N.J. MVC to Assess Points on Dismissed Traffic Tickets

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has begun to assess motor vehicle penalty points on traffic tickets that are marked in municipal court as dismissed by way of merger. This process was triggered as a result of an unpublished Appellate Division decision captioned State v. Price. In Price, the Court ruled that the points associated with moving violations that are dismissed by of merger into a greater included offense survive the merger and should be assessed by the sentencing Court.

The vast majority of the cases that are marked as dismissed by way of merger in municipal court are done improperly, often with both the State and defense asking for a routine dismissal of tickets that are companion to a DWI charge “as merged.” However, as the Appellate Division explained in State v. Martin, 335 N.J. Super. 447, 450-51 (App. Div. 2000):

“It is inappropriate to order merger of one charged offense to which no plea of guilty has been entered with another in respect of which a guilty plea has been entered. Merger occurs, not of charges but rather of convictions, when there are two or more convictions which, by the standards of State v. Dillihay, 127 N.J. 42, 601 A.2d 1149 (1992) and State v. Gonzalez, 123 N.J. 462, 588 A.2d 816 (1991), must be treated as one for the purposes of sentencing.”

Thus, the only time a dismissal by way of merger would be appropriate in municipal court is when there has either been a plea of guilty or a finding of guilt on both the greater-included and lesser included-offenses. The proper method for dismissing these cases is by way of a motion by the State for a direct dismissal, a practice that is authorized in DWI cases by the Guidelines governing plea bargaining in municipal court.

The merger issue will also come into play in driving on the revoked list cases where the merged point offenses that are companion to the 39:3-40 charge will trigger an additional 10-day period of incarceration beyond what the defendant served for his previous violation. (See N.J.S.A. 39:3-40(j)).

Download a copy of The UNPUBLISHED Appellate Division decision in State v. Price, 2007 WL 3287844.

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