There’s a great deal of confusion when it comes to traffic offenses in New Jersey. For the most part, many New Jersey residents seem to think that any automotive-related offense short of vehicular homicide is relegated to traffic court. It might seem that you can only go to jail if you committed a crime. Truth be told, you can also face incarceration for many traffic offenses.
Too many times, traffic citations are taken too lightly. It’s often not a matter of showing up in court and paying some court fees and fines. Although ordering incarceration may at the judge’s discretion, you should know that it can be a consequence of any guilty plea or conviction. No doubt it makes sense to speak with an experienced ticket attorney before you venture into the courtroom on your own.
Traffic Offenses and Incarceration
First, let’s start with the most surprising news to many. New Jersey and Wisconsin are the only two states that do not consider driving while intoxicated (DWI) a crime. Instead, it is a motor vehicle offense. Nonetheless, NJSA 39:4-50 authorizes the court to include up to thirty days of imprisonment for a first DWI conviction. As you can guess, the penalties go up for subsequent DWI charges.
Meanwhile, some motor vehicle offenses have actually made their way into the criminal code. One of the most glaring examples is driving on a suspended license. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26, it is a crime to drive while suspended two or more times in certain circumstances. More particularly, you are in trouble if you’re found doing so while serving the driving suspension imposed for a first conviction of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). You will also violate this law and face jail if you drive while suspended while serving the driving suspension imposed for a second or subsequent DWI conviction.
So you know, it’s not just traffic citations involving drunk driving that come with prospective jail sentences. In fact, here are some other examples:
- Failure to use a hands-free device while driving – You could be charged with assault by auto or vehicular homicide if you are texting or talking without a hands-free device while driving.
- Hit and run accident – If you leave the scene of an accident, you could be sentenced to up to six months in jail.
- Driving without a license – Never bothered to take a driver’s test, but still behind the wheel? The judge could sentence you to incarceration.
For the record, these are just a few examples of when traffic convictions can result in jail time. You should know that there are many more.
Driver’s Abstract v. Criminal Record
While they appear forever on a driver’s abstract, traffic offenses do not show up on a certified criminal history (CCH). Therefore you can go to jail without any hopes of getting your charges expunged. Don’t let ignorance or lack of knowledge jeopardize your freedom or your ability to drive. Understanding that you can face incarceration for a traffic offense can mean the difference between minor inconvenience and serious legal problem.
Let Us Help You Fight for Your Freedom
At Beninato and Matrafajlo, we have been helping clients successfully navigate criminal and traffic court for years and are committed to helping you preserve your freedom and driving privileges. Contact us today so we can thoroughly review your case and help you determine the best course of action. When you’re facing incarceration or loss of your driving privileges, you need to know your options.