The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) announced today that it filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Mercer County on Friday and won a court order to restrict the implementation of the state’s new TRU-ID licensing program, which was scheduled to go into effect today.

The lawsuit asserts that the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) violated New Jersey’s Administrative Procedure Act, which dictates that any new rule or regulation requires, at a minimum, public notice and the chance for citizen review.

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"Implementing TRU-ID without any involvement from the public isn’t just undemocratic – it’s also in violation of New Jersey laws,” said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Ed Barocas, who argued the case on behalf of the ACLU-NJ. “The State of New Jersey has infringed upon the rights of every citizen in New Jersey by deciding to radically change our ID system by fiat instead of through the democratic process.”

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Paul Innes issued an order that restricts the MVC from requiring citizens to obtain a TRU-ID, and held that the agency must allow applicants the option of obtaining a driver's license or state ID under the 6-Point license system that has been the law in New Jersey for almost a decade. The order also prohibits the MVC from making copies of Social Security cards, birth certificates, passports or other identification documents, as the copying of records is also not authorized under current regulations.


The state released minimal information about TRU-ID just a few weeks before the planned implementation. It did not seek any input from the public, legislators or stakeholders. The MVC said the new program was necessary to comply with the federal Real ID Act, which seeks to create a national identification card and make it mandatory for anyone who wants to board a commercial airline or enter a federal building.

But the federal act is unenforceable - at least 25 states have opted out of Real ID, with 15 of them passing legislation making it illegal for their state governments to participate. The states saying no to Real ID may soon grow to 26; a bill rejecting Real ID implementation currently sits on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s desk for him to sign into law.


“TRU-ID is a half-baked plan to implement the half-dead Real ID Act,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs, also the plaintiff in the lawsuit. Her current license expires June 30. "The state is trying to slip this under the radar without allowing the public the opportunity to see how much TRU-ID will cost in terms of our rights, our privacy and our wallets."

Any delay in imposing the new standards in New Jersey will likely delay implementation of another recent MVC initiative known as Skip the Trip. Under that program, residents born on or before Dec. 1, 1964, with licenses or other IDs expiring in July or later would be able to renew their driver licenses or identification
cards by mail.

The state says mail renewals for about 1 million customers 48 and older -- at least for the next several years -- will make it easier for New Jersey to make the move to a more stringent ID system required by federal law.

The ACLU-NJ and the MVC are scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 3 to present oral arguments about the matter. The judge's order holds that injunction will remain in place at least until that time.