So, people who know me would say that occasionally I have a speed problem. Recently I was caught in a neighboring town going 16 over the limit. In NJ, we have a point system and this ticket was worth 4 points. That’s pretty big, most smaller violations are 2.
What most people will do is pay the ticket, but that is in fact the worst thing you can do! In the 3 days following the ticket I got 12 letters in the mail from lawyers offering services (for first or occasional offenders, you don’t need one). Obviously, there are tricks to the system. The trick is – plead not guilty! The point system in NJ doesn’t make the state any money. Unless you get 6 points in 3 years, the state won’t make anything more than the fine imposed (in this case, $105). So the people in Trenton found a way to help negotiate a win/win situation between offenders and courts.
Here’s how it works -
- You get nailed.
- Call the court and plead not guilty. They’ll give you a new court date.
- On that date, arrive at least 1 hour early. This court opened at 12:30 for 1:00 and by 12:15 there were already 20 people milling about. As quickly as you can, queue to see the prosecutor or sign the list to see the prosecutor if they have one. Do this immediately as you’ll be on line forever otherwise! By 1:05 the line for the prosecutor was 50+ people deep.
- In my case, I talked to the officer and the prosecutor. Ignore the officer and deal with the prosecutor. You do have options!
- Ask about having your charge changed to Unsafe Operation. Its a no point fine. Here is the catch: You will pay a surcharge. In my case, my $105 ticket became $439.
- This deal is good twice in a 5 year period. After that the points for this charge are 4.
- If you don’t get offered the deal, think carefully about getting an attorney. A defendant in front of me took a deal for 2 points and the judge asked if he had representation. Nice guy. If you even get 2 points the charges can add up depending on your insurance carrier.
- When you take the deal, wait to go before the judge who will sign off on it. It takes 1 minute and then you pay the cashier and you’re on your way.
Now, why, why, why would I pay $439 instead of $105? Because of those pesky insurance costs! Like I said, points make the state no money until you get 6. But it does make your insurance company money. They can use those accrued points to charge you extra liability fees over the time that the points stay on your record. It could be as much as $150 per year per point for 3 years. Do the math – that will cost you $1800 + the $105. So it was $1905 versus $439. I’ll take 2 hours in court and the fine.
The theory behind this, at least my theory, is that with the state dying for funds, of course they’d rather get the $439 fine. Apparently the funds collected are split between the state, county and municipality.
So that’s what you do. Don’t feel like the hassle isn’t worth it or that everyone can’t do this! In this courtroom, there were at least 10 people before me who did the same thing. Everyone is entitled to the same level of justice. One last piece of advice: dress nicely for court and be respectful in front of the judge.