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Can my guilty plea in a criminal case be used against me in a related civil case? 

by | Nov 27, 2023

New Jersey courts have held that guilty pleas in criminal proceedings are evidential in related civil matters as an exception to the rule against hearsay. Specifically, as a statement made by a party-opponent under under N.J.R.E. 803(b)(1). 

However, “[f]or good cause shown the court may, in accepting a plea of guilty, order that such plea allocution not be evidential in any related civil proceeding.” Court Rule R. 3:9-2. This is otherwise known as a “no civil use order” or a “civil reservation.” 

The rule applies to a defendant who “fears that a civil claimant will later use” the plea colloquy as an admission of civil liability. Additionally, the rule is triggered upon the existence of a good-faith fear that a civil claimant will use the statements made during the plea allocution as a basis to prove civil liability. Stone v. Police Dep’t of Keyport, 191 N.J. Super 554, 558 (1983); see also State v. McIntyre-Caulfield, 455 N.J. Super 1, 8-9 (App. Div. 2018). 

In McIntyre-Caulfield, the Appellate Division set forth two scenarios in which New Jersey courts have found “good cause” under R. 3:9-2 to issue a civil reservation. McIntrye-Caulfield, at 8-9; see also State v. Lavrik, 472 N.J. Super 192, 201 (App. Div. 2022). 

First, New Jersey Courts have found good cause for a no-civil-use order (civil reservation) where such an agreement is necessary to remove an obstacle to a defendant’s pleading guilty to a criminal charge. McIntyre-Caulfield, at 9; see also State v. Haulaway, Inc., 257 N.J. Super 506, 508 (App. Div. 1992); see also Lavrik, at 201. 

Second, New Jersey Courts have found good cause “to grant a [civil] reservation where the civil consequences of a plea may wreak devastating financial havoc” on a defendant. McIntyre-Caulfield, at 9; see also State v. Tsilimidos, 364 N.J. Super 454, 459 (App. Div. 2003); see also Lavrik, at 201.  

Although a civil reservation is most commonly requested in DUI/DWI cases and assault by auto matter in which there are injuries to the other blameless party, there is no rule in New Jersey that precludes the issuance of a civil reservation or no-civil-use order in other types of cases. A skilled criminal defense attorney should consider whether a civil reservation would be beneficial and to introduce it into a potential plea resolution. Alexander Yandoli is a criminal defense and civil litigation attorney at Triarsi, Betancourt, Wukovits & Dugan, LLC. If you or a loved one find yourself in a situation where a decision to plead guilty is hindered by a fear that your words will later be used against you in a related civil case, please contact Attorney Alexander Yandoli at (908)-709-1700, or by email at

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