Are Traffic Violations in NJ Considered Crimes?
Technically speaking, New Jersey does not have “felonies” and “misdemeanors.” Instead, the state classifies offenses as “indictable crimes” and “disorderly persons” offenses. As a result, this raises an important question: “if I am cited for a traffic violation in New Jersey, have I been charged with a crime?”
The short answer is “no.” Traffic violations fall into a unique, quasi-criminal category. Here, our New Jersey traffic offense attorney explains the most important things you should know about how our state views traffic violations.
New Jersey Law: A Traffic Violation is a Quasi-Criminal Offense
In our state, there is a difference between a traffic charge and a criminal charge. As the Supreme Court of New Jersey articulates in the 2014 case of New Jersey v. Palma, “proceedings involving motor vehicle violations in the municipal courts are quasi-criminal in nature.” A quasi-criminal proceeding shares some but not all characteristics with an actual criminal prosecution.
Virtually all traffic violations are categorized as quasi-criminal offenses in New Jersey. Even a DWI is litigated as a traffic violation, not a criminal offense. That is not to say that a DWI, or other traffic violation, is not a serious matter. You could still face significant penalties, including:
- The loss of your driving privileges
- Jail time
Notably, different state codes apply to criminal charges or disorderly person violations and traffic offenses. Whereas an actual criminal charge falls under our state’s Criminal Justice Code, a traffic-related violation falls under the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code.
A DWI or Other Traffic Violation Cannot Be Expunged in New Jersey
If you are convicted of a traffic violation — reckless driving, DWI, speeding, failing to stop at a traffic
light, etc. — you cannot have the violation expunged from your record. It is one of the most important things to know about New Jersey’s quasi-criminal process for traffic violations and drunk driving offenses.
Expungements are only available in certain types of criminal cases. As a traffic offense is not recorded on your criminal record, it is not eligible for expungement. To keep a DWI or other traffic violation off of your driving record, you must challenge the charge and have it dismissed or be found not guilty.
An experienced New Jersey traffic violation defense attorney can assess the case and help you determine the best course of action to protect your rights, your reputation, and your license.
Call Our New Jersey Traffic Violation Attorney for Guidance and Support
At the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC, our New Jersey traffic violation lawyer has the skills, legal knowledge, and experience to protect your rights. If you were charged with a traffic offense, we are here to help. Contact our firm now for a strictly confidential evaluation of your legal case.
Matthew V. Portella, Esquire represents drivers throughout the state, including but not limited to Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.