NJ May Soon Eliminate DMV Surcharges, Institute Restricted Licenses

As attorneys handling DWI and other Motor Vehicle matters, the most common question we get is whether New Jersey has any kind of work license or restricted license program for people who have their license suspended by a Court for such matters as DWIs or by the Division of Motor Vehicles for getting too many points or for driving during a suspension period.  We also receive numerous calls asking how to get rid of NJ MVC Surcharges or if there is a way to reduce them to a reasonable amount. Unfortunately, the current answer to all of these questions is “No.” New Jersey currently has no program for issuing restricted or work licenses and the only way to get out of paying surcharges is to file for bankruptcy. However, there have been several recent pushes, both by the NJ Supreme Court and the State Legislature which may have a positive impact on creating change.

In fact, a recent NJ Supreme Court report highlighted the social injustice that motor vehicle fines and penalties have disproportionately affected those already facing financial hardship. In a recent editorial by State Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), she highlighted that the cyclical nature of our system where a driver’s license is suspended, then they cannot work, and therefore cannot pay their fines. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Affordability and Fairness Task Force, a panel she served on, found that a disproportionate number of suspended drivers reside in urban and low-income areas.

Senator Turner has spearheaded two new bills, the first, S1508, gradually eliminates the surcharge system. It cannot be eliminated all at once, unfortunately, because it used to finance bonds for special needs housing projects. If it was eliminated all at once, those bonds would not be financed and it would likely cause a crisis in our State.

The second bill being introduced is S1080, which would allow suspended drivers to drive to work, school, medical appointments, and childcare.  This is essential for maintaining employment and being able to continue to support oneself after a motor vehicle license suspension.

To answer the original question, will New Jersey ever get restricted licenses and eliminate DMV surcharges? Hopefully soon. We are one of the only states left that has surcharges in place, and well over half the country has restricted licenses available. These changes will not only assist in the repayment of court fines, but they will also help the employment rate in New Jersey, especially for the many areas of the state that are outside the public transportation routes. The infrastructure currently in place does not allow for those who have suspended licenses to get to work or to take care of their families.  The Law Firm of Randolph H. Wolf is carefully following these developments and will provide updates as they become available.

*Amanda F. Wof is an attorney at the Law Firm of Randolph H. Wolf who concentrates her practice is DWI, Criminal, and Motor Vehicle related matters.