New Statute Permits ANY financial sanction to be Vacated in Municipal Court

[3/11/10 – 3:20 am] On Tuesday, the New Jersey Supreme Court promulgated Directive #02-10 related to time payment issues in municipal court. The Directive was issued in response to the enactment into law of NJSA 2B:12-23.1 in January. This new statute constitutes an enormous change in the law regarding the collection of past-due financial obligations in municipal court. Under both the prior statutory and case law, only fines could be vacated or converted to a jail term under the theory that the purpose of a fine is to punish, whereas all the other financial sanctions had a different purpose such as rehabilitation, revenue raising, etc. Under the new law, all financial obligations, with the sole exceptions of restitution and the $250 surcharge imposed for a violation of NJSA 39:4-97.2 are eligible to be vacated under a variety of situations that are spelled out in the statute. The new statute reads as follows:

2B:12-23.1 Penalties payable in installments; alternative penalties.

1. a. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, if a municipal court finds that a person does not have the ability to pay a penalty in full on the date of the hearing or has failed to pay a previously imposed penalty, the court may order the payment of the penalty in installments for a period of time determined by the court. If a person defaults on any payment and a municipal court finds that the defendant does not have the ability to pay, the court may:

(1) reduce the penalty, suspend the penalty, or modify the installment plan;

(2) order that credit be given against the amount owed for each day of confinement, if the court finds that the person has served jail time for the default;

(3) revoke any unpaid portion of the penalty, if the court finds that the circumstances that warranted the imposition have changed or that it would be unjust to require payment;

(4) order the person to perform community service in lieu of payment of the penalty; or

(5) impose any other alternative permitted by law in lieu of payment of the penalty.

b. For the purposes of this section, “penalty” means any fine, statutorily-mandated assessment, surcharge or other financial penalty imposed by a municipal court, except restitution or a surcharge assessed pursuant to subsection f. of section 1 of P.L.2000, c.75 (C.39:4-97.2).

Download a Copy of Directive #02-10

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