In order to be a legal New Jersey driver, you need the following documents:
- a valid driver's license,
- registration for the car you are driving, and
- proof that the car is insured.
You must have these documents with you when you drive in New Jersey. If you do not, you may have to pay a fine of up to $150 for each missing document, plus court costs.
A police officer cannot stop you just to ask you to show your driver’s license, registration for the car you are driving, and proof of insurance. But an officer can ask to see these documents if you are stopped for some other reason, such as speeding. If you don’t have your license, registration, or insurance card with you, the police officer will give you a ticket. If you do not have proof of insurance with you, you must prove within 24 hours to the police department of the town that gave you the ticket that the vehicle is insured. Otherwise, the police can take possession of your vehicle.
Before August 15, 2003, the fine for violating this law was $44 for each document. The fine is now $150 for each document. If you have the missing document and accidentally left it at home that day, you can plead not guilty, appear at the municipal court hearing, show the missing document, and ask the municipal court judge to dismiss the ticket. The municipal court judge may (or may not) dismiss the ticket without making you pay the fine, but the judge can ask you to pay $23 for court costs.
This article originally appeared in the November 2003 edition of Looking Out for Your Legal Rights®.