TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today signed S1080, which eliminates the use of mandatory driver’s license suspensions as a penalty for certain non-moving offenses.
“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.” said Governor Murphy. “A stronger and fairer New Jersey includes adapting our laws to support working families and not act against them."
“I agree with American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators that we should not be suspending driver licenses for offenses unrelated to driving,’’ said Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Sue Fulton. “Whether you're going to work, a doctor’s appointment or taking children to school, a driver’s license is a tool – a permit to drive on our public roads. It is no more nor less than a way for us to keep our roads and drivers safe.’’
S1080 eliminates mandatory driver’s license suspensions for certain non-moving violations. The law also repeals the driver’s license suspension required for criminal convictions related to the possession or sale of illegal drugs and removes the provision that a person’s driver’s license be suspended by operation of law upon the issuance of a child support-related warrant.
Primary sponsors of the bill include Senators Shirley Turner, Nicholas Scutari, and Assemblymembers James J. Kennedy, Eliana Pintor Marin, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.
“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,” said Senator Turner. “A driver’s license is needed to commute to and from work, but many jobs also require a valid driver’s license just to apply. Suspending a person’s license is counterproductive. We want our residents to have their driver’s licenses so they can work and earn a living, pay off their fines, penalties and surcharges, take their children to school and doctor’s appointments, and be productive citizens. Driver license suspensions only exacerbate income inequality and now our lower-income citizens will be on the road to economic recovery. The governor’s signing this bill is an important step in the fight for economic and social justice.”
“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 Senator Scutari. “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.”
“Driver’s licenses should not be suspended for an offense unrelated to the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle,” said Assemblyman Kennedy. “We’ve seen too many people get caught up in the vicious cycle of not being able to get a license because they can’t pay fines, but they can’t get to and from work to earn money to pay the fines if they can’t get a license.”
“I have personally heard horror stories from New Jerseyans who paid their motor vehicle fines, but didn’t know they also owed late fees and then had their licenses suspended,” explained Assemblywoman Pintor Marin. “It’s just wrong to take someone’s license away and make it extremely difficult for them to get to their jobs over fees, that in some cases are less than ten dollars. This law rights that wrong.”
“Before today, a person in New Jersey could actually lose their driver’s license for one year for an act of graffiti they may have committed when they were 13-years-old, years before they could legally get a license,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson. “Its idiotic scenarios like this that the law seeks to address.”
"This bill is very important, way past due, as too many individuals, especially males, have been unfairly penalized for small possessions," said Reverend Dr. Bryant Ali, Senior Pastor at the New Psalmist Worship Center. "They have walked around for years, unable to work or driven illegally to get to work. Yes, this is a great bill!"