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Deciding Whether to Take an Unsafe Driving Downgrade Instead of the Points

Posted by Matt Rooney | Feb 04, 2015 | 0 Comments

Consumers-turned-Municipal Court Defendants need to carefully consider their choices

One of the most common municipal court-related questions we get around our office: “Should I take the points? Or the unsafe downgrade?“ Our clients are referring to a popular alternative to pleading guilty to a moving points (e.g. speeding, illegal turns) violations in New Jersey; it's called “unsafe driving.” N.J.S.A 39:4. 97-2 carries zero points, but the downside is that it is not cheap (there's a $250 mandatory state surcharge). You are also only entitled to this get-out-points option twice every five (5) years. Click here for a brief overview of the points system in New Jersey.

Some background is useful. Back in 1997, then-Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed into law legislation eliminating mandatory New Jersey auto insurance eligibility surcharges. Previously, motorists with good driving records faced large penalties, sometimes for relatively minor traffic violations. Beginning in fall 1998, insurers were required to use a tier system, similar to the DMV violations schedule, when setting New Jersey Auto insurance rates.

Now, New Jersey auto insurers weigh a host of factors including driving records, experience, age, marital status and even the type of vehicle when assigning rates applied within a given tier. Other additional consumer protections were enacted including a provision requiring placement in the standard tier for driver's with 6 or less points absent extenuating factors referenced above and a so-called revenue-neutral approach to tiering.

At the end of the day, however, companies still decide how certain offenses carrying points impact rates. We typically advise clients to contact their insurance companies in order to determine what effect, for example, pleading to a 1 or 2 point ticket would have on their insurance premium.

There are highly-contextual circumstances where taking points is actually cheaper than an unsafe driving downgrade.

However, the stakes are obviously quite clearly high if you are in danger of losing your driver's license (most commonly through the accumulation of 12 or more points) or if it has already been suspended for one or more of the aforementioned reasons; the affects of paying thousands of extra dollars over the years for accumulated points can also present a significant problem.  You need experienced counsel to explain the process, and help you restore your driving privilege and protect your legal rights. There are options for individuals facing points-laden consequences including  If you or someone you know is facing charges in municipal court, the suspension of their driving privileges in New Jersey, or any other municipal court matter generally, please contact the municipal court defense lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350.  

About the Author

Matt Rooney

Practice Areas: Family Law (including Divorce, Alimony, Child Support, and Domestic Violence); Municipal Court; Personal Injury; Residential Real Estate; Civil Litigation; Collections.


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