New in 2021: NJ judges less likely to suspend drivers’ licenses
Driver's license suspensions will no longer be mandatory for New Jersey residents found guilty of certain non-moving offenses, or those who've fallen behind on paying child support or parking tickets.
The new law, signed in 2019 by Gov. Phil Murphy and set to take effect on Jan. 1, also gets rid of the driver's license suspension required for convictions related to the possession or sale of illegal drugs.
State Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, a primary sponsor of the measure, said she's been waiting 20 years for a law like this to become reality in the Garden State.
"Far too many of our people who have been losing their privilege to drive have suffered immensely," Turner told New Jersey 101.5. "Here in New Jersey, driving is not a convenience, it is a necessity if you want a job and want to be able to keep a job."
Turner noted that judges have long been required to suspend individuals' driver's licenses for crimes and offenses that have nothing to do with their behavior behind the wheel.
"I do not want any unsafe driver on the road. They should lose their license if they are operating a vehicle unsafely .... but to deny them a driver's license or take away their driver's license for some unrelated offense, that should not happen," Turner said.
With this law, judges also no longer need to suspend the licenses of underage individuals who are found guilty of misdemeanors involving alcohol or graffiti, or having a fake license.
Turner said she's had constituents at her office who owe more than $20,000 in fines, penalties and surcharges related to violations. They'll never be able to repay that money, she said, and a suspended license would only make matters worse for them.
"During this pandemic, it's critical that we provide as much help as we can in order to get people back on their feet and back into the workforce," Turner added.
Upon signing the measure a year ago, Gov. Murphy said suspensions related to non-moving offenses are "often overly punitive" and can have a "disproportionate financial impact on many working-class and minority families."
Turner said judges will still have the ability to suspend licenses on a case-by-case basis for the offenses mentioned in this article, but they can now take into account more than just the offense — factors such as one's access to other means of transportation, or one's ability to pay fines.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.