Muffler Laws in New Jersey:
N.J.S.A. 39:3-70. Mufflers
Every motor vehicle having a combustion motor shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise and annoying smoke, and no person shall use a muffler cut-out, bypass or similar device upon a motor vehicle on a highway.
N.J.S.A. 39:3-76.4. Muffler systems for motorcycles
In addition to the muffler requirements contained in N.J.S.A. 39:3-70, motorcycles shall be equipped with muffler systems designed especially for motorcycles and of a type approved by the director.
If you are stopped for “loud pipes”, you will be issued a ticket for either N.J.S.A. 39:3-70 or 39:3-76.4. Both carry a $44.00 fine plus court costs. N.J.S.A. 39:3-70 applies to all motor vehicles while N.J.S.A.39:3-76.4 is motorcycle specific. Here is an analysis of both laws.
This law is violated by any of the following:
1. There is no muffler.
2. The muffler is not preventing excessive or unusual noise.
3. The muffler is not preventing annoying smoke.
4. The muffler has a cut-out, bypass or similar device and is being used on a highway.
This law includes equipment and noise standards. Under this law, it is clear that if you have no muffler, you have no defense. If you have a “cut-out, bypass or similar device” and are on a roadway, you also have no defense. But, the law does not define what constitutes a “cut-out, bypass or similar device.”
If you are issued a ticket under this law for “excessive or unusual noise” you probably would have a defense. Neither this statute or any regulation provides a definition of the words “excessive” or “unusual”. Therefore, the law fails to advise you ahead of time what level of “noise” is acceptable and what is not. This makes the enforcement unconstitutional under the “void for vagueness” doctrine. The standards are too vague to be understood by the public, the police or the courts. Enforcement is arbitrary and unfair because it is left up to the police officer’s definition of “excessive” or “unusual” which may be different than yours and will vary from officer to officer.
If you are stopped for “loud pipes”, you might be ticketed for N.J.S.A. 39:3-76.4 since it is motorcycle specific. However, N.J.S.A. 39:3-76.4 is only an equipment law. It is violated if:
1. Your muffler is not designed for a motorcycle, and
2. is not of a type approved by the director.
Under this law, it is clear that if you have no muffler, you have no defense. But, if you do have a motorcycle muffler, it must be….“of a type approved by the director.” The director is the Director of Motor Vehicles. The Director has not passed any regulations wherein he has approved any type of mufflers. However, the Director of Motor Vehicles has enacted a regulation wherein he defines what is not approved as follows:
N.J.A.C. 13:20-6.1 Prohibitory muffler devices
Pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:3-43, the use upon any motor vehicle of a straight exhaust pipe, or a muffler or mufflers lacking interior baffle plates or other effective muffling devices is expressly prohibited.
Therefore, under N.J.S.A. 39:3-76.4, you probably have no defense if you have straight pipes, or no baffle plates or other effective muffling devices. However, if you don’t have straight pipes or you do have baffles and you are given a ticket under N.J.S.A. 39:3-76.4 for excessive noise, you can defend yourself because this law says nothing about excessive noise!
In summary, N.J.S.A. 39:3-70 is an excessive muffler noise law, but it fails to define what is “excessive.” N.J.S.A. 39:3-76.4 is an equipment law, so as long as you have the right equipment, there is no violation under this law for excessive noise. It is important to understand what you have been charged with in order to defend yourself!
Jerry Friedman, Esq.
The Motorcycle Attorney