Failure to Pay Fines

What Does the Court Do When You Don't Pay Fines?

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New Jersey law provides that every defendant should be afforded a “reasonable opportunity” to pay a fine including arrangements for installment payments when good cause is shown. An issue obviously arises when an individual defaults on a payment plan because the options available to a court include an arrest warrant, drivers license suspension, imposition of contempt or issuance of a failure to appear (“fta”). The following is a review of options available to a Judge when an individual fails to make payment on a fine.

Criminal Offenses

If an individual fails to pay a criminal fine or defaults on a payment plan, the potential recourses a judge may resort to are contained under N.J.S.A. 2C:46-2. The options that the court may exercise include forcing the defendant to appear by issuance of an arrest warrant. If the defendant fails to demonstrate good cause for his failure to pay fines when he eventually appears in court on the bench warrant, the Judge may suspend his driving privilege until the fine is paid. The court may also impose a period of imprisonment if the nonpayment is willful. The jail term for non-payment of a fine cannot exceed one day for every $20 in fines owed nor 40 days, in total, for a disorderly persons offense and 25 days for a petty disorderly persons offense. In lieu of jail, the court may impose a period of community service and the number of hours is in the discretion of the judge. The court may also simply issue a failure to appear (i.e. notice directing that the defendant appear in court) or issue a close out with a resulting drivers license revocation.

Traffic Ticket

When a failure to pay fines concerns an unpaid traffic summons or ticket, the court can again issue a warrant or other means for compelling the defendant to appear in court. Similarly, a “close out” can be issued on the motor vehicle violation; this closes the traffic case and results in issuance of a revocation notice from the court to the Division of Motor Vehicles. The result is a suspension of the defendant’s license to operate a motor vehicle. Imprisonment is also a possibility with the limitation of three months and $20 for every day served in jail.

Municipal Ordinance Violation

A defendant who fails to pay a fine imposed for an ordinance violation may be subjected to an arrest warrant, a failure to appear or the case may be closed out with a related request that the defendant’s license be suspended. A period of imprisonment of up to 90 days may also be imposed.

If you are the subject of an outstanding warrant, license suspension, or other recourse as a result of failure to pay fines, our lawyers can help you. The attorneys at our defense firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, are frequently able to have outstanding warrants of this nature recalled. Even in those cases where a recall cannot be obtained, an attorney is almost always successful in avoiding any escalation in the situation, such as jail or a continued license suspension. Give us a call and a lawyer on our defense team will be happy to discuss exactly how we can assist you.