Study of the effects of plea bargaining motor vehicle offenses : final report, December 2009.
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Study of the effects of plea bargaining motor vehicle offenses : final report, December 2009.

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  • English

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      Final report.
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    • Abstract:
      The objectives of this study were to examine the impact of plea bargaining point-carrying moving violations to zero-point

      offenses on roadway safety in New Jersey and to assess the impact of plea bargaining on New Jersey Motor Vehicle

      Commission (MVC) programs and revenues. For this study the research team conducted a national literature review

      and a scan of current practices used in other states; reviewed New Jersey laws and program guidance related to driver

      monitoring and control and plea bargaining motor vehicle offenses; conducted a series of interviews with personnel

      from the MVC and Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC); analyzed data from the AOC Automated Traffic System

      (ATS) and the MVC driver history database; and, assessed how the practice of plea bargaining may be affecting MVC

      programs and revenues.

      The study finds clear evidence that the practice of plea bargaining point-carrying moving violations to zero-point

      offenses has increased significantly in New Jersey since July 2000. However, the effect of this increase on highway

      safety is not as clear. The overall number of moving violation convictions has not changed significantly since 2000, nor

      has the nature of the violations being committed changed significantly. The study also finds evidence that a small

      minority of habitual offenders appear to be using the system to their advantage and that the number of drivers

      subjected to MVC negligent driver countermeasures has declined by 36 percent since 1999. This diversion of negligent

      drivers out of MVC driver monitoring and control programs appears to be particularly problematic in light of research

      findings from a recently completed study on recidivism among drivers sanctioned by MVC. That study found the

      countermeasures used by MVC to address negligent driving behavior are effective at reducing violation and crash

      recidivism among most negligent driver subgroups.

      The findings of this study combined with the findings and conclusions of the MVC recidivism study suggest a number of

      policy reforms should be considered to ensure that repeat traffic offenders are not able to circumvent driver monitoring

      and control programs through plea bargaining. First, MVC should work with the AOC, the Attorney General’s office and

      other key stakeholders to develop more explicit guidelines regarding the use of plea bargaining to reduce point-carrying

      moving violations to zero-point offenses. Second, MVC should examine the efficacy of transitioning from a point-based

      system of driver monitoring and control to an event-based system that relies on the accumulation of “countable”

      offenses to trigger negligent driver countermeasures. Thirdly, policy makers should consider amending the “unsafe

      operation” statute to limit the use of plea bargaining by any driver to two times.

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