LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Kenneth Albert Vercammen

Fatal Accidents and Suspensions by the NJ MVC

The guilty plea is conclusive evidence of guilt of a moving violation in an Administrative Law case. Even if the Municipal Court agreed to a civil reservation, the guilty plea is admitted at an AOL hearing the driver's violation of NJ traffic laws. Municipal Court Rule 7:6-2 sets forth in part.: "Upon the request of the defendant, the court may, at the time of the acceptance of a guilty plea, order that the plea shall not be evidential in any civil proceeding." This is an administrative law case, not a civil proceeding. On August 27, 2010, in the case State v. Lacey, 416 NJ Super. 123 (App. Div. 2010) the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the protections afforded by a civil reservation are limited to those civil actions where the plaintiff seeks to recover money damages. It does not apply to other collateral, civil actions where, for example, the State or other governmental entity is the plaintiff.

The Appellate Division held "Here, the defendant pled guilty to fourth degree abuse of a minor (he slapped his girlfriend's four year old child leaving "red marks" on his face), but argued that the plea should not be used against him by DYFS with respect to visitation or other proceedings that were pending at the time. The court disagreed for two reasons.

First, the judges held that "[a]n action commenced by DYFS is an action by the State against a parent or guardian designed to protect the best interests of the child; it is not an action for money damages or other traditional relief in a 'civil proceeding.'" Thus the reservation would apply if a civil suit was brought by the child's parent for damages arising out of the assault.

Second, when making the civil reservations motion, the defendant has the burden to show a "reason sufficient to warrant the granting of his application." Here the defendant simply made the motion as part of the plea without a basis for barring it in a DYFS proceeding. In addition, the court felt that the "best interest of the child" trumped any rights claimed by the defendant ." There is also no double jeopardy, since that is also not applicable to an administrative law case. Discovery is MVC cases- see http://www.njlaws.com/1_1-10_2discovery.html

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