State: No plea deals for teenage drivers

Following a key recommendation of the Teen Drivers Study Commission, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram last week directed municipal prosecutors not to offer or accept plea bargains to teenage drivers with graduated drivers licenses (GDL) for motor vehicle violations that carry points.

According to a press release from Milgram’s office, the directive is aimed at ensuring that new drivers participate in driver-improvement programs that are mandatory for young drivers who accumulate three or more points. The directive specifically bars pleas to a violation of operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner, which is a plea that avoids the assessment of points.

The Teen Drivers Study Commission recommended the action because a provision of the GDL system had been undermined by plea offers to no-point offenses, according to the press release.

“It is necessary for prosecutors to differentiate GDL holders from regular licensees when determining an appropriate plea offer,” Milgram wrote in a memorandum sent to all municipal and county prosecutors. “GDL holders are probationary drivers and it is entirely appropriate that they be held strictly accountable for all motor vehicle violations.”

A GDL holder who is charged with a motor vehicle violation does not have a sustained record of safe and lawful driving, which is an important factor that prosecutors consider when determining negotiated resolution of charges, according to the press re- lease. Therefore, pleading motor vehicle violations to no-point offenses allows GDL drivers to escape remedial measures and leaves high-risk and inexperienced drivers on the road.

“The need to deter and remediate driving offenses is greater with respect to new, young drivers,” Milgram said.

Pam Fischer, the director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety and the chairwoman of the Teen Drivers Study Commission, said, “This directive represents a significant step forward in our efforts to ensure that teen drivers are not only kept safe and free from harm behind the wheel, but when they do violate motor vehicle laws, they are properly sanctioned and receive training that will protect them in the future. We now have a way to effectively identify teens who have demonstrated unsafe driving behaviors and address them before they result in tragedy on our roads.

“One of 14 priority recommendations made by the division, the directive is a major step forward for safety. The commission thanks the attorney general for her commitment to teen driver safety and looks forward to continuing to work closely with her, the Governor’s Office, and the Legislature as we move forward with the commission’s recommendations to help reduce crashes and save lives,” Fischer said.A

copy of Milgram’s directive and the full Teen Drivers Study Commission report is available online at