A careless driving ticket in New Jersey carries a fine of $50 to $200, 2 points, and possibly jail time of up to 15 days. However, although incarceration is provided for in the sentencing statute, it is rarely imposed. Now, with a ruling last week by the New Jersey Appellate Court, we have more specific guidelines on when it may be imposed.
In the case of State v. DePalma, the defendant struck and dragged a pedestrian after making a left hand turn at a traffic light. The pedestrian died of the injuries sustained two-months later. There was proof that she was not intoxicated or talking on her cell phone. Despite this, the traffic court judge sentenced her to a 15-day jail term, a $241 fine and a 90-day suspension of driving privileges.
What Must the Judge Do to Impose Jail Time?
In vacating the jail term and sending the case back for re-sentencing, the court held that judges may only impose a license suspension or custodial sentence in careless driving cases that present aggravating circumstances. Those aggravating circumstances are to be gleaned from the evidential sources in the record, which the judge has to recite in his factual findings.
He must then undertake an appropriate weighing of the principles of aggravating and mitigating circumstances based only on the evidential sources in the record. Said aggravating circumstances must, naturally, outweigh mitigating ones.
If you have received a ticket for careless driving here in southern New Jersey and are concerned about whether you might be facing jail time, call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to discuss your case. If you would like more information about New Jersey traffic laws, download my free book, A Guide to Driving Legally in NJ and Surviving Traffic Court If You Don't.