Mandatory License Suspension for Drug Offenses
Did you know that if you plead guilty to a charge of drug possession or are convicted of the offense that a drug related offense can, under Title 35 of New Jersey statute of law, result in a motor vehicle license suspension?
New Jersey statutes provide that:
“A person convicted for a violation of any drug offense shall forfeit his or her right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period to be fixed by the court at not less than six months or more than two years which shall commence on the day the sentence is imposed unless the court finds compelling circumstances warranting an exception. 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.”
The law requires that if you are convicted of having a controlled dangerous substance (“CDS”) or drug paraphernalia offenses in your possession, your driver’s license will be suspended unless the judge finds compelling circumstances to make an exception. Compelling reasons require there to be “extreme hardship” resulting from a suspension. Establishing to the satisfaction of a judge the “hardship criteria” is best left for an attorney at Hanlon Niemann since the relief from the mandatory suspension is a narrow exception and not the customary outcome. You really need legal assistance if charged with the offense.
Did you notice the length of time your license is suspended?
Term of Forfeiture. The suspension period to operate a motor vehicle ranges from six months to two years. And don’t overlook that your license suspension is in addition to the penalties, fines and possible jail sentence that applies for Possessing CDS in a Motor Vehicle.
What are your options?
PTI & Conditional Discharge. Hanlon Niemann & Wright can help you avoid the loss of your license. A forfeiture of driving privileges is not mandatory if you are able to persuade the court to impose a conditional discharge or admit you into a Pretrial Intervention Program (PIP).
If you have been charged with a disorderly person’s offense involving drugs or were subject to an indictable CDS offense which has been downgraded to the municipal court in New Jersey, you may be able to avoid prosecution by having the matter conditionally discharged.
Conditional Discharge Law: N.J.S.A. 2C:36A-1
The definition and terms for Conditional Discharge in New Jersey are contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:36A-1. This option is limited to a Disorderly Persons Offense involving drugs, (i.e., possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia) in municipal court. Other important features of the program are:
Acceptance is Not a Conviction Under NJ Law. Admission into a probation program through a conditional discharge does not create a criminal record or conviction. An admission of guilt is not even required. When you are admitted into the program, your charge is conditionally dismissed without a plea. When the conditions of the dismissal are fulfilled, the conditional discharge becomes a dismissal with prejudice (i.e. permanent removal from your record).
No Prior Controlled Dangerous Substance Convictions. Eligibility for conditional discharge can be given only if you have no prior convictions for a controlled dangerous substance offense, i.e., possession of drugs and have never been diverted before. If you have already been admitted to a diversionary program such as Pretrial Intervention or a prior conditional discharge you are ineligible for a conditional discharge.
Violation of Terms. If you violate the conditions of your discharge, you will be terminated from probation and the original criminal offense will be reinstated; in other words, you must defend the original charge from the beginning in Municipal Court.
Extent of Supervision. Most offenses that are conditionally discharged involve minimal or no supervision. Still, the law allows for probation and some municipalities and/or counties take a more active approach. By more active, we are typically referring to a demand that the defendant submits to a random drug test to demonstrate that he or she is drug free.
Juveniles under the age of 18. The mandatory driver’s license suspension also applies to juveniles. Where a minor is found guilty of a drug offense before he or she has a license to operate a motor vehicle, the license revocation period begins when you are otherwise eligible to drive (i.e. age 17). If your driving license is already suspended, revoked or postponed, then the license suspension will be added to and made consecutive to your current loss of driving privileges.
Contact me personally today to discuss your license suspension exposure for a driving offense in municipal court. I am easy to talk to, very approachable and can offer you practical, legal ways to handle your concerns. You can reach me toll free at (855) 376-5291 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Municipal Law Attorney