It is critical that any person who applies for a driver’s license in New Jersey ensures that the application has been filled out accurately and honestly. Any false information, even a simple oversight or misremembrance, can result in an investigation and possible criminal charges under N.J.S.A. 2C:21-3b, also known as filing a false instrument.
A person who receives a phone call from a Motor Vehicle Commission investigator regarding an application must speak with an attorney right away. This is true even if the person is confident that any “false” information is just an error and not intended to deceive.
What Are the Penalties for Offering a False Instrument in New Jersey?
Offering a false instrument is a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. A conviction means facing up to six months in jail. A monetary fine of up to $1,000 may also apply. In addition, a person is likely to also be charged with lying on an MVC application (N.J.S.A. 39:3-37). This crime also carries a penalty of up to six months in jail, a fine of $200 to $500, and a suspension of driving or registration privileges for up to two years.
What Does It Mean to Offer a False Instrument?
An “instrument” for purposes of this law can be any document or application form that is submitted to the government for the purpose of record keeping. According to New Jersey statute 2C:21-3b, a person can be found guilty of offering a false instrument if:
- he/she knows that a written document/application (“instrument”) contains a false statement or false information; and
- he/she offers or presents it to a public office or public servant with knowledge or belief that it will be filed with, registered or recorded in or otherwise become a part of the records of such public office or public servant.
In the case of applying for or renewing a driver’s license, a person can be charged if they submit evidence to the MVC that they know is false and expect will be filed or become part of public records. For example, a person who has a driver’s license in another state but indicates on the NJ license application that he/she does not has submitted a false instrument. Likewise, an immigrant who lies about his/her legal status or uses a false name has committed this crime.
How Can False Information on My Driver’s License Application Affect My Driving Privileges?
As mentioned above, under 39:3-37, a person who lies on a driver’s license or vehicle registration application can have his/her driving privileges in New Jersey suspended for up to two years. If the person is licensed to drive in a state other than New Jersey, the MVC can suspend his/her right to drive on roads in the state even with the out-of-state license.
Defenses Against Offering a False Instrument
A person charged with filing a false instrument in New Jersey is facing serious consequences. The best defense against the charges will depend on the details of the case. In some cases, it may be possible to disprove that the person “knowingly” submitted false information. However, there will be circumstances when this will not be possible. Sometimes, a person’s best bet will be to negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the charges from a disorderly persons offense to a municipal offense. This will likely mean lesser penalties and will reduce the risk of having a permanent criminal record.
Why Hire An Attorney for a Charge of Offering a False Instrument?
As noted above, being charged with offering a false instrument for filing is a difficult predicament. While honest mistakes happen, it is too easy for a person to land themselves in hot water by saying the wrong thing to an investigator or judge. That’s where an attorney comes in. An experienced attorney can evaluate the facts of the case to determine the best possible defense strategy. He/she can aid in discussions with an investigator to ensure that a person does not accidentally incriminate themselves, which can happen even if a person is totally innocent.
What Should I Do If I Am Charged with Offering a False Instrument in NJ?
If you have been accused of providing false or inaccurate information on your NJ driver’s license or vehicle registration application, you should contact an experienced attorney for help. The lawyers at Rosenblum Law have the skills and knowledge to protect your right to drive and avoid possible criminal penalties. Email us or Call 888-815-3649 for a free consultation.