No more plea deals for NJ teen drivers

September 19, 2008 12:16:19 PM PDT
New Jersey's attorney general has slammed the brakes on plea bargains for teenagers ticketed for driving offenses.Attorney General Anne Milgram issued a directive Wednesday barring municipal prosecutors from offering bargain-down deals to provisional drivers.

The directive is the first recommendation of Gov. Jon Corzine's Teen Driving Study Commission to be put into practice.

The commission determined that New Jersey's graduated driver's license program was being undermined when young drivers were allowed to plead down to lesser motor vehicle offenses carrying no points.

Drivers in the program who accumulate three or more points must complete a driver improvement program before being issued a nonprovisional license.

In hearings on teen driving safety held throughout the state last winter, teenagers spoke openly about their willingness to flout motor vehicle laws because of lax consequences.

Because graduated driver's license holders are probationary drivers, "it is entirely appropriate that they be held strictly accountable for all motor vehicle violations," Milgram's directive says. The directive does not limit a prosecutor's ability to dismiss charges as warranted.

AAA New Jersey applauded the directive.

"It is an example of cutting through the clutter to make a direct impact on teen driver safety in this state," said David Weinstein, AAA's representative on the commission.

Other recommendations of the teen driver safety panel being considered by the Legislature include: an 11 p.m. curfew on provisional drivers and limiting to one the number of other teenagers who can be in the car with a provisional driver.

All 50 states have graduated driver's licenses whereby new drivers start with a learner's permit then progress to either a restricted or unrestricted license. Restricted licenses limit driving at night and the number of passengers that can be in the vehicle. Many states require a minimum number of hours behind the wheel before a young driver can get an unrestricted license.

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