Drivers who go to court to fight New Jersey traffic tickets for speeding or careless driving will likely be offered a plea bargain under the Unsafe Driving Statute. This plea bargain reduces the ticket from 2 or 4 points to zero points, but comes with a $250 surcharge on top of the fine, plus court costs. For a 1st offense, a driver could be fined anywhere from $50 to $150. For the 2nd, the fine is anywhere from $100-$250. And for a 3rd and final offense, the fine is anywhere from $200-$500. Drivers are only able to use this plea bargain two times within a five year period to receive the zero point deal and drivers who plead guilty a third time will actually add 4 points to your record.
The Unsafe Driving law in some cases may be the most logical decision. For example, within the past year and a half, Careless Carl has accumulated 10 points on his license. He’s caught speeding once again and gets another 2 point ticket. In New Jersey, drivers who reach 12 or more points on their license in a two-year period have their licenses suspended. In this case, assuming Carl hasn’t used the unsafe driving plea more than 2 times in the past 5 years, taking the Unsafe Driving plea bargain makes sense to prevent him from losing his license.
In comparison, let’s look at the case of Speeding Sue. She’s 25 and is listed under her parents’ auto insurance plan. When she was 18, she got her first speeding ticket. Her parents heard about how the Unsafe Driving law reduced the ticket to zero points and pressured her to take the plea bargain, so their auto insurance premiums wouldn’t go up. When Sue was 21, she was ticketed again for speeding ticket and took the same plea bargain a 2nd time. She just got her 3rd speeding ticket and her parents are pressuring her to take the Unsafe Driving plea bargain once more. In this case, taking it wouldn’t make sense, because it’s the last time Sue could use this plea for the rest of her life. Chances are the 2 point speeding ticket won’t have that big of an impact, at least not enough to use her final “lifeline.”
Although the Unsafe Driving law is an option for some, whether or not you should take the plea depends on many things. In most cases, a 2 point ticket is not the end of the world and there are alternatives that drivers should be aware of before making a decision.
First, the New Jersey MVC automatically deducts 3 points off of your license each year as long as you don’t have any other violations. Second, the NJ MVC offers a defensive driving course that you could take once every 5 years, which could deduct 2 points off your license. Finally, the NJ MVC offers a Driver Improvement Program, which you can take and, although you would technically be on a form of probation, it would knock 3 points off of your license.
Since each case is unique, if you don’t know what to do when you get a moving violation ticket, contact an experienced attorney to find the best course of action. Kieu-Nhi Le is a graduate of Rutgers School of Law Newark. She was Managing Business Editor of the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal and she collaborated with me on this blog.