Reasons Your NJ Driver’s License can be Suspended
Driver’s License Suspension Defense Lawyers Serving Brick, Toms River, Point Pleasant, and throughout Ocean County
Driving in New Jersey is a privilege, not a right. Unfortunately, that means that the state can take away your right to drive at any time – and the consequences of losing your driver’s license in New Jersey could be devastating, especially if it becomes harder for you to get to work every day. The most common reason for a driver’s license suspension is most likely a DWI charge conviction, but there are a number of other reasons for which you can lose your license. Keep reading to learn more about driver’s license suspension, and the steps you can take to protect your driving privileges if you’ve been charged with a crime or traffic violation.
The attorneys at our criminal defense firm proudly defend clients charged with criminal, DUI, and motor vehicle offenses throughout Ocean County, New Jersey. If you are currently facing driver’s license suspension based on criminal or driving-related allegations, we are aggressive in our defense for clients in your situation. Contact (848) 238-2100 or contact us online for a free consultation and get started on protecting your best interests. We serve all Jersey Shore towns, including Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant, Brick, Toms River, Lacey Township, Berkeley Township. Call now to learn more.
What can Lead to Driver’s License Suspension in New Jersey
Some of the most common offenses that carry license suspensions in New Jersey include the following:
- Driving While Intoxicated and Driving under the Influence of Drugs (DWI/DUI)
- Breath Test Refusal
- Traffic Violations
- Criminal Charges
- Failure to Pay Fines
- Failure to Appear in Court
Driving under the Influence
All New Jersey DWI convictions used to carry mandatory license suspension penalties, even for a first offense DWI. However, the state’s drunk driving penalties were changed so that license suspension is no longer automatic for a person with no prior DWI convictions on their record. Instead, a first-time offender will have their driver’s license suspended until they get an ignition interlock device installed on their car. These are devices that monitor the driver’s blood alcohol concentration and prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver registers a higher-than-allowed BAC.
Despite the elimination of mandatory driver’s license suspension in most first offense DWI cases, there are still automatic license suspension penalties for repeat offenders:
- First Offense DWI: required until ignition interlock device
- Second Offense DWI: 1-2 years
- Third Offense DWI: 8 years
Also, keep in mind that there is no diversion program for DWI charges in New Jersey. This means that if your conviction or guilty plea carries a license suspension penalty, then the conviction or guilty plea will result in a license suspension.
The bottom line is that if you are charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) for operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher, or driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), you could be subject to very serious penalties that include suspension of your driver’s license for an extended period of time.
Refusal to Provide a Breath Test
All persons operating a motor vehicle on the road in New Jersey automatically consent to take a breath test when requested by law enforcement. This means that if you are pulled over by police on suspicion of DUI and are asked to take a breathalyzer, you must do so. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you will likely be charged with Breath Test Refusal, and you can still be charged with a DWI offense on top of that. A conviction for refusing to submit to a breath test is punishable by a number of penalties, including possible suspension of your driver’s license. While license suspension used to be mandatory for a breath test refusal conviction, it is no longer automatic when the defendant is convicted of a first offense. Instead, the court can only suspend the defendant’s license until an ignition interlock device has been installed in their car. For repeat offenders of the state’s breath test refusal laws, however, driver’s license suspension is still mandatory:
- First Refusal Offense: until driver installs ignition interlock device
- Second Refusal Offense: 1-2 years
- Third Refusal Offense: 8 years
Additionally, since Breath Test Refusal charges and DWI charges are technically separate offenses, the penalties are separate and may be imposed consecutively. This means that you could be subject to license suspension for up to eight (8) years for breath test refusal and another eight (8) years for DWI, bringing the total period of license suspension to 16 years if convicted of your third DUI. Make sure you are also aware of Your Rights when Arrested for DWI in New Jersey so as not to cause additional problems for yourself when trying to avoid or defend against these charges.
Although DWI convictions are responsible for a multitude of driver’s license suspensions, many different traffic violations can result in license suspensions. That’s because New Jersey assesses points on a driver’s license for certain moving violations, and too many points will result in the motorist’s license being suspended. If a driver gets 12 or more points on their driving record within one year, their license is automatically suspended. Moreover, even after your license is restored, you could be subject to higher insurance premiums because of a poor driving record.
These are some of the most widespread traffic offenses that can result in points on your license and, eventually, suspension of your driving privileges:
- Careless Driving: 2 points
- Failure to Stop for Traffic Light: 2 points
- Failure to Yield: 2 points
- Failure to Observe Traffic Lanes: 2 points
- Driving Through Safety Zone: 2 points
- Failure to Keep Right: 2 points
- Wrong Way on One-Way Street: 2 points
- Failure to Give Proper Signal: 2 points
- Slow Speed Blocking Traffic: 2 points
- Leaving Scene of Accident – No Injury: 2 points
- Speeding: 2-5 points
- Improper Right or Left Turn, U-Turn, or Turn at a Traffic Light: 3 points
- Reckless Driving: 5 points
- Racing on a Highway: 5 points
- Tailgating: 5 points
- Improper Passing of School Bus: 5 points
- Leaving the Scene of Accident Resulting in Injury: 8 points
Although it might seem unlikely that you would accumulate 12 points in just one year, the truth is that it is actually very easy to acquire points on your record from a single moving violation. Police will often issue multiple tickets in connection with the same incident, resulting in many points being assessed on the driver’s license. For instance, if you are pulled over for speeding through a red light, you could be ticketed for speeding, running a red light, and reckless driving all at once. Just as with a criminal case, the more charges or tickets you receive from the officer, the more penalties are on the line if and when you’re convicted.
In addition to losing your driving privileges due to a DWI conviction or due to getting too many traffic tickets, you can also have your license suspended if you are convicted of certain criminal charges. For example, most drug offenses in New Jersey carry penalties that include possible license suspension. Importantly, this applies to both indictable offenses (i.e., felonies) and disorderly persons offenses (i.e., misdemeanors). Additionally, the automatic license suspension penalty applies even when a car was not used during the commission of the drug offense.
For example, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16 of the NJ Criminal Code stipulates that anyone who is convicted of any drug offense involving possession, distribution, or manufacture of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) or drug paraphernalia in violation of the statute can have their driver’s license suspended by the court for a period of between six (6) months and two (2) years. However, there is an explicit exception to the license suspension penalty: if the defendant would suffer “extreme hardship” and they do not have another way of transporting themselves without being able to drive, then the court may opt against suspending the defendant’s license.
Beyond drug offenses, it is also possible for an individual to have their driver’s license suspended by the court if they are convicted of any criminal offense in which a car, truck, or other motor vehicle was used. This penalty applies to both felony-level criminal offenses and less serious disorderly persons offenses, since what matters is that a motor vehicle was used during the commission of the crime. Additionally, the maximum length of the license suspension that can be imposed by the court in these cases is two (2) years.
Failure to Pay Fines
Sometimes, a defendant is ordered to pay fines as part of the punishment imposed by the court. When financial constraints limit the ability of the defendant to pay the fines right away, they may be afforded an opportunity to make installment payments. Regardless of the specific payment plan, though, the defendant must follow through with payment. If you fail to pay fines in a criminal or traffic matter, the court may impose additional penalties that include suspension of your NJ driver’s license. In the worst cases, the judge may even issue a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Typically, the defendant will first be required to appear before the court and explain why they failed to pay the court-ordered fines. Depending on the reason they provide, the judge may decide to order that the defendant’s license be suspended.
At Risk of Losing Your License in Ocean County NJ?
It is important to understand that while some states allow individuals to drive on provisional or hardship licenses while their actual license is suspended, New Jersey does not offer hardship licenses. This means that you will not be allowed to drive during the period of your license suspension in the vast majority of cases. This also makes it crucial for you to take the right steps to restore your license as soon as possible after suspension. An experienced attorney can make sure that you apply in a timely fashion to get your driving privileges restored, submit all necessary paperwork in advance of any deadlines, and pay all required fees. All the more important is trying to avoid losing your license in the first place, which is where a skilled criminal defense attorney can offer your best chance of success.
Contact Proetta & Oliver to discuss your case with a lawyer free of charge. With local offices in Point Pleasant, we represent individuals facing all types of criminal and traffic charges in Manchester, Beachwood, Long Beach Township, Ocean Township, Stafford, and the greater Ocean County area. You can get in contact 24/7 by calling (848) 238-2100 or sending us a message to learn more.