I often have clients and friends call me and ask whether or not they need a lawyer to represent them for their speeding and traffic tickets. Here’s the story.
The big issue when it comes to traffic offenses are the motor vehicle points than will be assessed for certain violations. These points will make your insurance go up and if you accumulate enough points (typically ten (10) or (12)), your license will be suspended by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. The first thing you have to determine is how many points are associated with the ticket you have been issued. For a speeding ticket, if your speed was 1-14 mph over the limit, this is a two (2) point ticket. If the speed was 15-29 mph over the speed limit, this is a four (4) point ticket. Finally, if your speed is thirty (30) mph or higher over the limit, you should call me. This is a five (5) point ticket and your license may be suspended by many judges in New Jersey. Many Municipal Court judges have a policy to suspend your driver’s license if you were driving over 95 or 100 mph, depending on the judge. For a full list of driving tickets and points, see my website for the New Jersey Points Schedule.
Now, if you have been given a two (2) point ticket for speeding (1-14 mph over) or careless driving (a two (2) point violation), you may be able to resolve the ticket on your own without a lawyer. In New Jersey, the legislature created a zero point ticket known as Unsafe Driving (a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:97.2). This is a potential downgrade of your two point violation. This saves you the points on your license but is more expensive in terms of the fine in court. New Jersey charges a $250 surcharge for this downgrade along with the fine and court costs so you are looking at about $400 for the downgrade of your two (2) point traffic ticket. You are only allowed this downgrade to unsafe driving two (2) times in the last five years. The third time you downgrade to unsafe driving within a five (5) year period will result in four (4) points on your driving record and definitely should be avoided. After your second unsafe driving ticket, you must wait five (5) years before using the downgrade again. The other option is the plead guilty to the two (2) point ticket which is only about $189 and then take a defensive driving class online (which costs about $89) to get the two (2) points removed from your license. This is a possible strategy if you don’t have any points on your license. However, after you take the defensive driving class they put you on probation for a year and if you get any other tickets in the next year they may be able to suspend your license. Thus, I typically recommend the unsafe driving ticket rather than taking the two points and using the defensive driving class to have them removed.
If you are facing four (4) or more points for your driving ticket or you have multiple tickets then I would suggest consulting with an attorney. It is important to avoid getting any points on your license if possible as this will save you money in the long run based on your insurance surcharges. Good luck.