New Law Imposes Longer Jail Sentences For Driving With a License Suspended or Revoked for Drunken Driving

After reports of serious and fatal accidents caused by drivers whose licenses had been suspended for drunken-driving-related offenses, the Legislature enacted N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26(b).  The law became effective on August 2, 2011.

The statute makes it a fourth-degree crime for a motorist to operate a vehicle at a time when his or her driver’s license is suspended or revoked for a second or subsequent conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or refusal to submit to an alcohol breath test. Any conviction under this statute carries a minimum mandatory jail sentence of six months in the county jail. The maximum period of incarceration is 18 months in state prison. This incarceration is in addition to the fines and additional license suspension, which you would incur as a result of the conviction for the related traffic offense.

The previous penalty for driving while under suspension issued pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, driving while under the influence of liquor or drugs, included an additional $500.00 fine, a license suspension for an additional period of one to two years, and 10 to 90 days in prison.

The statute’s enhanced penalties apply regardless of whether or not the driver was intoxicated when he or she was driving.  The point is that he or she was caught driving after having his license suspended for drunk driving.

Driving while suspended is normally a motor vehicle offense handled in municipal court.  However, if a person fits within this statute, the case will be heard in Superior Court, as the offense is a fourth-degree crime.  Additionally, while a fourth-degree conviction would normally carry a presumption of non-imprisonment, if a person is convicted of this offense, there is a mandatory six months in jail without parole.  If you are charged with this serious offense, you should consult an attorney immediately.