I Got a Motor Vehicle Ticket…Now What? – Municipal Court Q & A

By Richard A. Joel, Jr., Esq., Joel & Joel, LLP © 2011

1. You are pulled over by the Police. What do you do?

You should cooperate and provide your license, registration, and insurance card upon request. You should not admit or discuss anything regarding the alleged motor vehicle violation. Do not respond to any statements acknowledging a motor vehicle violation. If issued a ticket, you should review it carefully to see what the charge is and what you need to do to plead not guilty and within what time frame.

2. Should I just plead guilty and pay the fine?

You should think twice before pleading guilty. You can be hit with unintended consequences such as a license suspension, motor vehicle and insurance eligibility points, surcharges, increased insurance rates, etc. In some cases, you are not permitted to plead guilty and will have to make a Court appearance.

3. Can I plead not guilty and just go down to Court without an attorney?

You can but it may not be advisable. Municipal Court cases can be complex particularly for the general public and you should consider retaining an attorney who will obtain your entire driver’s abstract to see what is exactly on your driving record; obtain discovery from the State to review what proofs the State will be basing its case on; and review all statutes and other resources to determine the elements of the offense and the possible sentencing exposure you are subject to if found guilty and whether there are any applicable sentencing enhancements or collateral consequences. In municipal Court, you could be subject to considerable fines, Court costs, surcharges, assessments, license suspension, incarceration, community service, motor vehicle points, insurance eligibility points, loss of liability insurance, loss of registration privileges, restoration fee, sentence enhancements, enhancement for future offenses, administrative action by the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), etc., depending upon the facts of your case. You have to be careful because there are cases that involve mandatory penalties which could cost you thousands of dollars, your driver’s license, and your freedom.

4. Will the Prosecutor cut me a break?

The State has an attorney known as the Prosecutor. The Prosecutor does not represent you and it is not his or her job to protect your interests. You should know your rights before going to Court. You are entitled to and should also have representation. A Prosecutor is not obligated to offer a plea deal to you. Even if the Prosecutor does, it is subject to the Court permitting and accepting the plea bargain. If there are aggravating circumstances (i.e. bad interaction with the officer, eluding custody, property damage, personal injury, high blood alcohol reading, poor driving history, prior offenses, a history with a particular Court, etc.), your chances of a favorable plea deal are not good and you should consider retaining an attorney.

5. What if the Prosecutor tells me there are no points?

The Prosecutor does not represent you and does not render legal advice to you. Also, the Prosecutor or the Court does not issue points to you. After you plead or are found guilty, the offense is entered into the system and the Motor Vehicle Commission will then assign motor vehicle points if applicable. You need know your rights and the ramifications of any charges before going to Court. You could plead guilty to a downgraded offense and later find that MVC has suspended your license or assessed surcharges.

6. Will the judge just give me a slap on the wrist?

You have to know the possible consequences of any offenses you are charged with and any downgraded offenses you may be pleading guilty to. A judge has discretion when sentencing and you want to make sure that the judge is giving you a sentence that is legal and authorized. You also want to know what the MVC might do. The slap on the wrist may be heavier than you expected. You should consult an attorney so you understand your sentencing exposure.

7. Will that ticket affect my license or insurance?

You want to protect your license. You rely upon it to get back and forth to work, to stores, and to lead a busy life. Losing your license can be devastating. Any prior driving offenses may have a detrimental effect if you have to go to Court for a motor vehicle offense and on your insurance and/or rates. If you receive points, there are two point systems. There is the motor vehicle point system from the MVC and the insurance eligibility point system from the insurance companies. Motor vehicle points go on your driving record. The only way for motor vehicle points to be removed from your license is to have no violations or suspensions for one year (-3 points), attend a defensive driving program (-2 points, may be used once every 5 years), attend a driver improvement program (-3 points, may be used once every 2 years), and attend a probationary driver program (-3 points). The removal of motor vehicle points does not remove offenses from your driving record. As for insurance eligibility points, these points are assessed for certain offenses. An accumulation of nine insurance eligibility points or more will usually disqualify you from purchasing liability insurance in the voluntary market. This becomes an expensive proposition. Insurance eligibility points remain on your insurance record for three years. These points are not removed but are subject to a three year look back period. You will be amazed how fast motor vehicle and insurance eligibility points can snowball creating a situation where prior offenses can come back to haunt you. You should think twice before pleading guilty and paying a fine because you were too busy or could not be bothered. You should also think twice before going to Court alone. Once the damage is done, you may not be able to undo it. You should consult an attorney to know and protect your rights.


The above information is provided by Richard A. Joel, Jr., Esq., Joel & Joel, LLP, 496 Kinderkamack Road, Oradell, NJ 07649; telephone (201) 599-0588; telefax (201) 599-0179; email: rjoeljr@joelandjoel.com; website: www.joelandjoel.com. The information provided above is for general informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be considered to be legal advice or legal opinion. This information does not constitute nor create an attorney-client relationship. No recipients of this information should act, or refrain from acting, based upon any of the above information.