N.J. Panel Recommends Motor Vehicle Fine Adjustments

June 4, 2004

New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey announced the recommendations by his Task Force on Motor Vehicle Fines, which put forth several proposals including adjustments to the penalties for not having proper insurance under the current Auto Insurance Reform Law.

After the auto reform law went into effect, there were complaints over the size of some of the penalties from motorists and reports that police were reluctant to write tickets since some penalties were so costly.

McGreavey set up the task force to evalutate the equality of driving fines and othr penalties contained in the reform and come up with recommendations if needed. The task force’s report calls for reductions in certain fines, written notices as to the consequences of not having insurance, and a public awareness campaign.

For example, at present, the fine for not having a driver’s license, registration and insurance card is $176 for each document. The task force recommends separating the fine for failing to possess a driver’s license and registration card from the fine for failure to possess proper insurance credentials. The new recommended fine for not possessing the appropriate driver license and/or valid registration card ranges from not less than $50 and would not be more than $150 – giving the judge the authority to exercise discretion his or her discretion. The task force is suggesting an $80 fine for non-possession of a driver license and valid registration card. The task force recommends that the fine for failure to possess the appropriate insurance documents be $105.

In addition to the new fee for failure to possess proper insurance credentials, the task force is recommending that the charged motorist appear at a required court appearance within a reasonable timeframe. Law enforcement officers would be required to provide the motorist with a written notification of their court appearance. If the charged individual appears in court with the appropriate insurance documents, the judge could exercise discretion and drop the fine for failure to possess the correct documents, but he or she may impose court costs.

The written notice would also inform the motorist of the legal consequences for not obtaining valid insurance for the vehicle. The notice would alert the individual that if they do not possess the correct insurance documents when they appear in court their vehicle may be impounded. If an individual fails to appear in court their vehicle would be open to immediate impoundment.

In addition, the task force recommends launching a public awareness campaign that would inform all motorists, law enforcement, and courts about the new changes in the law for failure to possess valid auto insurance. The public awareness campaign and would speak specifically to the potential for vehicle impoundment.

“I would like to commend the members of the task force for putting forth recommendations that strike a reasonable balance among safety, fraud and justice,” said McGreevey. “Implementing these modifications will not only strengthen the evenhandedness of New Jersey’s motor vehicle fine system, but it will also help us reach our goal of diminishing the number of unsafe and uninsured motorists traveling on our roadways.”

“These recommendations strike a sensible balance between properly penalizing true offenders and clarifying the confusion that hovered over honest mistakes,” said Mike Mastronardy, president of the N.J. Chiefs of Police.

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