It’s no surprise that speeding ranks in the top causes of fatal crashes in New Jersey. For that reason, speeding violations carry points, high fines, and potential license suspensions . So how to get a speeding ticket reduced in New Jersey?
Statistics published by online news resource NJ.com state that:
- In 2016, authorities issued more than 176,000 speeding tickets statewide; and,
- Of these, 110,000 resulted in a guilty plea or verdict.
You do not have to be one of these statistics; there are options for fighting allegations.A total of 55,830 drivers resolved their speeding tickets through a reduction of charges or plea bargaining.
Your first tip on how to get a speeding ticket reduced is to get a New Jersey traffic violations attorney to represent you in court. I have prosecuted and defended hundreds of speeding violations in NJ municipal court. You might also benefit from reading the following information.
Potential Strategies for Reducing a Speeding Ticket
It’s rare – but not impossible – that you can beat a speeding ticket through a not guilty finding or dismissal. It may also be possible to have your ticket reduced through a plea bargain. Plea bargaining is allowed in NJ Municipal Courts.
A defense attorney should pursue both options, dismissal and reduction. This can be done at the same time. We carefully review all evidence looking for holes, while also seeking back-up options like plea bargaining.
There is lots of evidence against you, including reliable speed measuring technology. Officers can testify how fast you were (allegedly) driving two ways. The first pertains to radar detection. Most NJ police officers use the Stalker device. The second way is from the officer’s training and experience. NJ Police Officers are trained to make visual estimations of a vehicle’s speed. There is supposedly a margin of error of +/- 3 mph. Both these methods of proof can be attacked.
Defending Against Speed Radar Detection
The Stalker radar is a hand-held, gun-type laser device. It weighs about 3 pounds and is battery operated. Most NJ Police Departments have guidelines regarding best use of the device. You need to make sure these steps were followed in this case. If they were not, you can potentially challenge the speed reading in your case.
The Stalker needs to be checked for accuracy on a regular basis. The best police practice is to check the device before and after every police shift. The device is calibrated by utilizing “tuning forks.” Typically two such forks are used. The fork is basically a piece of metal that is banged on the ground or other surface. It is then held in front of the radar device. The vibration of the fork mimics a certain mph. So for example, a 25 mph tuning fork is placed in front of the Stalker and the device reads 25 mph, then it’s functioning accurately.
Through the discovery process and cross-examination, you may be able to raise a reasonable doubt as to whether the radar device was properly calibrated and used correctly in your case.
Radar Gun Evidence
Most police records departments will provide very limited discovery in a speeding ticket case. In some cases they will merely provide you with copies of the ticket. You may be able to obtain more information. Through carefully reviewing this evidence, it may be established that the speed reading in your case was not reliable.
The following evidence may exist in your case related to the radar gun:
- A description of the speed measuring device, make and model.
- Training manuals from the manufacturer of the speed measuring device unit including operating manuals.
- Training manuals for the State of New Jersey and operating procedure for the speed measuring device.
- Repair history of the speed measuring device for the previous 12 months before your ticket was issued.
- All calibration records for the device from the day you ticket was issued.
- Copies of certifications for any tuning forks used in conjunction with the radar gun.
- Certification of Accuracy for the radar gun.
Challenging the Officer’s Observations
Radar speed is not the only way for the state to prove guilt in a speeding ticket. The officer can also testify that he observed your vehicle speeding based on mere visual observation. Potentially challenging this testimony begins with the discovery process. The evidence that should be obtained in a speeding ticket case includes:
- Copies of the front and back of each ticket.
- Any notes taken by the officer.
- The history of the officer’s training regarding visual speed estimation.
- A complete witness list.
- Any dashboard (MVR) camera video.
- Any body-worn camera video.
Once the discovery process is complete, it’s time to decide what options to pursue. These generally include either resolving the case with a plea agreement or taking your case to trial. Fodder for cross-examination includes:
- Technical deficiencies on the ticket. For example, the color of the car is wrong, or some other typographical error. This may be enough to have a ticket thrown right out in some states. Unfortunately, NJ is not one of them.
- Discrepancies in police reports. Or discrepancies between written reports and the video evidence. Any such errors could help establish a substantive defense. For example, that the officer had the wrong vehicle. At a minimum such evidence could help establish the general care with which the officer handled your case.
In some cases, you may not be able to work out an agreement with the prosecutor. Your driving history, the circumstances, and other factors may cause the prosecutor to decline. Even if you’re able to reduce your speeding ticket with the other lawyer, a judge must still approve it. The same factors may cause a judge to refuse your plea, so you could still have the original speeding charge.
Pleading Down a Speeding Ticket
The vast majority of speeding tickets are resolved via plea agreement. You can try representing yourself or retain an attorney to negotiate on your behalf or fight the ticket. A typical plea agreement would be to reduce a 5 speeding ticket to 4 points; from 4 points down to 2 points, and so on.
A wonderful outcome would be to have a speeding ticket reduced to a non-moving violation. However, this is very uncommon. More realistic is to seek the reduction of your speeding tickets to zero points. There is no 1 or 0 point speeding ticket. Your attorney would therefore have to convince the prosecutor to amend your speeding ticket to a different type of offense.
The most common zero-point offense used in such a case is Unsafe Operation of a Motor Vehicle. The applicable statute is NJSA 39:4-97.2. This is a good, albeit expensive result. The fine for a first-time use of this offense is $150. For a second offense, the fine is $250. However, the state of New Jersey imposed an additional $250 surcharge when you plead guilty to this offense. There is also a mandatory $33 in court costs which must be imposed.
Unsafe operation of a Motor Vehicle is still a moving violation. It could affect motor vehicle standing, insurance rates, or a commercial driver’s license.
Implications of a Speeding Ticket in New Jersey
Never just pay a speeding ticket. Always consult with an experienced municipal court attorney first. If you don’t work out an agreement for your speeding ticket or get it dismissed, you face the following sanctions:
The amount you pay is based on how far above the speed limit you were traveling, starting at $85 for going under 10 miles above the limit. Your fine will hit $200 for speeding at 20-24 miles over and $260 if you’re speeding 35-39 miles over. Plus:
- Special rules apply to certain sections of roadway in New Jersey, including high fatality zones, construction areas, and schools. The fine will be two times the normal speeding ticket rate.
- Your speeding ticket also doubles if you’re speeding more than 10 miles per hour in a zone where 65 is the posted limit.
You will also get points on your driving record, which can be very damaging for some motorists. Points trigger NJ DMV/MVC surcharges. They also can lead to your license being suspended by the DMV. Points can also cause your insurance to go up. The points for a speeding ticket are based on your speed:
- Less than 15 miles over equals two (2) points;
- You’ll get four (4) points for speeding by 15-29 miles over the limit; and,
- Speeding more than 30 miles above the posted limit carries five (5) points.
If you get a certain number of points in 24 months, you’ll have three choices:
- Accept a driver’s license suspension for 30 days with a fee for reinstatement;
- Take part in and pay for a driver’s improvement program; OR,
- Request a hearing to present your side of the case. A judge will determine whether your driving privileges should be suspended.
If you hit six (6) motor vehicle points, a DMV surcharge will usually be imposed. Twelve (12) or more points will cause your license to be suspended.
How an Attorney Can Help Reduce a New Jersey Speeding Ticket
Having an experience defense lawyer on your side is a huge advantage in court. Attorneys know the statutes and legal issues in your case and can find weaknesses in the allegations. This makes it easier to get the best possible result in a traffic ticket case.
Lawyers also know how to get a speeding ticket reduced because of their experience with the court system. They appear in court often, so the courtroom setting is familiar. Attorneys usually have experience dealing with the particular prosecutor and judge in each court. They have the skills to negotiate with prosecutors and reach a compromise that benefits their clients. The goal is to get your tickets dismissed, reduce your fine and get fewer – or zero – points on your driving record.
Discuss Your Options with a New Jersey Traffic Violations Lawyer
The best strategy for how to get a speeding ticket reduced is getting legal help from a knowledgeable attorney.
Traffic citation isn’t a serious crime, but the consequences extend beyond fines. There are implications that affect your wallet, personal freedoms, and your driving privileges.
For information on how we can assist with your case, please contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC. We can set up a consultation at any of our five New Jersey locations to discuss how to get your speeding ticket reduced.