NJ CIVIL RESERVATION: AVOID HAVING YOUR ACCIDENT RELATED CONVICTION FOR A NJ MOTOR VEHICLE OFFENSE USED AGAINST YOU IN A NJ PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

On March 19, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that NJ Municipal Court traffic defendants involved in accidents who want to keep their guilty pleas to motor vehicle violations from being used against them in personal injury suits must request a civil reservation before they are sentenced.

In Maida v. Kuskin, the Court decided that because the defendant’s attorney failed to ask for a civil reservation until after the defendant entered his guilty plea and was sentenced, a grant of a civil reservation was inappropriate, and violated the plain language of New Jersey Court Rule 7:6-2(a)(1). That rule requires that a request for a civil reservation be made in open court contemporaneously with the municipal court’s acceptance of the guilty plea. The Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous. Judge Mary Cuff, temporarily assigned from the Appellate Division, said “Any other procedure frustrates the ability of a victim of a motor vehicle accident to object.”

Despite refusing to allow the civil reservation, the court affirmed on different grounds, finding that the failure to report the accident had no relevance to whether the individual who entered the guilty plea drove negligently. As such, the entry of the plea and the conviction thereto could not be used in a civil lawsuit.

A defendant can ask for an order that a guilty plea to a traffic violation not be evidential in any civil proceeding and the order is “entered as a matter of course unless the prosecutor or the victim objects,” Cuff said. Anyone objecting to the grant of a civil reservation must show good cause.

Without a civil reservation, it is not just the existence of a guilty plea that can be used in a civil suit, but also the facts set forth by the defendant during the course of the guilty plea.

For individuals who are facing prosecution or sentencing in NJ Municipal criminal or traffic courts or in the Superior Courts of New Jersey, or who are appealing their criminal matters before the New Jersey Superior Court, NJ Appellate Division, or the Supreme Court of New Jersey, it is critical to have an experienced state and Municipal Court New Jersey criminal and traffic defense attorney represent you. The experienced criminal defense lawyers of Schwartz & Posnock appear in all State and Municipal criminal and traffic courts in New Jersey, and have convenient locations in Monmouth County (Eatontown), Essex County (Livingston), Union County (Linden), and Middlesex County (East Brunswick). Call us at 732-544-1460 or email us at info@schwartzposnock.com to schedule an appointment.

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