What does the court use to decide if it will suspend my license or put me in jail for a traffic offense?
Is my license going to be suspended and am I going to jail? I have traffic court coming up. I was driving more than 85 mph and I sat in court while the judge suspended other drivers licenses for going in excess of 20 mph over the speed limit. Am I going to jail and am I going to lose my license?
I have been charged with reckless driving excessive speeding and careless driving? I’m worried about losing my license?
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
The seminal case regarding the factors a municipal Court judge is required to take in the consideration when he makes a determination whether a license will be suspended is called State v Moran. The following factors shall be used by the municipal court judge when he makes a finding of fact and conclusions of law regarding the conduct of the defendant driver.
- N.J.S.A. 39:5-31 “revoke the license of any person to drive a motor vehicle, when such person shall have been guilty of such violation of any of the provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:5-31 to 39:5G-2.
- License suspension provisions which are published in the Motor Vehicle Code are not hidden and motorists are presumed to know the law.
- Court justified the imposition of a license suspension based on both defendant’s driving in a “willful and wanton manner in violation of the rights and safety of others and herself” and her “demeanor” in court.
- N.J.S.A. 39:5-31 was not found to be overbroad and vague.
- N.J.S.A. 39:5-31 authorizes the suspension of driving privileges for “such willful violation of any of the provisions of this subtitle.”
- To trigger the license suspension provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:5-31, a driver must engage in an aggravated form of reckless driving.
- N.J.S.A. 39:5-31 does not give unbridled discretion to sentencing judge.
Addition to these factors, municipal judges also allowed to take into consideration the speed, the reason for the high rate of speed and were rushing, the defendant employment history, prior driving license violation history, the defendant current employment and “need for motor vehicle” in the home “the ability of a defendant to obtain alternative transportation by way of public transportation to get to and from work, the defendant’s contrition and accepting responsibility for his/her behavior and excessive speed before the municipal court judge, any other factors the judge deems appropriate
One of the most important factors that I have argued for against license suspension and or jail time is the collateral consequences of the other persons who rely upon the money from the defendant to pay for the bills of the home. This means that if the person is put in jail and looses his license which will cause a loss of employment; the effect on the other members of the household should be taken into consideration by this sentencing judge. Those “collateral consequences” are often very persuasive and will go along way towards persuading the judge that a defendant should not be suspended, not be put in jail, and high fines should not be impose because of the effect on the entire household including dependent children depending grandparents and all those relying on the defendant to provide financial support for that home.
If the court finds more factors apply against the defendant and he finds those factors beyond a reasonable doubt the court may take the appropriate steps and suspend a defendant drivers license for any period of time up to six months or one year for a non-drug or DWI offense.
Make sure you hire an attorney to come to court with you in order to prepare for any possible Moran suspension hearing.
Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.