NJ stops suspending licenses for small crimes, not paying fines
TRENTON — New Jersey law no longer requires the mandatory suspension of driver's licenses for misdemeanor offenses, drug convictions or failing to pay fines.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed the law repealing the mandatory license suspensions, calling it a matter of fairness.
“Driver’s licenses suspensions for reasons unrelated to moving offenses are often overly punitive and can have a disproportionate financial impact on many working-class and minority families,” Murphy said. “A stronger and fairer New Jersey includes adapting our laws to support working families and not act against them."
The law eliminates the mandatory suspensions for people convicted of possessing or dealing drugs as well as for people issued a warrant related to failure to pay child support.
Judges will not be forced to use suspensions to punish defendants who fail to pay parking fines or who are found guilty of underage misdemeanors involving alcohol, graffiti or having a fake license.
“For far too long, our policies have penalized people with the loss of their driver licenses for offenses unrelated to driving or road safety, or because they are too poor to afford to pay their fines or surcharges,” state Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, a sponsor of the legislation said. "Driver license suspensions only exacerbate income inequality and now our lower-income citizens will be on the road to economic recovery."
“The punishment of a suspended driver’s license for certain crimes and offenses, such as a failure to pay a fine, doesn’t make any sense,” said another sponsor, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union. “We want people to be able to get to work and earn a paycheck so they can get ahead and actually pay their fines. This law eliminates the barriers preventing them from doing so.”
Also this year, Murphy signed a law that requires all DWI offenders to install ignition locks while reducing the length of licenses suspensions for drunk driving offenses.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.