Removal of an official traffic sign or signal damage (N. J. S.A 2C:17–3)
  • Removal or alteration of vehicle identification number or mark, where the vehicle or the altered part does not exceed $200 (NJSA §2C:17–6(c)
  • Careless driving
  • Driving while license is revoked
  • Assault by auto, in which injuries caused are minor
  • Illegal securing of driver’s license (N. J. S.A 39:3–12)
  • If the driver is a minor, Possession of open container of alcohol

What Constitutes a Traffic Infraction in New Jersey?

Traffic infractions in New Jersey constitute all other traffic offenses that do not fall under the umbrella of indictable (felony) crimes and disorderly persons (misdemeanor) offenses. Generally, traffic infractions are payable, do not require jail time, and are not criminal records. However, this is not entirely applicable in New Jersey. Though most traffic violations are not covered under the state’s criminal code, jail time is possible. These offenses, commonly referred to as violations, do not appear on background checks but may attract fines running into thousands of dollars and incur many points on a driver’s records. Some violations, such as DWI, may outrightly relieve motorists of their driving privileges. For the most part, aggravating factors such as repeat infractions may also add up to compose a disorderly person offense or even a felony in the state.

Designated Motor Vehicles and Regulations Code, Title 39 of the New Jersey Annotated Statutes dictates the penalties associated with all driving violations in the state. According to the code, a traffic infraction (violation) may incur a fine as low as $53 or as high as $5,000 for first offenses. In fact, some of these violations are termed “quasi-criminal offenses”. This is because of their stringent and serious nature, albeit non-criminal in the eyes of the law. Aside from DWI, another typical example of a quasi-criminal violation in New Jersey speeding in a school zone (N. J. S.A 39:4–98.) Based on aggravating circumstances, drivers who are caught speeding may face reckless driving charges and if the violation resulted in the death of another, they may be indicted for vehicular homicide.

Examples of Traffic Infractions in New Jersey?

Civil traffic violations in New Jersey include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drug (N. J. S.A 39:4–50)
  • Speeding above limit (N. J. S.A 39:4–98)
  • Running red light (N. J. S.A 39:4–81)
  • Stop sign violations (N. J. S.A §39:4–144)
  • Improper passing of a school bus
  • Drag racing (N. J. S.A §5C–1)
  • Wrong-way on a one-way street (N. J. S.A §39:4–85.1)
  • Tailgating another vehicle (N. J. S.A §39:4–89)
  • Improper U-turn (N. J. S.A 39:4–125)
  • Improper right or left turn (N. J. S.A 39:4–123)
  • Failure to yield to overtaking vehicle (N. J. S.A 39:4–87)
  • Failure to yield to emergency vehicles (N. J. S.A 39:4–91)
  • Failure to stop for police whistle (N. J. S.A 39:4–122)
  • Failure to observe road signals (N. J. S.A 39:4–122)
  • Driving a vehicle in an unsafe condition
  • Improper passing in a no-passing zone (N. J. S.A 39:4–86)
  • Use of handheld cell phone or electronic communication device while driving (N. J. S.A §39:4–97.3)
  • Jaywalking (N. J. S.A §39:4–36)
  • Parking violations (N. J. S.A §39:4–138)

The above list is by no means exhaustive. The fines, surcharges, and demerit points associated with them may be found by querying the Municipal Court or the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles.

How Does a Traffic Ticket Work in New Jersey?

A New Jersey traffic ticket is an official form issued to motorists and pedestrians who have defied a traffic law. The state operates a uniform traffic ticket which contains the prescribed court date, or “Summon to Appear,” as well as the alleged offense and its associated payable amount, where applicable. Traffic tickets are generally divided into payable tickets and non-payable tickets.

Payable tickets are those that can be paid without a mandatory court appearance. Typically, payment may be made in person, by mail, online, or by phone, depending on the county. Paying a New Jersey ticket is a guilty plea; that is, the full penalties associated with the offense will be observed and accessed. This means that although a driver no longer has any business with the court, they may have points on their driving records and increased auto-insurance to deal with. However, it is possible for traffic offenders to contest instead of pay-issued tickets. Fighting a ticket in court is usually a good decision especially when the defense is strong, thereby increasing the possibility of winning.

A third option available to eligible individuals is taking an MVC Driver Improvement Program. Upon completion of this course, 2 points may be removed from the driver’s record, to help mitigate the negative impact of demerit points. On a warning note, offenders who do not elect to either pay the fee, appear in court, or take a driver improvement course risk license suspension, arrest, and even higher fines.

Conversely, non-payable tickets cannot be paid-off without a scheduled court hearing at the Municipal Court of the county where the incident in question occurred. Traffic offenses in this category include serious offenses such as leaving the scene of an accident, vehicular homicide, aggravated DWI, and some repeat offenses, among others. These offenses are considered criminal in nature and affected offenders are charged and arraigned in the Criminal Division of the County Superior Court.

Those issued tickets for mechanical violations such as headlamp malfunction may be required to show proof that their vehicles are in perfect condition before issued tickets can be disposed of. This is also true for other “fix-it” traffic offenses such as expired license and insurance violations.

New Jersey operates a Surcharge Violation System to impose additional fees (surcharges) on habitual traffic offenders. Usually, drivers who accumulated more than six demerit points within a 3-year span are required by law to pay yearly surcharges to the Motor Vehicle Commission. These annual surcharges last for a period of three years and impacted offenders are expected to pay $150 plus $25 for each additional point over 6 per year. Also, felony traffic offenses are surcharged in a similar pattern, irrespective of the offender’s driving history. Some of these include:

  • $100 surcharge for unlicensed driving or driving with an expired license ($300 in total)
  • $100 surcharge for failure to get moped insurance ($300 in total)
  • $250 surcharge for drivers caught driving while suspended ($750 in total)
  • $250 surcharge for operating a vehicle without insurance ($750 total)
  • $1,000 for a first and second driving while intoxicated (DWI) ($3,000 total)
  • $1,500 surcharge for the third DWI, which occurred within three years of last offense ($4,500 total)
  • $1,000 surcharge for declining to take a test to assess blood alcohol concentration ($3,000 total)

Are Driving Records Public in New Jersey?

Yes, Driving records are public information in New Jersey. In accordance with the state’s Open Public Records Act, driving and traffic-related records generated by the Department of Motor Vehicle Commission are readily available to anyone. However, this law is not a blanket law. Some records exempted from public disclosure may be restricted to authorized individuals such as the owners of the records, law enforcement agencies, and some employees of other authorized agencies. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission is responsible for maintaining and attending to driver and vehicle records requests.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. Operating independently of any state agency, these websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location. Furthermore, 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 need to 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.

How To Find Driving Records in New Jersey?

Requests for New Jersey driver records are generally directed to the MVC’s Official Custodian of Records in person, by mail, or online.

To request a driver’s record in person, start by completing the Driver History Abstract Request and Related Documents Form DO–21. Requesters are expected to include all the correct and necessary details required. These details may include the name, address, date of birth of the record holder, and the personal and contact information of the requester. Those requesting another person’s record must also complete the Notarized Authority to Release Personal Motor Vehicle Information for Second Party Requests Form DO–21A. Note that this form must be signed by the record owner and notarized by a Notary Public. After completing these forms, querying parties should then proceed to the MVC’s office in Trenton.

Motor Vehicles Commission
225 East State Street
Trenton, NJ 08666–0162

The cost of obtaining New Jersey driver’s records is $15 each. Acceptable payment methods for personal requestors include cash, check, and money order.

To make a mail request for a driving record to the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission, properly complete Form DO–21. If requesting another person’s driver record, get written permission from the owner of the record using Form Do–21A. Intending requesters who cannot access these forms may alternatively obtain them by calling 1 (609) 292–6500. Send the applicable form(s) along with the copy of the owner’s driver's license, check or money order of appropriate fees, and a self-addressed stamped envelope to the address below:

Official Custodian of Records
Motor Vehicle Commission
225 East State Street
P.O. Box 162
Trenton, NJ 08666–0162
ATTN: Regulatory and Legislative Affairs

The same fees apply for both in-person and mail-in requests for New Jersey driving records. The check and money order should be made out to the “NJMVC”. Note that requests for different driver records must be made using separate forms and checks.

It is also possible to order certified or non-certified driver records online from the NJMVC. First-time users may need to register for an online User ID. Registered users may then proceed to the Driver History Request Page to make their requests. The information needed to complete an online request include the User ID number, driver’s license number, and the last four digits of the requester’s social security number. Note that each record costs $15, payable by credit or debit card. Additional credit card transaction charges may apply.

Can Traffic Violations and Infractions Be Expunged or Sealed In New Jersey?

The short answer to this question is no. Driving convictions can neither be expunged nor sealed in the State of New Jersey. There are three types of driving records recognized in the state:

  • Non-certified driving records
  • Certified 5-year driver records
  • Certified complete driving records

Non-certified driving records contain limited information and can be viewed online. Certified records contain information about traffic violations, accidents, suspensions, driving records points, fine payment history, the type of violation, and its date. Certified complete driving records are strictly restricted to courts and members of the law enforcement agencies. Most employers and insurance companies are authorized to use only certified 5-year driver records. This means that a driver automatically gets relief from employment checks and increased auto insurance premiums after 5 years.

On the other hand, some traffic offenses classified as indictable and disorderly persons offenses are eligible for expungement. Offenders are typically required to keep a clean record for at least 10 years before filing a petition for expungement at the criminal court.

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