The New Jersey Guide to Dealing with Traffic Tickets

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

No matter if you’ve been driving for six months or 60 years, getting tickets is a fact of life. Now you’ve found yourself with one. Whether this is your first citation or you’ve had a few, what you do next is what matters.

After receiving a New Jersey traffic ticket, you are faced with some choices. Do you just pay it and put it behind you? Do you fight it? Do you hire an attorney? Do you “throw yourself on the mercy of the court” and hope they can help? Or, do you just ignore it and hope it goes away?  Once you know your options step by step, you can pick the one that works best for you.

Let’s take a look at how you might attack the problem of getting a ticket. Of course, you should start by weighing your options but, after that, what’s next?

  • Hire an attorney?
  • Talk to the court?
  • Take a driver safety course?

(I’m going to save you a little suspense here. That last step, the “safety course” one? That one is almost always your best choice, but who knows? One of the others might work just as well.)

You Got a Ticket. Now What?

Drivers react differently to getting tickets. Some get angry or indignant. Some are gracious, accepting the citation as an invitation to learn better for next time. Others view the infraction karmic-ly, figuring that even if they didn’t deserve the ticket this time, they probably got away with it (or worse) a dozen times in the past.

It’s not important if you experienced one of these reactions or something completely different. What is important is what you choose to do next. All you know is that you want to deal with this inconvenience with as little effort and expense as possible.

You could choose the zero effort and expense route and do nothing. I tried that once. It did not go well.

I Ignored a Ticket and it Was Fine, Until it Got Awkward (and Expensive)

You could just pay the darn thing and chalk the fine up to hard-earned experience. This option is fairly low on the effort scale but fairly high on the expense side. And it won’t just be expensive now; it’ll be expensive later when your insurance renews.

You may feel that your ticket represented an attack on your driving superiority, and now you’re out for justice. What will it take to beat your ticket with an attorney?

Hire a Lawyer and Fight, Fight, Fight

Maybe you’ve seen billboards with pictures of smiling (or sometimes scowling) attorneys promising to join in your traffic-related crusade. Is this your best answer in terms of time and expense?

The internet is crawling with attorneys ready to go to war for you over your traffic ticket. Don’t believe me? Google “fight ticket with New Jersey attorney” and see how many results you get.

Most of these sites will boast of a 90%+ success rate, and many will make promises like

“Full refund if we are unable to keep the ticket off your record!”

Some of these will claim they’ll pay for your ticket as well.

These sites will also offer statistics encouraging you to employ them by implying you’d be stupid not to.

“One in four tickets is issued in error, yet only 5% of drivers contest their traffic tickets.”

Do you want to be in the 95% of suckers who don’t?

If you’re the type who likes to drive fast all the time, this may be an option. Many law firms have monthly memberships that will allow you to have…

“Unlimited back-and-forth with traffic lawyers. Chat with certified lawyers until you’re satisfied. About any legal issue—from big to small, and everything in between.”

The fight-it-with-a-lawyer option works like this:

  • Spend time researching traffic lawyers and hire one. Once you’ve paid the required fees, the attorney will:
    • Request a contested hearing
    • Request discovery for your case
    • Represent you in court
    • Negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges dropped or reduced 

Factoring in the time spent shopping for a lawyer, this option is fairly moderate on the effort scale. But, depending on what the firm charges, it may remain pretty high on the expense chart. At least your insurance won’t go up if the attorney manages to keep the ticket off your record.

But Your Honor, You Have to Understand…

You could skip hiring an attorney and head to the courthouse yourself and request one of three things:

  • A mitigation hearing
  • A contested hearing
  • Permission to take a driver safety course

A mitigation hearing is one where you request leniency because the fine represents an excessive financial burden. If you are successful, the court may reduce your fine, put you on a monthly payment plan, or allow you to work off your debt with community service.

A contested hearing is one you attend with the purpose of getting the conviction overturned.

Requesting permission to take a driver safety course is exactly what it sounds like.

For most minor violations, traffic courts in New Jersey may allow you to dismiss your ticket by completing a defensive driving course.

These decisions are made on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of your violation and your previous driving history. The court’s considerations include things like:

  • If you have dismissed a ticket with a driver safety course before and, if so, when?
  • Was your ticket written for excessive speed over the posted limit? (Generally 25+ MPH over)
  • Was your ticket written in a school or work zone?
  • Do you hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)?

If the answer to these questions is no, you’re generally good to go.

If the court does grant permission, you will be given information as to how the process works, including:

  • The type of course you will need to take
  • The date by which that course must be completed
  • If you will need to provide any other documentation
  • If there are additional fees you may owe

IMPORTANT NOTE: Just like playing “Mother May I” when you were a kid, DO NOT start a defensive driving course before receiving permission. You’ll wind up paying for a second one and starting all over. Also, while most courts will accept an online course, you’ll want to make very sure your court will.

Taking Your New Jersey Defensive Driving Course

All driver safety courses follow the same basic curriculum. Your course will touch on topics such as:

  • New Jersey traffic law
  • Safe driving techniques
  • How to avoid an accident
  • How to handle an emergency
  • How to share the road safely with others

At the end of the course, you will be required to pass a test over the presented material to be awarded a completion certificate. This certificate of completion can then be submitted to your court, keeping the conviction and associated points off of your driving record.

New Jersey drivers who complete defensive driving may be eligible for one of the following benefits:

  • Traffic ticket dismissal
  • Fulfillment of a court order
  • The possibility of lower insurance premiums

You can find defensive driving courses taught both live in classrooms and online.  Online is often the more convenient option because it can be worked on wherever and whenever the student has the time.

Most courts in New Jersey will dismiss tickets with defensive driving if you meet their qualifications.  Each court is individual in its requirements, but generally, you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must hold a valid New Jersey driver’s license
  • You must not have more than one current violation
  • Your citation must not have been received while driving a commercial vehicle

If you meet these requirements, you may be eligible for ticket dismissal. In some cases, depending on the severity of your violation and previous driving history, you may be required to take defensive driving as a part of your sentencing.

In either case, you will receive procedural instructions from your court about which course you must take, the date the course must be completed, and any additional fines, fees, or documents you may need to submit.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on individual circumstances, some drivers may not be approved for ticket dismissal with a driver safety class, but it never hurts to ask!

If Your Court Says Yes

New Jersey Approved Defensive Driving

New Jersey defensive driving can be completed online or in a classroom. The most important point here is that the course must be approved by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC).

For most busy folks, an online defensive driving course makes the most sense. Taking your course this way allows you to complete it all at once or a piece at a time, whenever you have the time. Online defensive driving is fast becoming the first choice for many New Jersey drivers. Start your search with some of New Jersey’s top online providers.

Best MVC-Approved Defensive Driving Schools

Website Name Phone
MyImprov.com Improv Defensive Driving 800-391-8536
GoToTrafficSchool.com Go To Traffic School 888-329-7069
IDriveSafely.com I Drive Safely 866-388-9068
DriversEd.com NJ Defensive Driving by DriversEd 888-651-2886
DriveSafeToday.com Drive Safe Today 800-991-0310
SafeMotorist.com American Safety Council 800-732-4135
DriveSafeOnline.com DriveSafe, Inc. 800-733-6874
NTSI.com National Traffic Safety Institute 800-733-6874
DrivingUniversity.com Driving University 877-937-4846
EasyNJDefensiveDriving.com Easy New Jersey Defensive Driving 800-667-1692
AARPDriverSafety.org AARP 800-350-7025
247NewJerseyDefensiveDriving.com 247 New Jersey Defensive Driving 877-848-5754
CompleteTodayDefensiveDriving.com Complete Today Defensive Driving 877-424-6050
GardenStateSafetyCouncil.com Garden State Safety Council 631-360-2160
12DollarNewJerseyDriver.com 12 Dollar New Jersey Driver 844-812-8512
TrafficSchoolOnline.com Traffic School Online 800-800-3579
EasyFastCheapDefensiveDriving.com Easy-Fast-Cheap-Defensive Driving 800-554-8506
CheapDefensiveDrivingCourse.com Cheap Defensive Driving Course 800-356-9705
NJDriverSafety.com National Driving and Traffic School 877-790-7973
12DollarSchoolOnline.com 12 Dollar School Online 844-305-9926
DefensiveDriving.com Defensive Driving 713-488-4000
Safe2Drive.com A & A Safe2Drive 800-763-1297
NJInsuranceReduction.com American Safety Institute 800-800-7121
DefensiveDrivingGroup.com Defensive Drivers Group 877-883-7290
DefensiveDrivingExpress.com Defensive Driving Express 800-594-0792
1SafeDriver.com 1 Safe Driver 888-750-6400

 

A Final Word

Ticket dismissal is not the only reason to take defensive driving. Find out how taking a course can keep you safer and put money in your pocket.

What’s Good about Driver Safety Classes?

More Questions? We Have More Answers!

If this is your first time taking a New Jersey defensive driving course, or it’s been a minute since your last one, here is some more useful information just in case.

How long is the New Jersey defensive driving course?

New Jersey state law requires a defensive driving course to be five hours in length. The same standard applies whether the course is completed online or in the classroom.

For many drivers, taking the course online makes the task easier because it does not require you to carve a five hour chunk out of an already busy schedule. With the ability to log in and out as often as you wish, online courses allow you to complete the course at a pace that works best for you.

Why should I take a New Jersey defensive driving course?

If you have points on your driving record, voluntarily completing a New Jersey defensive driving course will remove two of them. This kindness can be taken advantage of once every five years, and it may prevent you from potentially receiving a nasty letter in the mail from the New Jersey MVC.

If your driving record accrues a total of 12-24 points in a two-year + period, the MVC will notify you of your need to complete a Driver Improvement Program (DIP) course. This course is offered in lieu of a six-month suspension of your license, so it’s not a bad idea to take them up on their offer. This classroom course is four hours long and will require you to pay the MVC an administrative fee of $75 dollars in addition to what you will have to pay the course provider. Using a much less expensive defensive driving course to keep your points from reaching twelve makes much more sense.

How much do 2 points affect insurance in NJ?

Depending on your insurance carrier, a single two point incident can increase your premiums from 10-38%. Conversely, removing two points from your driving record may reduce your insurance cost by that amount. This is another reason why taking defensive driving may be a great area for you. Who couldn’t use a little more money in their pockets?

Can you pay to have points removed from your New Jersey license?

Unfortunately, driving record points are not a problem you can just throw money at, at least not directly.

Points can be removed from a New Jersey driving record in three ways. Two require money, one only requires patience (and good behavior).

  • You can take a defensive driving course to remove two points. These courses can be purchased for $20-$50 dollars.
  • If you have excessive points, you can take a Driver Improvement Program (DIP) course to remove three points. These courses can run north of $150 dollars when you combine class and MVC fees.
  • Three points will automatically be removed after a year of citation-free driving.

Whichever method you choose, remember that the sooner points come off your record, the sooner you can qualify for less expensive auto insurance.