GovernmentLegalNew Jersey

What I learned about traffic court today

I visited traffic court in Millville, New Jersey today. I haven’t had any interaction with traffic court in at least a few decades so I spent time asking questions and looking for information. I was surprised by a bizarre ticket came in the mail last light that had a court appearance listed for this morning. I had already made a suspected fraud call to my insurance company over a suspicious parked car incident earlier this month. But I did not think that I was a suspect in a traffic offense until the ticket arrived. This is what I learned about Millville traffic court from the several people in police and court administration that I spoke with today.

1) Police routinely write the wrong court date on tickets. Court administrators correct these errors when they receive the tickets but not necessarily before you show up for court on the wrong day.

2) Police sometimes write a court date that is less than 24 hours of when the ticket is issued, making it almost necessary to reschedule.

3) It was easy to get a police report in Millville on the third floor of the police and court building.

4) Discovery is handled through the prosecutor, not through the discovery contact and email address listed on the court’s web site.

5) The first opportunity to meet with the prosecutor is on the trial date, meaning that discovery must be after the first scheduled trial date.

6) There is no readily available instructional resources on court rules for pro se litigants.

7) Even if the ticket does not say “court appearance required” all tickets that do not list a fine require a court appearance. It is not possible to just pay the fine before trial date to avoid court costs.

My initial impression is that the traffic court process is clumsy and inefficient, and very much unlike the standards of tax court where I have had more interaction.