State v. Moran

In State v. Moran, the New Jersey Supreme Court, for the first time, set forth standards that judges are to use when deciding whether (and how long) to suspend a defendant’s driving privileges under NJSA 39:5-31. This statute authorizes a license suspension for any “willful” violation of Subtitle 1 of Title 39, the state’s motor vehicle code. The court ruled that the motor vehicle code section 39:5-31 applies to situations involving enhanced recklessness, and the court now requires sentencing judge weigh, evaluate and place on the record a number of factors before imposing a license suspension. The mandatory factors are:

1) the nature and circumstances of the defendant’s conduct, including whether the conduct posed a high risk of danger to the public or caused physical harm or property damage;
2) the defendant’s driving record, including the defendant’s age and length of time as a licensed driver, and the number, seriousness, and frequency of prior infractions;
3) whether the defendant was infraction-free for a substantial period before the most recent violation or whether the nature and extent of the defendant’s driving record indicates that there is a substantial risk that he or she will commit another violation;
4) whether the character and attitude of the defendant indicates that he or she is likely or unlikely to commit another violation;
5) whether the defendant’s conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur;
6) whether a license suspension would cause excessive hardship to the defendant and/or dependents;
7) the need for personal deterrence; and
8) Any other relevant factors clearly identified by the court also may be considered.

In addition to the foregoing, the Court reasoned that comparisons to motor vehicle statutes that impose mandatory license suspensions also may be a useful guide in some cases. It is not necessarily the number of factors that apply but the weight to be attributed to a factor or factors.

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