Our courts have long held that prosecutions for "a violation of [motor vehicle law] provisions results in a prosecution of a quasi-criminal action." State v. Cooper, 129 N.J. Super. 229, 231 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 66 N.J. 329 (1974); see also State v. Selzer, 57 N.J. Super. 327, 330 (Law Div. 1959) "(It has been firmly established by the decisions in this State that motor vehicle or traffic violations, unless specifically designated otherwise, are quasi-criminal in character.)"; State v. Rowe, 116 N.J.L. 48, 51 (1935)" (It is . . . the settled law that our Motor Vehicle Act is a penal statute; it is quasi criminal in nature.)" (citation omitted). Quasi-criminal offenses are a class of offenses against the public 'which have not been declared crimes, but wrongful against the general or local public which it is proper should be repressed or punished by forfeitures and penalties.' State v. Laird, 25 N.J. 298, 302-03 (1957) (quoting Wiggins v. City of Chicago, 68 Ill. 372 (1873)). Courts have characterized traffic offenses as quasi-criminal "to satisfy the requirements of fundamental fairness and essential justice to the accused." Vickey v. Nessler, 230 N.J. Super. 141, 149 (1989); see also Laird, 25 N.J. at 303 (holding that classification of crimes as quasi-criminal is "in no sense illusory . . . [as] it has reference to the safeguards inherent in the very nature of the offense, the punitive quality that characterizes the proceeding, and the requirement of fundamental fairness and essential justice)". It follows that "[a] defendant in a prosecution alleging violation of one of the quasi-criminal offenses enumerated in the Motor Vehicle Act is . . . entitled to the basic rights afforded to criminal defendants. . . ." State v. Feintuch, 150 N.J. Super. 414, 422 (App. Div. 1977) (citing State v. Emery, 27 N.J. 348, 353 (1958); Cooper, supra, 129 N.J. Super. at 231), appeal dismissed, 75 N.J. 606 (1978); see also State v. Francis, 67 N.J. Super. 377, 381 (App. Div. 1961) (holding that defendants charged with quasi-criminal offenses "are entitled to the same protection[s] as are normally accorded one accused of a criminal offense)". However, until 1983, our case law was unclear concerning whether principles of double jeopardy are applicable to motor vehicle prosecutions. State v. Dively, 92 N.J. 573, 584 (1983). Dively expressly held that "Motor Vehicle violations tried in municipal courts are within the category of offenses subject to the Double Jeopardy Clause." Id. at 586. State v. John Widmaier 157 N.J. 475. (1999)
Kenneth Vercammen's Law office represents individuals charged with criminal and serious traffic violations throughout New Jersey. Our office helps people with traffic/ municipal court tickets including drivers charged with driving commercial vehicle while intoxicated, refusal and on driving while suspended with a CDL.
Motor vehicle violations can cost you. You will have to pay fines in court or receive points on your drivers license. An accumulation of too many points, or certain moving violations may require you to pay expensive surcharges to the N.J. MVC [Division of Motor Vehicles] or have your license suspended. Don't give up! The Law Office of Kenneth Vercammen can provide experienced attorney representation for motor vehicle violations.
When your driver's license is in jeopardy or you are facing thousands of dollars in fines, DMV surcharges and car insurance increases, you need excellent legal representation. The least expensive attorney is not always the answer. Please call us if you need experienced legal representation in a traffic/municipal court matter. Our website NJLaws.com provides information on traffic offenses we can be retained to represent people. Our website also provides details on jail terms for traffic violations and car insurance eligibility points. Car insurance companies increase rates or drop customers based on moving violations.
It is well established that the prosecution of a defendant for a motor vehicle violation is a quasi-criminal proceeding. In such a proceeding the burden of proof is upon the state to establish all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, plea bargaining is not permitted in Municipal Court DWI cases (while it is available in such varied charges as murder, careless driving, or the burning of old tires). Defense counsel must subpoena its necessary witnesses and prepare for trial. Never attempt to represent yourself if you are facing serious charges.
About the Author
Kenneth A. Vercammen is a trial attorney in Edison, Middlesex County, New Jersey. He often lectures for the New Jersey State Bar Association, New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education and Middlesex County College on personal injury, criminal / municipal court law, and drunk driving. He has published 125 articles in national and New Jersey publications on municipal court and litigation topics. He has served as a Special Acting Prosecutor in seven different cities and towns in New Jersey and also successfully defended hundreds of individuals facing Municipal Court and Criminal Court charges.
In his private practice, he has devoted a substantial portion of his professional time to the preparation and trial of litigated matters. He has appeared in Courts throughout New Jersey several times each week on many personal injury matters, Municipal Court trials, matrimonial hearings, and contested administrative law hearings.
Since 1985, his primary concentration has been on litigation matters. Mr. Vercammen gained other legal experiences as the Confidential Law Clerk to the Court of Appeals of Maryland (Supreme Court), with the Delaware County, PA District Attorney Office handling Probable Cause Hearings, Middlesex County Probation Dept as a Probation Officer, and an Executive Assistant to Scranton District Magistrate, Thomas Hart, in Scranton, PA.