Motor Vehicle Points and Surcharges – What are they and how can they hurt you?

One of the most serious penalties associated with motor vehicles violations in New Jersey is the imposition of surcharges against the driving privileges of a defendant. Surcharges are also imposed upon drivers who are convicted of drunk driving or refusal to take a breathalyzer test. The MVC is also authorized to impose surcharges for other traffic violations of Title 39 for which points are not assessed. Motor vehicle surcharges can result in a huge burden on a driver and they can be extremely expensive.

It is not uncommon for a driver to rack up thousands of dollars of dollars in surcharges. The failure to make timely payments of your surcharges will result in an indefinite suspension of your driving privileges and a judgment for the surcharge amount, plus costs and interest, docketed in Superior Court. In many cases, a driver will rack up such a large amount of debt in surcharges that they will be forced to file for bankruptcy. As a side note, surcharges are dischargeable only in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and not in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Many drivers commonly believe that their surcharges are discharged in a Chapter 7 case. Ultimately, the driver will be in for a rude awakening when a trooper pulls them over for a driving while suspended charge.

Point accumulation Surcharges (or penalties), are levied, by the MVC on any driver who has accumulated, within the immediately preceding three year period, six (6) or more motor vehicle points. Surcharges shall be levied for each year in which the driver possesses six or more points. Surcharges are assessed at $100 for six points and $25 for each additional point thereafter until the points are reduced. Motor vehicle violation surcharges are levied for convictions for:

1. Drunk driving or refusal to take a breath test – surcharges will be levied annually for a three-year period, and shall be $1,000 per year for each of the first two convictions, for a total surcharge of $3,000 for each conviction, and $1,500 per year for the third conviction occurring within a three year period, for a total surcharge of $4,500 for the third conviction. New Jersey residents must pay this surcharge even when they are convicted of drunk driving or refusal in any other State or jurisdiction, provided that the out of state violation is of a substantially similar nature to a violation in New Jersey. The rules are slightly different for non residents who are convicted in New Jersey. Although a non resident would not be subject to punishment for his or her driving conduct which occurs outside of New Jersey, such a driver would be subject to the imposition of surcharges upon conviction for drunk driving or refusal that occurred in New Jersey. Thus, a Pennsylvania resident who comes to New Jersey and is convicted of drunk driving will be subject to the $1,000 per year surcharge for three years.

2. Other offenses in which you are convicted or plead guilty and will receive a surcharge for three years include:

  • Unlicenced Driver – $100
  • Driving on the Revoked List – $250
  • No Insurance on Moped – $100
  • No Insurance on Motor Vehicle – $250

3. Surcharge are also imposed for administrative violations of the law and include:

  • Operating While Suspended – $250
  • Failure to Maintain Liability Insurance – $250

These surcharges are assessed administratively and are not based upon a conviction in court. For example, if the MVS receives evidence that a person who was on the revoked list was involved in an accident while driving, then the fact alone would trigger a $250 yearly administrative surcharge. The MVS has a computer system that rivals the Matrix. The MVS quite often picks up all kinds of data from various police departments and Municipal Courts that trigger the imposition of additional surcharges.

If a driver fails to pay a surcharge then his/her license will be suspended until the surcharges are paid off. However, the MVS may stay the suspension of the driver’s license and permit him/her to go on a payment plan to pay the surcharges over a reasonable period of time. If a driver fails to pay the surcharges or any installments due on the surcharge payment plan, then the total amount of the surcharges will become due immediately. If the surcharges are not paid, then a judgement may be entered against the driver in the Superior Court of New Jersey. Moreover, the judgment amount may include post judgment interest and an additional collection fee of 20 percent of the surcharge or $200, whichever is greater.

When the MVS has suspended the driving privileges of a person for the failure to pay surcharges on a timely basis, then that person may not drive for any reason. In the event the driver is caught driving on the revoked list as a result of an administrative suspension for surcharges, then he or she will be subject to enhanced penalties. In addition to the normal sanctions for driving on the revoked list, a surcharge suspension requires that the sentencing judge also impose a $3,000 fine on the defendant.

What is the difference between MVC Points and insurance points?

There is a related system of points that are assessed by auto insurance companies who operate their business in New Jersey. These points are known as insurance points or insurance eligibility points. The point totals are generally the same as those imposed for motor vehicle violations. However several of the most serious violations that do not result in the assessment of motor vehicle points, will result in insurance eligibility points. For example, a drunk driving violation under N.J.S.A. 39:4 50(a) is not a point offense for motor vehicle purposes. However, this violation will result in the assessment of 9 insurance points.

Insurance points are used by insurance carriers to determine the level of premiums that an insured must pay for liability coverage. A total of 9 or fewer points will determine the tier of coverage for which an insured may qualify when purchasing insurance in the voluntary market. An accumulation of more than 8 insurance points will disqualify the insured from purchasing insurance in the voluntary market. However, such an insured may attempt to purchase insurance on an assigned risk basis through the New Jersey Personal Automobile Insurance Plan (N.J.P.A.I.P), although the premiums for even basic, minimal coverage will be significantly more expensive than the rates available in the voluntary market.