New Law Restricts Use of Driver License Suspensions as Sanctions for Certain Crimes and Offenses

Governor Murphy recently signed into law measures which will substantially limit the use of driver license suspensions as a sanction for violating certain “non-moving” offenses. See P.L. 2019, Chapter 276 (from the NJ Legislature).

The new law repeals the driver license suspensions for adjudications and convictions for controlled dangerous substances and drug paraphernalia offenses and violation of federal or other jurisdictions’ drug offense laws. It also repeals driver’s license suspensions for failure to appear, failure to comply with an indigency installment order and failure to satisfy other municipal court penalties.

The new law eliminates the automatic suspension of a driver license upon issuance of a child support related warrant and the six month to two year mandatory license suspension for guilty pleas under the conditional discharge program.

The law repeals mandatory license suspensions for driving while in possession of controlled dangerous substances, failure to pay surcharges, violation of prohibited gaming by minors, certain solid waste transportation offenses, underage drinking and certain parks and reservations violations. The new law also repeals the statutory authority for municipalities to enact ordinances which call for driver license suspensions for underage drinking.

Driver license suspension for juveniles’ violation of false public alarms and initial acts of graffiti are repealed. While the suspension of a driver license is still an available penalty in other juvenile delinquency cases, the court must now consider the circumstances of the act for which the juvenile was considered delinquent – not just the severity.

Mandatory driver’s license suspensions for a number of offenses including: operating a vehicle without insurance, theft or unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, offenses involving false government documents are now discretionary, and the court must consider the circumstances of the offense, whether the loss of driving privileges will create extreme hardship and whether alternate means of transportation are readily available. Additionally, the court must consider these factors in driving-related cases where driver license suspension may be issued and when it considers suspensions for failure to pay a parking judgment.

Discretionary license suspensions for abandoning a vehicle along a public or private property without consent are also eliminated.

The State must opt-out of the federally mandated driver license suspensions for drug related offenses through a separate process involving Senate and Assembly Resolution and Governor Certification. That process aside, the remainder of these provisions are effective in February of 2021.