What Are the Common Types of Traffic Violation Cases in New Jersey?
Some of the most common reasons that police officers pull most people over are speeding, failure to maintain lane, equipment violations such as taillights or headlights not functioning, tailgating, careless driving, and reckless driving, which is usually written as a companion to something even more severe like drunk driving.
Are People Typically Hesitant to Challenge Traffic Violation Offenses in Court?
People are generally not hesitant to challenge traffic violations, but far too many people plead guilty to the violations thinking that these offenses are not that serious. The problem is that they can add up, and before you know it, what was at one time, a minor offense turns into a serious situation due to the accumulation of motor vehicle points that can ultimately lead to administrative action causing the revocation of your driving privilege. Smarter people call an attorney, and many times, I can instruct them on how to handle it by themselves with an exit plan if they cannot get a reasonable resolution of the case. That exit plan is simply this: Tell the prosecutor that this case is more complicated than I thought, and I’d like to consult with an attorney. Those are the magic words to avoid anything being forced on you.
Is It Worth Fighting a Traffic Violation in Court? Why Is It Imperative to Have Experienced Legal Counsel Look at Your Case?
If your objective is to avoid insurance consequences or motor vehicle points, it’s almost always worth talking to an attorney. Many lesser traffic violations have no motor vehicle points associated with them, and these types of tickets can be freely plea-bargained. If a prosecutor does not want to work with you and give you a reasonable resolution, there is minimal downside risk associated with the trial. So, at that point, it may be worth hiring an attorney, someone who is familiar with litigation and trial procedures.
What Warrants a Traffic Stop Under New Jersey Law? What Must the Officer Observe?
Most traffic violations are based on the officer’s direct observation, either the observation of high speed, the failure to maintain a lane, tailgating, or careless driving, which can arise from a traffic accident. Even if an officer has not witnessed a violation, they are entitled to infer careless driving from the circumstances. To issue a complaint, all an officer needs is reasonable suspicion, which can be based not only on what people see but also what other people tell the officer or under the peculiar circumstances of the encounter. Tickets can be issued relatively freely, but, of course, it’s a far cry from reasonable suspicion to prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, and this is where plea-bargaining can become very effective.
What Is the Officer Looking for When They Approach a Vehicle at a Traffic Stop?
The first consideration for officers is their personal safety. They are looking to see if there is any indication of a threat. They’ll look in the windows to see if there are any guns or weapons within reach. They’ll take a step back from where the driver is seated so that the driver must turn their body in such a way that it gives the officer an advantage. Once an officer is at the window and determines that things are safe, he or she will reposition and try to make other observations like smelling any odor of alcohol on the breath or indication of smoking marijuana. While those two factors in and of themselves cannot be considered reasonable suspicion, in combination with other observations the officer makes, they can become part of the puzzle that can dictate how the encounter continues.
The officer will ask for driving credentials to see how the person retrieves and presents them. The officer will probably ask some general questions such as where you are coming from, where you are going to, and ask follow-up questions to see how you answer them and handle the inquiries. They’ll look for signs of nervousness and other indicators that might mean further investigation is warranted. But, of course, in most circumstances, there is no further investigation. The officer will take the driving credentials and issue either a warning or a motor vehicle ticket. Sometimes, the officer will just even let you go without any further encounter. Every stop is different.
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