The New Jersey “Driving Without Insurance” statute requires every owner of a registered motor vehicle in the state to have at a minimum liability auto insurance. Specifically, liability insurance covers liability for death, property damage, or personal injury. This statute is one of the most severe traffic laws in the state. In fact, someone caught driving without insurance faces more severe penalties in terms of losing their license for a first offense than a person convicted of a first-offense DWI in New Jersey. This harsh traffic law evidences the state’s strong interest in keeping New Jersey roads safe and providing recourse to people involved in accidents.
In a driving without insurance case, the state must prove (1) the driver is the owner of the vehicle and/or; (2) knew or should have known that the vehicle is uninsured; and (3) the vehicle must be principally garaged and registered in the state of New Jersey. The driver’s failure to present an insurance card or insurance policy covering the date of the offense will create the presumption that the driver was uninsured when the offense occurred.
If you are caught driving without insurance in Howell, you should contact a law firm experienced in defending motor vehicle violations. Call Villani & DeLuca, P.C. if you have been charged under the New Jersey driving without insurance statute.
Compulsory Motor Vehicle Insurance – Penalties (N.J.S.A. 39:6B-2)
The driving without insurance statute is strict liability, meaning liability does not depend on actual negligence or intent to harm. The statute provides in pertinent part:
“An owner or registrant of a motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this State who operates or causes to be operated a motor vehicle upon any public road or highway in this State without motor vehicle liability insurance coverage required by this act, and any operator who operates or causes a motor vehicle to be operated and who knows or should know from the attendant circumstances that the motor vehicle is without motor vehicle liability insurance coverage required by this act shall be subject, for the first offense, to a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $1,000 and a period of community service to be determined by the court, and shall forthwith forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of one year from the date of conviction.? Upon subsequent conviction, he shall be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and shall be subject to imprisonment for a term of 14 days and shall be ordered by the court to perform community service for a period of 30 days, which shall be of such form and on such terms as the court shall deem appropriate under the circumstances, and shall forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle for a period of two years from the date of his conviction, and, after the expiration of said period, he may make application to the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles for a license to operate a motor vehicle, which application may be granted at the discretion of the director. The directors discretion shall be based upon an assessment of the likelihood that the individual will operate or cause a motor vehicle to be operated in the future without the insurance coverage required by this act. A complaint for violation of this act may be made to a municipal court at any time within six months after the date of the alleged offense.”
In short, a first-time violation of N.J.S.A. 39:6B-2 includes a minimum fine of $300 up to $1,000, community service, DMV surcharges of $250 for three years, and a mandatory driver’s license suspension of one year. A second-time violation of the statute includes a fine of up to $5,000, a jail sentence of 14 days, community service of 30 days, and a license suspension of two years. After repeat offenses, a driver will have to complete a new application to the Motor Vehicle Commission to receive a license to drive—which may or may not be granted, at the director’s discretion. Permanent loss of a driver’s license is the greatest risk for repeat offenders. Finally, driving without insurance requires the driver to pay a surcharge of $250 a year for three years.
Although the statute is strict liability, there are defenses available. Traffic attorneys often present the defense that the insurance was canceled without notifying the client, and therefore the cancellation is unlawful. Another defense is available when the vehicle was owned by someone other than the driver, and therefore the driver had no reason to know the vehicle was uninsured. In other cases, there is the possible defense that the vehicle was covered by insurance on another vehicle in the same household as a temporary vehicle.