Required video would outline rights, responsibilities in traffic stop
Prospective new drivers in New Jersey would have to watch a video explaining how they should act when pulled over for a traffic stop, under once-vetoed legislation now inching its way back to Gov. Phil Murphy.
The bill, S2231, endorsed by the Senate Transportation Committee would require people taking a written examination for a permit to first watch a video summarizing their rights and responsibilities when stopped by a law enforcement officer.
The bill passed the Senate and Assembly unanimously in January in the waning days of the previous legislative session but was ‘pocket vetoed’ by Gov. Phil Murphy. Wayne Blanchard, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association, said the veto was inexplicable and disappointing.
“This was a good bill before all the criminal justice reform issues came up, before Minneapolis,” Blanchard said.
Blanchard said the video would help with “mutual respect between police officers and members of the community.”
“Bottom line is it’s important that young or new drivers are given the ground rules from the start,” he said. “But more important than the ground rules, they’re educated on what their rights are so there’s no misinterpretation of laws or something they might hear on social media, so that they know what their rights and responsibilities are so a traffic stop or an encounter with a police officer goes smooth.”
The video would have to be created by the state Motor Vehicle Commission, in conjunction with the Attorney General. Blanchard said he hopes it would include scenario-based training.
It would be for informational purposes only and is not to be used in any criminal proceeding involving a driver stopped by a law enforcement officer.
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“Obviously the one thing we don’t want is misinformation and lack of cooperation when stopped by a police officer,” said Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, the bill’s lead sponsor.
“It’s important for the driver to realize when a police officer stops them, they have an obligation to follow reasonable directions: Give me your license and registration. Stay in the car. Please answer my questions,” Diegnan said.
Blanchard said among the takeaways drivers should take from the video is that the place to challenge any motor-vehicle ticket is in municipal court, not the shoulder of the road, which he said jeopardizes the safety of both the officer and driver by keeping them there longer than needed.
“Number one, some just don’t understand, or number two, there’s just a lot of misinformation that’s given to especially young and impressionable drivers, whether it’s coming from academic institutions or … social media,” Blanchard said. “That draws a line in the sand from the start on a traffic stop where they have a perception that’s incorrect of how this encounter is supposed to go.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.