Suspended License in New Jersey
Kenneth Vercammen's Law office represents individuals charged with criminal and serious traffic violations throughout New Jersey.
39:3-40 Driving on a Suspended License in New Jersey.
Thousands of motorists in New Jersey are stopped for routine traffic violations then are surprised to be informed their license is suspended. Where the minimum costs would be over $1,261 in fines, surcharge and costs, motorists should be certain not to allow their license to become suspended. If charged, motorists may need an attorney with knowledge and skill in handling driving while suspended matters.
The violation of Driving While Suspended is set forth at NJSA 39:3-40. This section states, no person to whom a drivers license has been refused or whose drivers license or reciprocity privilege has been suspended or revoked or who has been prohibited from obtaining a drivers license, shall personally operate a motor vehicle during the period of refusal suspension, revocation or prohibition. The statute also prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle whose registration has been revoked.
Conviction under this statute brings the following penalties. Upon conviction of the first offense of fine of $500.00. The defendant will also be surcharged a mandatory $250.00 per year for 3 years in every DWS by the DMV. Upon conviction for the second offense a fine of $750.00 and imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 5 days. Upon conviction for the third offense a fine of $1000.00 and imprisonment in the county jail for 10 days. Additionally, the statute states, upon the conviction the court shall impose or extend a period of suspension not to exceed 6 months. Also, upon conviction the court shall impose a period of imprisonment for not less than 45 days, if while operating a vehicle in violation of this section a person is involved in an accident resulting in personal injury to another person.
If an individual violates this section while under suspension issued pursuant to 39:4-50, driving while under the influence of liquor or drugs and is convicted, they shall be fined $500.00 extra? and have their license suspended for an additional period not less than one year nor more than two years and may be in the county jail for not more than 90 days. The defendant will also be surcharged a mandatory $250.00 per year for 3 years.
Although most municipal court matters are considered minor by many citizens it is obvious from the possible penalties involved that this is a serious offense carrying the possibility of both stiff fines and incarceration.
There are two types of license suspension :
1. Court imposed suspension
2. Administrative / Division of Motor Vehicles suspension
The most common scenario reflects where that the driver, through a motor vehicle violation, failure to pay surcharge or a accumulated points has been placed on a suspended list maintained by the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles (Division of Motor Vehicles), thereby making them ineligible to operate a motor vehicle for a prescribed period of time in this state.
If the driver is aware that they are on the suspended list and acknowledged they were suspended to the police officer there is little room for defense However, more often than not the driver claims that they were unaware of their placement on the suspension list.
The scenario that will often be presented by the driver is that he/she was stopped by police for an unrelated motor vehicle violation. In the process of the police encounter they were informed by the officer that their license has been suspended and they were issued an additional summons for Driving While Suspended. Over the past decade several New Jersey cases have crafted the current position on the driving while suspended issue that often confronts many municipal courts throughout the state.
THE STATE MUST SHOW DUE PROCESS AND ADEQUATE NOTICE
The first and foremost is that of adequate notice of the suspension. In Parsekian v. Cresse, 75 N.J. Super. 405 (App Div. 1962), the court ruled that it was incumbent upon the Director of the State Division of Motor Vehicles to provide fair and adequate notice to the licensed driver of the proposed suspension of their license. The court recognized that the Director could not arbitrarily suspend the license of a driver without providing both notice and enunciating specific reasons as to why the license was being suspended.
A later case, State v. Wenof, 102 N.J. Super. (Law Div. 1968), both reinforced and advanced the earlier Parsekian decision. Wenof represents the substantive foundation upon which all subsequent cases involving the notice issue have been based. In Wenof, the court again recognized the importance of adequate notice of suspension. The court related, there is always a risk that notice may not reach the intended person, but this is not the test for legal sufficiency. The test is rather, whether the notice was reasonably calculated to reach the intended parties. Id at 375. In Wenof, the Division of Motor Vehicles sent to a written notice of proposed suspension (for failure to satisfy a summons) by regular mail. The Division of Motor Vehicles thereafter sent an order of suspension by ordinary mail. The notices were mailed to the defendants last address. By failing to leave a forwarding address informing the Division of Motor Vehicles where he could be reached by mail, the court stated he should not be heard to complain of lack of due process He had it. The court found the defendant guilty.
In State v. Hammond 116 N.J. Super. 244 (Cty. Ct. 1971) a notice of scheduled suspension and order of suspension for failure to appear for motor vehicle violations was mailed to defendant, but was returned undelivered to Division of Motor Vehicles by postal authorities. The defendant was charged with misstatement of fact in an application for registration of a motor vehicle (39:3-37) and application for a registration certificate during suspension (39:3-34). The defendant thereafter applied for and obtained a New Jersey registration certificate for vehicle.
While in State v. Wenof supra the defendant was found guilty that case was distinguished in Ha mmond. In Hammond there was insufficient evidence of any notice to Hammond of a possible revocation of his registration certificate. Therefore, there is no adequate proof to indicate that due process was satisfied in this case. Hammond, 116 N.J. Super. at 248.
NOTICE BY IN-COURT SUSPENSION
If the driver is on the suspension list because he was suspended in a Courtroom for a prior violation, grounds to defend are very limited. The most common violations which carry mandatory suspensions on first offense by the Municipal Courts are for driving while intoxicated (first offense 6-12 months), driving while suspended (up to 6 months), driving without insurance (1 year), possession of Marijuana or paraphernalia (6 months-2 years). A Municipal Court also has the power to suspend a drivers license for driving while suspended, reckless driving, excessive speeding, leaving the scene of an accident or even where the judge finds a person guilty of such a willful violation of the subtitle as shall in the courts discretion, justify such revocation (39:5-31).
If the drivers license was suspended by a court, the state in a subsequent Driving While Suspended needs to introduce into evidence only a certified abstract from the Division of Motor Vehicles. It is not necessary for the state to demonstrate that notice was received by the defendant. The defense may still challenge the suspension by introducing evidence that the prior in-court suspension was improper. Examples include defendant not notified to be in court and the court then acting without the defendant being present. Possibly, the prior suspension could be attached in the original court as being illegal and/or unconstitutional. This is permitted under State v. Laurick. 120 NJ 1 (1990)
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