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39:4-97 Careless driving

39:4-97 Careless driving

39:4-104 Fine or imprisonment not

exceeding 15 days, or both

$50 $200 plus court costs

NJ MVC Points 39:4-97 Careless driving


and 2 Car insurance points

Plus Judge Can Suspend DL for Willful Traffic Offense.

State v. Moran 202 NJ 311 (2010)

The license suspension provision of N.J.S.A. 39:5-31, which is published in the Motor Vehicle Code of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated, is not hidden, and defendant, like all motorists, is presumed to know the law. To ensure that license suspensions meted out pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:5-31 are imposed in a reasonably fair and uniform manner, so that similarly situated defendants are treated similarly, the Court today defines the term willful violation contained in N.J.S.A. 39:5-31 and enunciates sentencing standards to guide municipal court and Law Division judges

Careless driving Careless driving 39:4-97 requires the State to provide the vehicle was operated by the defendant carelessly or without due caution and circumspection, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property

The NJ Appellate Division in held in State v Lutz 309 N.J. Super. 317 (App. Div. 1998) that merely because an accident took place a driver does not been the driver is guilty of careless driving. The court wrote:

Finally, we find merit in defendants contention that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of careless driving.

The court wrote:

 It appears that both the Municipal Court judge and the Law Division judge applied a res ipsa loquitur analysis in finding defendant guilty of careless driving.   The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, however, has no application in the determination of careless driving due to the quasi-criminal nature of the proceeding in which the State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt all elements of the offense.   See State v. Wenzel, 113 N.J.Super., 215, 216-18, 273 A.2d 395 (App.Div.1971) (the mere fact of an otherwise unexplained jackknifing where a tractor-trailer entering a construction area had jackknifed on the wet roadway, crossed into the opposite lane and broadsided another truck fatally injuring the trucks driver, did not establish that the defendant had been driving carelessly.)

The careless driving statute provides:

[a] person who drives a vehicle on a highway carelessly, or without due caution and circumspection, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property, shall be guilty of careless driving.

[N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.]

Here, other than the accident itself, the State only presented defendants statement that his vehicle began to slide on the wet highway and continued to do so when he tapped his brakes.   Moreover, his apology was not an admission to driving carelessly, but merely a statement that his car had slid on the wet pavement.   The State presented no evidence indicating that defendant had been speeding, driving too fast for the wet road conditions, distracted or otherwise driving without due caution and circumspection.   Consequently, there was insufficient evidence to support defendants conviction for careless driving, and we reverse that conviction.

In State v. Wenzel, 113 N.J. Super. 215 (App. Div. 1971) defendant was charged with careless driving when his tractor-trailer jackknifed and struck another trailer. The States only witness did not see the accident. There was no evidence defendant was speeding or that he drove without due caution or circumspection. However, both the municipal and county courts determined that an otherwise unexplained jackknifing was indicative of careless driving. The Appellate Division reversed, holding the res ipsa doctrine employed by the lower courts had no place in a quasi-criminal action for careless driving. The rationale of the Wenzel decision applies to this case.

See also State v Roenicke 174 N.J. Super. 513 (Law Div 1980)

Defendant was involved in a one-car accident which was not observed by the trooper or any other witness. The State failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he drove in a reckless manner. Defendant cannot be found guilty of reckless driving, and his conviction is set aside.

More info at http://www.njlaws.com/careless_reckless_driving.htm

Kenneth Vercammen was the Middlesex County Bar Municipal Court Attorney of the Year

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Kenneth Vercammens Law office represents individuals charged with criminal, drug offenses, and serious traffic violations throughout New Jersey. Our office helps people with traffic/ municipal court tickets including drivers charged with Driving While Intoxicated, Refusal and Driving While Suspended.

Kenneth Vercammen was the NJ State Bar Municipal Court Attorney of the Year and past president of the Middlesex County Municipal Prosecutors Association.

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