Driving While Suspended
We begin with the basics. New Jersey prohibits anyone from driving when that person's driver's license has been suspended or revoked. Most of the driving while suspended provisions are contained in the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code. More particularly, these provisions are contained mostly at N.J.S. 39:3-40. We discuss major exceptions to that later in this page.
By way of terminology, New Jersey considers driving while suspended, driving while revoked, driving when driver's license has been refused, and driving when prohibited from obtaining a driver's license all equivalent. These prohibitions upon driving apply to persons licensed in New Jersey. They apply also to persons licensed elsewhere, if New Jersey has suspended their driving privileges in this state. And they apply if the licensing state has suspended the person's driving privileges. Thus if New York, for example, has suspended or revoked the New York driver's license of a New York resident, that person cannot legally drive in New Jersey. (In technical terms, when a non-resident's home State has suspended that person's driving privileges, New Jersey then suspends that non-resident's touring privileges. New Jersey spells this out in N.J.S. 39:3-17.)
The same New Jersey statute that prohibits driving while driver's license is suspended or revoked applies also to any person whose registration privileges are suspended or revoked. Thus New Jersey law specifies that no person whose motor vehicle registration has been revoked shall operate or permit the operation of such motor vehicle while the revocation is still in effect.
New Jersey imposes severe penalties for driving while suspended or (same thing) driving while on the revoked list. The harshness of the penalties depends on various factors and combinations of factors. These factors begin with the number of prior convictions for driving while suspended, and the reason that the driver's license was suspended on this occasion. We now examine these factors.NJ: Penalties for Driving While Suspended in New Jersey, Including Jail
For starters, the penalties for “plain vanilla” driving while suspended are affected by whether the driver was previously convicted for the same offense. For a first New Jersey driving while suspended conviction, the fine is $500.00. For a second conviction, the fine is $750.00. For a third conviction, the fine is $1,000.00. The fine for convictions beyond three remains at $1,000.00 per conviction. For any driving while suspended conviction, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission imposes a special assessment of $250.00 per year for each of the following three years. If the driving that results in a conviction for a second or subsequent offense occurs within five years of conviction for the previous offense, then the person's registration privileges must also be revoked. For all convictions, the judge can extend the period of suspension for up to six months.
Still on the subject of New Jersey “plain vanilla” driving while suspended convictions, we come to jail time. No jail time is involved ordinarily for first time conviction of this offense. On a second conviction, the judge is required to sentence the driver to serve time in the county jail. The period of jail must be for a maximum of five days. Jail for ten days is required on a third conviction for this offense. If the violation involved an additional offense for which motor vehicle points are assessed, then the period of imprisonment must be ten days longer than any term of imprisonment imposed for a previous violation of this offense.
If the incident that resulted in the driving while suspended charge was an accident where someone other than the person convicted of this offense is injured, then the judge must sentence the driver to jail. This jail sentence is required even for a first offense. The minimum sentence is forty-five days. It can be for up to 180 days. New Jersey interprets “injury” very broadly. Fractures, while obviously sufficient, are not required. A bloody nose, or claim of “whiplash” qualify. Mere complaint of pain is sufficient to trigger this jail requirement. The accident that caused this injury need not have even been the fault of the person whose license was suspended. A person whose driving privileges were suspended or revoked can be innocently stopped at a traffic light and struck from the rear. If the driver of the striking car is injured, the person who was stopped and waiting for the light to turn green goes to jail if his license was suspended.NJ: When New Jersey Driver's License was Suspended for no Insurance
This concludes our discussion of “plain vanilla” convictions for driving while suspended in New Jersey. We now move on to special situations. The first special situation for us to consider is when the suspension was imposed in the first place for failure to maintain car insurance. The basic penalties mentioned above still exist. Beyond those penalties, however, the judge is required to add $500.00 to the fine. Further, the judge must tack on an additional period of driver's license suspension. This additional suspension must be for a minimum of one year. It can be for up to two years. The judge may also impose imprisonment in the county jail for up to ninety days.NJ: When New Jersey Driver's License was Suspended for DWI/DUI
The second special situation is where the original reason was for the suspension was driving while intoxicated/driving while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substance (DWI/DUI). In addition to the “basic penalties” discussed above, the judge must increase the fine by $500.00, and extend the period of suspension. This extension must be for a minimum of one year. It can be for up to two years. The judge must also impose imprisonment in the county jail. The minimum period of imprisonment is ten days. It can be for up to ninety days. The judge must also suspend the operator's motor vehicle registration privileges.
It can get still worse. New Jersey defines aggravating circumstances to this second special situation. When any of these aggravating circumstances are found to exist, the penalties get enhanced still further. The aggravating circumstances all involve the “location” where the driving occurred. These special locations all relate to schools. The schools must be either elementary or secondary schools. The schools must be used for school purposes. The schools must be owned by or leased to a school board. The locations are school property itself, any area within one thousand feet of school property, or designated school crossings.
To recapitulate, what we are discussing now is the following situation: The person is convicted of driving while his New Jersey driving privileges, or New Jersey reciprocity privileges are suspended. The reason for the suspension was because the person was convicted of DWI/DUI. And the driving occurred on school property, within one thousand feet of school property, or in a school crossing area.
In addition to the original penalty and the enhanced penalty, the judge must impose the following: License suspension for still an additional period. That period must be for a minimum period of one year. It can be for up to two years. The suspension begins to run only upon completion of the imprisonment that the judge is required to impose. For a first offense, that imprisonment is sixty to ninety days. For a second offense, that imprisonment is 120 to 150 days. For a third or subsequent offense, that imprisonment is 180 days. In all cases, the fine is increased by $500.00.
These enhanced penalties apply even when the person was unaware that the area into which he drove was protected. Nor does it matter that school was not in session. Nor does it matter that no juveniles were in the area where the conduct occurred.NJ: Driving While Suspended in New Jersey can be a Felony
We mentioned at the beginning that most provisions of driving while suspended are in the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code at N.J.S. 39:3-40. Exceptions exist, however, whereby driving while suspended constitutes a felony. Felony provisions relating to driving while on the revoked list are contained in Title 2C of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. One of these provision relates to driving in New Jersey while suspended for DWI/DUI.
N.J.S. 2C:40-26 says that a second conviction for driving while suspended, when the original suspension was for DWI/DUI, is a felony. For this section to apply, the second conviction must arise from the same suspension as the first conviction. Under this law, the judge is required to impose a jail sentence. The jail term can be for up to eighteen months. A minimum of 180 days of the sentence must be served. There is no parole, or reduction of time off the 180 days for “good behavior.” The judge may, additionally, impose a fine. This fine can be up to $10,000.00. N.J.S. 2C:40-26 applies equally to a first violation of driving while suspended when the original suspension was for a second conviction of DWI/DUI. Note that the DWI/DUI convictions that can elevate driving while suspended to a felony need not have occurred in New Jersey. Out-of-State DWI/DUI convictions can also form the basis for this type of criminal conviction.
Another provision that causes driving while suspended to be a felony is N.J.S. 2C:40-22. That section relates to where a person whose license was suspended drives and is involved in a motor vehicle accident. If the car accident results in the death of another, the driver is guilty of a third degree crime. Beyond the penalties for the felony itself, conviction under that section requires an addition suspension for one year. Where the accident causes serious bodily injury to another, but not death, it is also a felony. Here, however, it is a crime of the fourth degree. The one-year extension of license suspension still applies. N.J.S. 2C:40-22 applies even on a first conviction for driving while suspended. And the original suspension need not have been for DWI/DUI; it can have been for anything.NJ: Allowing a Person Whose License Has Been Suspended to Drive
Under certain circumstances, New Jersey makes it an offense for owners or leasors of cars to allow a person whose driving privileges have been suspended to operate it. This provision applies to the situation where the driver was previously suspended for DWI/DUI. It is the same N.J.S. 39:3-40 statute that treats that situation. As with operators themselves, these penalties depend on whether the conviction is for a first, second, or subsequent offense.NJ: When New Jersey Driver's License Was Suspended for a Parking Ticket
One situation exists where the penalties are actually less harsh than the penalties for “plain vanilla” driving while suspended or revoked. This special situation is when the reason for the original suspension was failure to pay a parking ticket. In that situation, the driver is subject to a fine of $100.00. There is no additional New Jersey driver license suspension. There is no period of imprisonment. However, in order to get this “special” treatment, the person must provide proof that he paid all fines or other assessments that caused the original suspension, or is in compliance with any time payment orders. Oh, by the way, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission will also impose the $250.00 special assessment each year for three years, that we discussed above.NJ: New Jersey Motor Vehicle Points, No; Insurance Points, Yes
Convictions for driving while suspended do not add moving violation points to your New Jersey motor vehicle driving record. Those convictions do, however, add insurance eligibility points. Accumulation of insurance points do not cause suspension of driving privileges. They will, however, cause sharp increases in cost of car insurance. They can make renewal of auto insurance policies difficult or impossible. These insurance points are imposed even under the $100.00 “special” mentioned just above.Administrative Considerations
The “points” discussed above are not imposed by the court. Rather, they are imposed “administratively” by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, or the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. A whole parallel system of legal proceedings exists administratively. One important example of this arises when a person whose driver's license was suspended receives a summons for a motor vehicle violation other than for driving while suspended. For example, a New Jersey suspended driver may get a summons in Pennsylvania for failure to wear a seat belt. Upon conviction, Pennsylvania can report the matter to the driver's home state, in this case, New Jersey. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission computer will flag the conviction. The MVC will then send the driver a new Notice of Proposed Suspension.
Additional fines and possible jail sentences are not a possible result of this action. What is possible, however, is a new suspension, or extension of an existing suspension.Final Thoughts: NJ Driving While Suspended
As shown on this page, New Jersey driving while suspended law is complicated. Its penalties are horrific. Like a winding mountain road, the law takes many twists and turns. Defenses often exist to these charges. Experienced legal help can often soften the blow of, if not completely eliminate, the consequences of these charges. New Jersey Lawyers Allan Marain and Norman Epting, Jr. have that experience. They offer to persons charged with this offense a no-charge no-obligation consultation.