No Point Plea, Please
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
If a defendant is charged with an offense that would cause him or her to incur motor vehicle points, the municipal prosecutor has the ability to amend the summons to Unsafe Operation of a Motor Vehicle, N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2 ("Unsafe Operation"). A plea to Unsafe Operation eliminates the points that the defendant was originally facing. I find this plea to be especially worthwhile when a client is charged with four or more points. This is because a plea to Unsafe Operation is costly; usually $439.00 for a first offense and $539.00 for a second offense. The high cost is due to a $250.00 state surcharge that is assessed with the fine and collected by the court. Although this plea results in no motor vehicle points being assessed, people utilizing this plea more than twice need to be mindful of how many times and when they did so. A defendant may plead guilty to Unsafe Operation twice, but must have five years from the second offense to a third offense and each offense thereafter. If a defendant utilizes Unsafe Operation a third time within five years of the second time (measuring from the date of the offense, not the plea) he or she will incur four motor vehicle points instead of avoiding them. For fourth and subsequent offense, there would have to be five years between each offense (not plea) to avoid the points. See N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2(d) and (e) and Patel v. NJ Motor Vehicle Commission, 200 N.J. 413 (2009). A list of the motor vehicle point schedule can be found here.