Revision to Drug law now Authorizes a court to refrain from imposing driver’s license suspension on defendant convicted of drug offense if compelling circumstances exist. NJSA 2C:35-16
Under the NJ Drug law, the court must order every person convicted of an offense concerning controlled dangerous substances or drug paraphernalia, as set out in chapters 35 and 36 of the Criminal Code, to forfeit his or her driving privileges for a period of six months to two years. In cases involving juveniles under the age of 17, the period of suspension ordered by the court begins after the day the juvenile reaches age 17. This law allows the court to refrain from imposing the driver's license suspension under certain circumstances.
There can be a waiver of the suspension requirement if the defendant's attorney makes a Motion and the court finds compelling circumstances warranting an exception to expenses. For the purposes of this section, compelling circumstances warranting an exception exist if the forfeiture of the person's right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State will result in extreme hardship and alternative means of transportation are not available.
If somebody has aready had their license suspended for a driving offense, they can hire an attorney to make a motion.
As a condition of receipt of certain federal funds, federal law (set out in 23 U.S.C.A. §159) requires each state to comply with one of the following three options:
(1) the state must require driver's license suspension for CDS offenses in all cases (as does current New Jersey law); or
(2) the state must require drivers' license suspension for CDS offenses unless there are "compelling circumstances warranting an exception"; or
(3) the state's Governor must submit two certifications to the federal Secretary of Transportation: one stating that the Governor is opposed to the enactment or enforcement in the state of a law requiring drivers' license suspensions for convicted drug offenders; and one stating that the legislature (including both Houses where applicable) has adopted a resolution expressing its opposition to such a law.
This new law conforms to alternative (2) of the federal statute. Under the bill, the court will not order a driver's license suspension for a person convicted of a drug offense if the court finds "compelling circumstances warranting an exception." For purposes of the law, compelling circumstances warranting an exception exist if the forfeiture of the person's right to operate a motor vehicle will result in extreme hardship and alternative means of transportation are not available.
The committee amendments were proposed by the Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing established by P.L. 2003, c.265. These amendments provide that a person, at any time after sentencing and upon notice to the prosecutor, may make an application to the court to restore his right to operate a motor vehicle if the application is based upon new evidence or new information which demonstrates compelling circumstances warranting an exception. For example, a person may be sentenced to forfeit his driving privileges for two years. After serving one year of that sentence he may relocate and alternative means of transportation may no longer be available near his new residence. Under the amendments that person may apply to the court for reconsideration of his loss of driving privileges given the new information bearing on this matter.