You are ready to let out a sigh of relief. You didn’t get a ticket at the scene of the accident. When you pick up the report from police headquarters, there is no indication that you or the other driver received citations. However, you know you did something wrong. Should you be worried? Are there actually time limits when it comes to issuing traffic tickets?
For the most part, the majority of traffic citations are issued immediately. However, that’s not to say that one can’t be delivered to you after the date of the infraction. In fact, you might just want to keep an eye on your mailbox. Another citizen may even want to swear out a complaint against you.
The good news is that there are deadlines when it comes to traffic offenses. If you are served with a summons beyond the acceptable time limits, your attorney just may be able to have your ticket dismissed.
Traffic Tickets and Deadlines
For starters, let’s take a look at the actual law regarding municipal court traffic violations in New Jersey. The statutes regarding motor vehicle operation are found in Title 39. Among other things, NJSA 39:5-3 specifically deals with the time limitations for making a complaint relating to a motor vehicle infraction. Here is the exact text of the law:
- a. When a person has violated a provision of this subtitle, the judge may, within 30 days after the commission of the offense, issue process directed to a constable, police officer, or the chief administrator for the appearance or arrest of the person so charged and for a violation of R.S.39:4-81, issue process within 90 days after the commission of the offense. In the case of a violation enumerated in subsection b. of this section, this period shall commence upon the filing of a complaint.
- b. A complaint may be made to a judge for a violation of R.S.39:3-12, R.S.39:3-34, R.S.39:3-37, R.S.39:4-129 or R.S.39:10-24 at any time within one year after the commission of the offense; for a violation of R.S.39:4-50, section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a), section 5 of P.L.1990, c.103 (C.39:3-10.13), section 16 of P.L.1990, c.103 (C.39:3-10.24), section 3 of P.L.1952, c.157 (C.12:7-46), section 9 of P.L.1986, c.39 (C.12:7-57), R.S.39:3-40, or section 1 of P.L.1942, c.192 (C.39:4-128.1), at any time within 90 days after the commission of the offense.
- c. All proceedings shall be brought before a judge having jurisdiction in the municipality in which it is alleged that the violation occurred, but when a violation occurs on a street through which the boundary line of two or more municipalities runs or crosses, then the proceeding may be brought before the judge having jurisdiction in any one of the municipalities divided by said boundary line, and in the event there shall be no judge or should no judge having such jurisdiction be available for the acceptance of bail and disposition of the case, or should the judges having such jurisdiction be disqualified because of personal interest in the proceedings, or for any other legal cause, said proceeding shall be brought before a judge having jurisdiction in the nearest municipality to the one in which it is alleged such a violation occurred.
What does this mean exactly? In most cases, traffic citations must be issued and served within thirty days of the offense. Otherwise, the court may dismiss the matter as not processed on a timely basis.
New Jersey Case Regarding Citation Deadline
The New Jersey courts have ruled on this particular issue in State of New Jersey v. Tammy Buczkowski. In that matter, the defendant was charged with reckless driving. Although the ticket was issue within thirty days, she was not served with it until 142 days later.
Ultimately, Buczkowski’s ticket was dismissed as it was not served upon her within thirty days. The court noted that the statutory notice requirements “not only guarantees a defendant adequately prompt and essentially full notice of the charge against her, it also promotes the integrity of the process.”
Bottom line? The date you are issued or served with a ticket may be crucial to your defense as well.