By Matt Rooney
When you lose your license to a suspension in New Jersey? It's lost, at least until your license suspension period is up and, critically, you take the necessary steps to restore your license. Driving while suspended, even for a reason that may feel harmless or like “no big deal” to you at the time, can nevertheless result in the imposition of severe penalties including incarceration. Unlike many other U.S. states, New Jersey does not allow for a limited or “restricted” license which, for example, would permit a motorist to get to-and-from work (but nowhere else) during a period of license suspension. If the motorist is caught at the bar? A restaurant? Or anywhere else behind the wheel that is not home or work? They're subject to penalties. But if they follow the rules, they're able to keep working. One legislator hopes to implement a restrict licence (with strings) for New Jersey motorists.
Assemblyman Ron Dancer of Ocean County, New Jersey, has introduced legislation which would provide a special license option for suspended drivers but only those who are suspended for non-points violations, such as accumulating unpaid parking tickets. Special license holders would be able to drive between home, work, and school between limited, specific hours.
Those whose licenses are suspended for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol would not be eligible. Municipal courts will ultimately decide if the restricted privileges license is appropriate after weighing the potential financial hardship to the suspended driver.
“Licenses should be suspended for failing to drive safely, not for non-moving violations resulting in fines or surcharges that a driver can't afford to pay,” said Dancer. “This will not give the keys back to dangerous drivers who are hazards on the roadways.”
This is not the first time a hardship license proposal has been brought up in Trenton. Lawmakers and drivers alike have regularly lamented how some drivers fall into a cycle of suspension, not necessarily because of poor driving but due to an inability to pay surcharges, fines, and fees associated with an initial suspension. This time around, however, Assemblyman Dancer's bill was inspired by a recommendation issued by the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee Report on Municipal Operations, Fines, and Fees, which issued in August 2018.
“We want people to work and pay their bills, but it doesn't make sense to suspend licenses for these kinds of violations that take away the paycheck needed to pay the debt. A suspended license, especially for non-moving violations, can interfere with work and continue a cycle of desperation and hopelessness,” added Dancer. “When you can't afford to pay, it is more important than ever for workers to get to their jobs and earn paychecks.”
We'll keep a close eye on this legislation as it works its way through the legislature and, as ever, we will keep you apprised of any changes in the law.
_____ Your license is tied to your freedom, livelihood, and general quality of life. The municipal court attorneys at DeMichele and DeMichele are skilled advocates who are ready to assist you as you navigate the complexities of a municipal court and achieve an optimal result relative to the facts at issue in your case. You do not have to go it alone. Contact us online today or by telephone at (856) 546-1350 to schedule your free confidential consultation. _____ _