Municipal court defendants who want to keep their guilty pleas to traffic offenses from being used against them in personal injury suits cannot wait until after their pleas are entered to ask for civil reservations, the New Jersey Supreme Court held March 19.
The court’s decision in Maida v. Kuskin disagreed with an Appellate Division ruling that allowed a civil reservation even though the defendant did not raise the issue until after he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it.
“We take this opportunity to reiterate that the plain language of Rule 7:6-2(a)(1) requires the request for a civil reservation to be made in open court and contemporaneously with the municipal court’s acceptance of the guilty plea,” Judge Mary Cuff, temporarily assigned from the Appellate Division, said in a unanimous ruling joined by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and Justices Jaynee LaVecchia, Barry Albin, Faustino Fernandez-Vina and Lee Solomon.
“Any other procedure frustrates the ability of a victim of a motor vehicle accident to object,” she added.
Despite refusing to allow a civil reservation, the court affirmed on different grounds.