Drivers who plead not guilty to a New Jersey traffic ticket will be assigned a court date. On the assigned day, a driver can attempt to get the ticket dismissed, acquitted of the charges, or negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the ticket (a.k.a. plea bargain). However, what if the driver cannot make it to court on that day?
New Jersey allows drivers to request a continuance—i.e. to reschedule the court date. This must be done no less than 24 hours in advance, but the sooner one informs the court the better. The process for requesting a continuance (also called an adjournment) is fairly simple and can be done by the driver or his/her attorney. Essentially, the driver must show up to the court in question or call to make the request. The driver should have on hand the ticket number and be prepared to explain (briefly) the reason for the adjournment.
An adjournment is not guaranteed to every driver who requests one; it is left to the discretion of the judge based on the reason given, the charges, and the court calendar. An attorney will usually have an easier time requesting a specific date or date range. While we all have busy schedules, courts are more accommodating to an attorney’s schedule because they are used to dealing with them. The courts recognize that an attorney will be considerate of the court’s time and not trying to pull a fast one based on some internet advice (see below).
What Reasons Will Convince a Judge to Reschedule a Court Date?
In New Jersey, the court has full discretion into whether or not an appearance can be rescheduled. As such, no reason is guaranteed to work. However, some reasons are more likely to be given consideration than others. This includes:
- Medical issues. Serious medical or health matters often warrant a continuance. This would include an upcoming surgery and/or resulting recovery time, the birth of a child, severe illness such as pneumonia, or an injury that affects one’s ability to travel.
- Family matters. The birth of a child, a death in the family, or any other urgent family situation will likely be considered. Less urgent matters such as lack of daycare/babysitting may also work, but this will depend on the court/judge.
- Trial preparation. NJ traffic courts respect the fact that each person is entitled to prepare a legal defense strategy, conduct fact-finding, and other matters. A person who needs more time may be granted such by the court.
It’s worth repeating that the judge has full discretion and is within his/her right to deny a continuance regardless of reason. Still, most judges are reasonable human beings who will take into consideration genuine hardship, especially if given as much advance notice as possible.
What Happens If I Miss My Traffic Court Date?
A person who misses his/her traffic court date will be sent a failure to appear notice in the mail. The notice will be sent to the address on one’s driver’s license. Included in the notice will be directions for what to do to schedule a new date. A driver who does not comply with these instructions may be issued a bench warrant. In addition to the driver, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission will also be notified of the missed court date, which could choose to suspend the license.
A driver who misses his/her court date should consider hiring an attorney. In addition to handling the instructions on the failure to appear notice, the attorney can also clear up or prevent any potential suspension.
Missing a court date puts the driver at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a ticket dismissed or negotiating a plea deal. At this point, the driver will be seen as irresponsible, even if he/she had a valid reason for missing the date. This makes it all the more critical to hire a skilled attorney. The right attorney will have the best chance of getting the charges dismissed or reduced, even after missing the court date.
If I Reschedule the Traffic Court Date, is it Possible the Police Officer Won’t Show?
Theoretically, yes. However, despite what some internet advice might say, this is not likely to result in an automatic dismissal. If the officer misses the court date—regardless of whether or not it was rescheduled once by the driver—the judge may simply choose to adjourn again. That said, officers rarely miss court dates because it looks bad (and in many cases they get paid for their time and even overtime); most officers respect the system and their obligations to it.
What If I the Court Won’t Let Me Change the Date?
If the court does not allow a person to reschedule a traffic ticket date, but he/she is genuinely unable to make it, the best bet is to hire an attorney. As mentioned, an attorney may have better luck getting the court date changed. Courts tend to be more lenient with attorneys since both sides strive to have a positive relationship. While New Jersey courts are fairly strict about requiring drivers to appear in person, it is possible for an attorney to get permission to appear in lieu of the driver. That means even if the attorney cannot get the date changed, he/she may be able to relieve the driver of his/her obligation to show up and this is often accomplished by a Hardship Affidavit which outlines the reason the individual cannot show up in court and explains that the attorney will go in their stead.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney to Fight My Traffic Ticket?
A person who pays a traffic ticket is effectively pleading guilty and accepting a conviction of the charges. This means paying the fine, but also suffering points, a potential surcharge, and possible auto insurance increase, which can last for years. An attorney can eliminate or reduce these consequences. He/she can also walk you through the legal process, explain the stakes, and develop a legal strategy with the highest chance of success. As mentioned, if a person may have a hard time attending a court date or needs to reschedule, having an attorney explain the situation greatly improves the odds of getting leniency from a judge.
Who Should I Contact?
If you or a loved one has received a traffic ticket in New Jersey and you may have trouble attending the court date, contact an attorney to find out your options. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law are skilled traffic ticket attorneys with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email the Rosenblum Law or Call 888-883-5529 today for a free consultation about your case.