In New Jersey, Driving Without Insurance is one of the most serious motor vehicle offenses. It carries extremely harsh penalties. The New Jersey Compulsory Motor Vehicle Insurance Law is found at N.J.S.A. 39:6B-1. This law requires every owner or of a vehicle registered or principally garaged in the state to carry motor vehicle liability insurance coverage.
N.J.S.A. 39:6B-2 provides that any owner or registrant of a motor vehicle required to carry insurance under 39:6B-1 who operates or causes to be operated a motor vehicle upon any public road or highway in the State without such insurance is in violation of the statute. It also provides that any driver who operates a motor vehicle who knows or should know from the circumstances that it is uninsured is in violation. Failure to produce a valid insurance card at the time of trial gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that the person was uninsured at the time he or she was charged with the violation.
A first time violation of NJSA 39:6B-2 (driving without liability insurance) includes a fine of at least $300 and up to $1,000.00 community service, DMV surcharges of $250 for three years, and a mandatory license suspension of one year. There are also court costs and fees that are required to be paid in addition to the penalties listed above.
A second offense carries with it a fine of up to $5000.00, a mandatory jail sentence of 14 days, 30 days community service, and a license suspension for two years. The license is not automatically returned after that date and the violator must make application to the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles for reinstatement.
The Law Firm of Randolph H. Wolf utilizes many defenses to attempt to prevent its clients from being convicted under this statute. In the past we have successfully defended persons with the following arguments:
• The car was not registered in New Jersey or was not principally garaged in the State. The car was actually registered in another state.
• The driver did not know that the car was uninsured and had no reason to know it.
• The driver was not the owner of the car and was in fact covered under another insurance policy for liability coverage
• There was a mix-up in the coverage on the automobile resulting in lapse of coverage and the owner immediately fixed the problem and obtained insurance once he or she became aware of it (This is probably not a valid legal defense, but, on occasion courts and prosecutors are sympathetic to a genuine mistake).
Additionally, we can often successfully argue that the insurance company did not follow the requirements set forth in the New Jersey Administrative Code, N.J.A.C. 11:3-8.1 et seq. for cancelling or not renewing an insurance policy.
Cancellation of Insurance
Insurance companies must abide by strict statutory requirements in order to successfully cancel an insurance policy. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 17:29C-7, a cancellation of a policy of insurance may be effective only for only one of the following specifically enumerated reasons: (1) nonpayment; (2) suspension/revocation; or (3) fraud. Thus, if an insurance policy was cancelled for any other reason, the cancellation is not valid.
Additionally, N.J.S.A. 17:29C-8 sets forth strict time requirements that insurers must abide by when notifying the insured of a cancellation of insurance. If the policy is being cancelled for suspension/revocation or fraud, then the insurer must notify the insured of the cancellation at least 20 days prior to the effective date of cancellation. If the policy is being cancelled for nonpayment, then the insurer must notify the insured of the cancellation at least 15 days prior to the effective date of cancellation. The notice must be accompanied by a statement of the reason given for the cancellation.
Proof of mailing of the notice of cancellation to the named insured at the address shown in the policy is sufficient proof of notice. N.J.S.A. 17:29C-10. Proof of mailing, however, is not conclusive on the issue. The insured may still offer proof that he never received the notice for the purpose of refuting the hypothesis of mailing.
Nonrenewal of Insurance
Insurers can decline to renew coverage if the insured no longer meet any of the company’s acceptance criteria. This can occur when a driver’s record includes an “at-fault accident” or motor vehicle violations. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 17:29C-9, a written non-renewal notice must be sent at least 60 calendar days prior to the expiration date of the existing policy.
As with cancellation of insurance, proof of mailing of the notice of cancellation to the named insured at the address shown in the policy is sufficient – but not conclusive – to establish proof of notice.
Of course, just because a defense has worked in the past, is no guarantee that it will be successful in any future case. Please contact our office for a free consultation to see whether we can help you keep your license and stay out of jail when facing a no insurance charge.