The driver should be made aware that if a ticket is to resolved at the violations window, then the payment if full of all fines and costs is expected at the time of the plea of guilty. Payments may be made by check, cash or money order. Moreover, many of the municipal courts around the state have been authorized to accept fines via credit cards.
If the plea is take by the mail, then the driver must execute the back of the ticket, waiving the right to appear in court and contest the charges. The full amount of the payment should be included along with the motor vehicle ticket. The court should always send the client a receipt that payment of the fines have been accepted.
Quite often, the fines that the court imposes out are just too high for the driver to pay. Therefore, most clients often ask the court for payment plans. Thereafter, the court may order that you fill out some forms that delineate your income and expenses. After the calender is complete, the court will determine whether to give the driver a payment plan. The courts vary in their zealousness in collecting fines. Some courts will not let you go home unless all of the fines are paid in full. Other courts threaten you with immediate jail time unless the fines are paid. The judges will tell the driver to go out in the hall, and call friends and relatives to bring them the fine monies.
Meanwhile, some Municipal Courts are very reasonable and give the drivers time to make a reasonable payment plan. However, there is an emerging trend to impose a $25 service fee to the local Municipal Court to supervise the payment plan. What will the courts think up next?
In summary if a driver is faced with a bunch of tickets then he or she should definitely bring some “mean green” to court to pay any fines. The local judge often become very aggravated when a driver doesn’t bring any money to court with them to court to pay any fines. This oversight is very often perceived as a lack of respect to the Municipal Court. In summary, if you are respectful and cooperative with the courts, then they will reciprocate. However, if the driver treats the courts as a joke, then he or she will be in for a rude awakening.
The Legislature has expanded the period of time that a poor person may have to pay their traffic and parking fines. As per N.J.S.A. 39:4-203.1, a driver who can demonstrate that he is broke may be permitted to pay both traffic fines and parking tickets in an installment plan which can be for a period as long as 12 months.
Quite often, a driver just gets crushed with fines from the judge. It is not uncommon for a driver to amass thousands of dollars in fines. Some disingenuous drivers have tried to wipe out their court fines in bankruptcy. However, in the case of Matter of Cuevas, 205 B.R. 457 (Bkrtcy. N.J. 1997), the U.S. Bankruptcy Court specifically held that a debtor can’t wipe out their municipal court fines in a bankruptcy case. Basically, the local municipal court will try to put the driver in jail if he or she does not pay their fines by claiming bankruptcy. The municipal court judge always has the option to impose jail time in lieu of fining the driver. The message from the Cuevas opinion is that there is no way for the bad driver to “beat the system.”
In summary if a driver tries to wipe out his/her municipal court fines in bankruptcy, then the court will issue a bench warrant and have the driver arrested. The court will permit the driver to serve the sentence by serving time in jail instead of paying the fines. This is obviously not a “Good Thing,” to quote Martha Stewart, for many New Jersey drivers.
Unfortunately, after many DWI cases, the clients become so broke that bankruptcy is their only option. DWI drivers must be warned that a bankruptcy can trigger many collateral consequences that affect their lives. There are heavy fines and massive surcharges. Many times a DWI charge will get a person fired from their job. Finally, for some people a DWI conviction may ultimately trigger a divorce or a separation. The cold reality is that a DWI conviction often causes a “chain reaction” that causes a person to file for bankruptcy.
New Jersey is the only state that has surcharges. This is a unique invention by the Garden State that makes our home state uniquely miserable. There are many positive aspects about living in New Jersey. However, motor vehicle surcharges are not one of them.
Drivers also must be warned that a DWI conviction will in most cases triple their auto insurance bill. In many instances people just can’t afford to drive again. However, since mass transportation is terrible in New Jersey, most people drive anyway. Many of these drivers are busted once again for the charge of driving while suspended. This violation will create yet more surcharges.
In summary if a driver gets convicted for a DWI and if he receives other charges then it is not uncommon at all for him to amass $10,000 to $15,000 worth of surcharges. Please note that if you do not pay your surcharges, then the MVS will charge you interest and penalties. It is a rotten system! The surcharge system is really a form of double punishment. Many Municipal Court judges don’t agree with the surcharge system. However, they can’t change the law, and they have to comply with these laws.
On the bright side, New Jersey does not treat a DWI as a criminal offense. In New Jersey a DWI charge is still a motor vehicle charge. In most states a DWI is treated as a criminal offense. Therefore, in many other states if you are busted for a DWI then you will have a criminal record. New Jersey does not give you a criminal record if you are busted for DWI. However, the Garden State will fine and surcharge you until you are forced to file for bankruptcy.
Fortunately, bankruptcy can provide some relief to DWI drivers. DWI fines are not dischargeable in any type of bankruptcy proceeding. These fines must be paid. If a person does not pay their DWI fines, then a bench warrant will be issued, and they will be picked and arrested by the police.
However, surcharges can be partially discharged in bankruptcy. Surcharges can never be discharged in a chapter 7 case. If a person files a chapter 7, then the automatic stay will stop the MVS from their collection efforts to collect the surcharges. This automatic stay protection will only last for about six months, until the bankruptcy is over. Once the bankruptcy is over, then the MVS will start their collection efforts again. Many people are shocked when they realize that their surcharges are not wiped out in the bankruptcy.
On the bright side, most of the surcharges can be wiped out in a chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 is a bankruptcy wherein a person has to pay a portion of their debt over three to five years. In most cases, a DWI driver in a chapter 13 case can pay $50 a month for three years. If the DWI driver makes all of the bankruptcy payments, then they will receive a discharge. Basically, the DWI driver can have most of their surcharges wiped off if they make the plan payments.
In summary, if a person has “mega” surcharges, then they must file a chapter 13. A person can’t wipe out surcharges in a chapter 7.