Maximum Fine for Ordinance Violations Increased to $2000

Earlier today, the acting-Governor signed into law an amendment to NJSA 40:49-5 and NJSA 40:69A-29 that increases the maximum fine that can be imposed for an ordinance violation from $1250 to $2000. The new maximum fine goes into effect today.

Under the amended statutes, when a municipality seeks to impose a fine in excess of $1250 upon a property owner as a result of a housing or zoning violation, the owner will be entitled to a 30-day period to cure or abate the violation. Such an owner is also entitled to a judicial hearing regarding the violation. The court is authorized to impose a fine in excess of $1250 if the court determines that the violation was not cured or substantially abated. The text of the amended version of NJSA 40:49-5 follows, along with the legislative statement that accompanies the amendment.

40:49-5. The governing body may prescribe penalties for the violation of ordinances it may have authority to pass, by one or more of the following: imprisonment in the county jail or in any place provided by the municipality for the detention of prisoners, for any term not exceeding 90 days; or by a fine not exceeding $2,000; or by a period of community service not exceeding 90 days.

The governing body may prescribe that for the violation of any particular ordinance at least a minimum penalty shall be imposed which shall consist of a fine which may be fixed at an amount not exceeding $100.

The governing body may prescribe that for the violation of an ordinance pertaining to unlawful solid waste disposal at least a minimum penalty shall be imposed which shall consist of a fine which may be fixed at an amount not exceeding $2,500 or a maximum penalty by a fine not exceeding $10,000.

The court before which any person is convicted of violating any ordinance of a municipality shall have power to impose any fine, term of imprisonment, or period of community service not less than the minimum and not exceeding the maximum fixed in such ordinance.

Any person who is convicted of violating an ordinance within one year of the date of a previous violation of the same ordinance and who was fined for the previous violation, shall be sentenced by a court to an additional fine as a repeat offender. The additional fine imposed by the court upon a person for a repeated offense shall not be less than the minimum or exceed the maximum fine fixed for a violation of the ordinance, but shall be calculated separately from the fine imposed for the violation of the ordinance.

Any municipality which chooses not to impose an additional fine upon a person for a repeated violation of any municipal ordinance may waive the additional fine by ordinance or resolution.

Any person convicted of the violation of any ordinance may, in the discretion of the court by which he was convicted, and in default of the payment of any fine imposed therefor, be imprisoned in the county jail or place of detention provided by the municipality, for any term not exceeding 90 days, or be required to perform community service for a period not exceeding 90 days.

Any municipality that chooses to impose a fine in an amount greater than $1,250 upon an owner for violations of housing or zoning codes shall provide a 30-day period in which the owner shall be afforded the opportunity to cure or abate the condition and shall also be afforded an opportunity for a hearing before a court of competent jurisdiction for an independent determination concerning the violation. Subsequent to the expiration of the 30-day period, a fine greater than $1,250 may be imposed if a court has not determined otherwise or, upon reinspection of the property, it is determined that the abatement has not been substantially completed.

Statement

The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee reports favorably Assembly Bill No. 3732 (1R).

This bill would amend the laws governing municipal fines to increase the maximum fine that may be imposed for the first violation of a municipal ordinance from $1,250 to $2,000. The maximum fine was last changed in 2001, when it was increased from $1,000 to $1,250.

Under the bill, prior to imposing a fine in an amount greater than $1,250 upon an owner for violations of housing or zoning codes a municipality would be required to provide a 30-day period in which the owner would be afforded: 1) an opportunity to cure or abate the condition and 2) an opportunity for a judicial hearing for an independent determination concerning the violation. Once the 30-day period has run, a municipality could impose a fine greater than $1,250 if the abatement has not been substantially completed unless a court has determined otherwise

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