September 27, 2004

New Motor Vehicle Surcharges are a Tax on the Middle Class

by W. Timothy Howes, Esq.

In order to balance the Fiscal Year 2005 Budget, the state government imposed a surcharge of $250 for every conviction for “unsafe driving”.  This new surcharge is nothing more than a new tax on ordinary motorists.

It seems that ordinary motorists just can’t catch a break.  Four years ago, the legislature passed the “unsafe driving” law, which in practice allows motorists to go to court, contest a traffic summons, and pay a fine without receiving motor vehicle points.  No good deed goes unpunished:  Now the government has attached a $250 surcharge for each conviction of “unsafe driving”.

Now, any motorist convicted of “unsafe driving” for the first time will walk out of court approximately $380 lighter in the wallet.  $250 of that sum goes to the state to pay off long-term bonds.  For the most part, the municipal court judges don’t like this law, the municipal prosecutors don’t like this law and the police don’t like this law.

The New Jersey Bar Association has stated, and I agree, that this surcharge is nothing more than a tax on the middle class.  The surcharge is not designed as a punishment.  After all, it is higher than the surcharge on drivers with six or more points.  The surcharges collected over the next generation will be dedicated to balancing the state budget for this fiscal year. 

Sadly, the “unsafe driving” surcharge is now a fact of life in municipal court.

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Howes & Howes

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Raritan, New Jersey 08869

Telephone: (908)704-0037

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