As part of the governor’s budget package, New Jersey motorists will be exposed to new and increased surcharges. These include the following:
1. Violations of N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2 will now include a $250 surcharge. The surcharge will be imposed on a one-time basis in municipal court and will be collected by the court. The surcharge will be imposed and collected in addition to any fine imposed. First and second offenses remain non-point violations.
2. For motorists who are assessed 6 or more penalty points within a three-year period, there will be an increased surcharge. Such motorists will now be required to pay $150 for the first 6 points and $25 for each point beyond 6. The old surcharge was $100.
It is important for practitioners to remember that it is the assessment of points during a 3 year period, not the accumulation of points, that triggers the surcharge. Thus, various annual point credits will not affect the imposition of this surcharge.
As a result of the foregoing, a first offender charged with 39:4-97.2 may face a total cost in municipal court of $436. (150 fine + 6 assessments + 30 costs + 240 surcharge). Also, remember, the fine amount can be doubled in construction zones and safe corridors areas.
Portions of the governor’s press release are included below.
Press Release from governor
UNSAFE DRIVING: Assembly Bill 3114 Imposes surcharge for “unsafe driving” convictions Currently, unsafe driving is punishable by a fine. No motor vehicle violation points are assessed for first or second offenders; third offenders are assessed two points. Under the bill, a person who is convicted of an “unsafe driving” offense would be subject to a one time $250 surcharge, to be imposed by the court. The court shall also collect the surcharge. Pursuant to A3109/S1780, the courts shall remit surcharge amounts collected to the Division of Revenue, which will deposit the funds into a dedicated Motor Vehicle surcharge fund. The fund should be used as security for bonds to be issued pursuant to the FY’05 budget.
MOTOR VEHICLES SECURITIZATION: Assembly Bill 3109“Motor Vehicle Surcharges Securitization Act of 2004” would authorize the securitization of certain future proceeds generated from surcharges on specific motor vehicle offenses. This bill would increase the existing motor vehicle surcharge imposed upon drivers who have accumulated six or more motor vehicle penalty points in the preceding 36-month period from $100 to $150. Each additional point would be the subject of a $25 surcharge, as is the case under current law. The bill would authorize the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (“EDA”) to issue bonds, notes, and other obligations payable primarily from collections on or after July 1, 2006 of the new surcharge for unsafe driving, created pursuant to separate legislation amending current law to establish a new surcharge of $250.00 for each conviction for unsafe driving.
Earlier today, the governor signed into law the provisions of A2420. This bill amends the court costs statute, N.J.S.A. 22A:3-4. Under the amended statute, court costs will now be set at a maximum of $33 for municipal court offenses. The increase of $3 will go to fund the state’s ATS/ACS computer system. The increases go into effect on October 1, 2004 so as to afford the municipal courts time to update their ticket books and violation schedules.
A copy of the amended statute is included below, together with the Legislature’s official Statement. The new language is set forth in BOLD.
22A:3-4. Fees for criminal proceedings.
The fees provided in the following schedule, and no other charges whatsoever, shall be allowed for court costs in any proceedings of a criminal nature in the municipal courts but no charge shall be made for the services of any salaried police officer of the State, county or municipal police.
For violations of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes, or of traffic ordinances, at the discretion of the court, up to but not exceeding $33.
For all other cases, at the discretion of the court, up to but not exceeding $33.
In municipal court proceedings, the court shall impose court costs within the maximum limits authorized by this section, as follows:
a. For every violation of any statute or ordinance the sum of $2.00. The court shall not suspend the collection of this $2.00 court cost assessment. These court cost assessments shall be collected by the municipal court administrator for deposit into the Automated Traffic System Fund, created pursuant to N.J.S.2B:12-30.
b. For each fine, penalty and forfeiture imposed and collected under authority of law for any violation of the provisions of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes or any other motor vehicle or traffic violation in this State the sum of $.50. The court shall not suspend the collection of this $.50 court cost assessment. These court cost assessments shall be collected by the municipal court administrator for deposit into the “Emergency Medical Technician Training Fund” established pursuant to P.L.1992, c.143 (C.26:2K-54 et al.).
c. For every violation of any statute or ordinance the sum of $3 to fund the statewide modernization of the Automated Traffic System. The court shall not suspend the collection of this $3 court cost assessment. These court cost assessments shall be collected by the municipal court administrator for deposit into the Automated Traffic System Statewide Modernization Fund, established pursuant to section 1 of P.L. , c. (C. )(now pending before the Legislature as this bill).
The provisions of this act shall not prohibit the taxing of additional costs when authorized by R.S.39:5-39.
For certificate of judgment ……… $4.00
For certified copy of paper filed with the court as a public record:
First page ……… $4.00
Each additional page or part thereof ……… $1.00
For copy of paper filed with the court as a public record:
First page ……… $2.00
Each additional page or part thereof ……… $1.00
In addition to any fine imposed, when a supplemental notice is sent for failure to appear on a return date the cost shall be $10.00 per notice, unless satisfactory evidence is presented to the court that the notice was not received.
CONSTABLES OR OTHER OFFICERS
From the fees allowed for court costs in the foregoing schedule, the clerk of the court shall pay the following fees to constables or other officers:
Serving warrant or summons, $1.50.
Serving every subpoena, $0.70.
Serving every execution, $1.50.
Advertising property under execution, $0.70.
Sale of property under execution, $1.00.
Serving every commitment, $1.50.
Transport of defendant, actual cost.
Mileage, for every mile of travel in serving any warrant, summons, commitment, subpoena or other process, computed by counting the number of miles in and out, by the most direct route from the place where such process is returnable, exclusive of the first mile, $0.20.
If defendant is found guilty of the charge laid against him, he shall pay the costs herein provided, but if, on appeal, the judgment is reversed, the costs shall be repaid to defendant. If defendant is found not guilty of the charge laid against him, the costs shall be paid by the prosecutor, except when the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles, a peace officer, or a police officer shall have been prosecutor.
(cf: P.L.1993, c.293, s.4)
3. This act shall take effect on the first day of the third month following enactment.
This bill adds a $3 assessment to the current municipal court costs fees to modernize the Statewide Automated Traffic System (ATS).
The ATS, along with the Automated Complaint System, is a statewide case record and financial management computer system used by all 536 municipal courts to process more than 6 million traffic and quasi-criminal actions each year. The system is responsible for the collection and disbursement of $352 million for State, county and local government. It is a vital information link between the courts, motor vehicle commission and law enforcement. The system is managed by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Until recently, the system was funded by a $2 assessment on motor vehicle offenses. The amount generated through that assessment, however, is no longer sufficient to pay to maintain the system, much less modernize it. Without new funding to upgrade the ATS infrastructure, the system could fail, leaving the municipal courts without the automated support they need to process offenders and to collect and distribute fines and penalties.
This bill adds a $3 assessment to the fines and penalties an offender pays when convicted of a violation in municipal court. The money generated from this assessment is to be deposited in a special account, the Automated Traffic System Statewide Modernization Account, and used exclusively to upgrade the ATS infrastructure.
To insure that this new assessment does not reduce the amounts that municipalities realize as their portion of court costs, the bill increases the maximum allowable court costs from $30 to $33.
An upgrading of the ATS will facilitate the State’s law enforcement, homeland security and general public safety efforts, as well as the modernization of New Jersey’ s motor vehicle records.
By placing responsibility for funding the ATS’s upgrade on the offenders who create the need for the system, this bill eliminates the need for State funding. Further, no new costs are imposed on the State or any local governmental unit.
RPC 3.3(a)(5) provides that a lawyer shall not knowingly fail to disclose to a tribunal a material fact with knowledge that the tribunal may tend to be misled by the non-disclosure. In light of this RPC, does a New Jersey attorney act unethically when he knowingly fails to reveal to a municipal court judge during a plea hearing on a traffic ticket that two people died as a result of his client’s conduct?
This issue was answered today in In re Seelig. In this disciplinary opinion, written by the Chief Justice, the Court ruled that a New Jersey attorney does have such an obligation when the material facts are in the public record. In this case, neither the Sixth Amendment nor any duty owed to his client should have prevented the attorney from informing the municipal court judge of the homicides associated with the defendant’s motor vehicle offenses.
In light of the attorney’s good faith and the novelty of the legal issue in this case, six of the Justices voted to refrain from imposing any discipline.
Download a copy of In re Seelig
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