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Last Updated on: 23rd September 2023, 05:52 am
NJ Driving While Suspended: Fines, Suspensions and Jail Time Lawyers
In New Jersey, driving with a suspended license can lead to serious consequences like fines, additional license suspension, and even jail time. That’s why it’s critical to have an experienced traffic lawyer on your side if you’re facing a driving while suspended charge.
This article explains the New Jersey laws related to driving while suspended. It also covers the potential penalties and how a knowledgeable attorney can help minimize the impact on your driving record and freedom.
New Jersey’s Driving While Suspended Laws
The main law that prohibits driving while suspended in New Jersey is N.J.S.A. 39:3-40. Under this statute, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle during a period of license suspension or revocation for any reason.
You can be charged with driving while suspended even if you were unaware your license was suspended. The statute imposes strict liability – meaning knowledge of the suspension is not required for conviction.
The only valid defense is that you were not actually driving during the period of suspension. But this can be difficult to prove if the police claim to have seen you behind the wheel.
Penalties for First Offense
For a first offense of driving while suspended in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-40, common penalties include:
- $500 fine
- Additional driver’s license suspension – typically an additional 1-2 years
- Possible jail time up to 15 days
In addition, you will be required to pay all necessary reinstatement fees and surcharges to regain your driving privileges after the suspension expires.
Judges have discretion in setting fines and suspension lengths within statutory limits. A skilled New Jersey traffic lawyer can argue for lower penalties depending on the circumstances of your case.
Penalties for Subsequent Offenses
Penalties increase substantially for second and subsequent offenses of driving while suspended under N.J.S.A. 39:3-40. They include:
- Fines up to $1,000
- License suspension up to 2 years
- Jail time up to 15 days for a 2nd offense, and up to 90 days for a 3rd offense
In addition, the court will extend your underlying suspension by 1 year beyond your original suspension end date. This adds even more time before you can regain your driving privileges.
An experienced traffic lawyer is critical for avoiding maximum fines and suspensions. They understand how to present mitigating factors to convince the judge to impose less than the harshest penalties permitted under law.
Defending Against Driving While Suspended Charges
The best defense against driving while suspended charges is to contest the validity of the traffic stop and evidence against you. Possible strategies include:
- Filing a motion to suppress evidence due to an illegal stop
- Disputing the identity of the driver
- Challenging the credibility of the officer’s testimony
- Contesting the accuracy of documents showing your suspension status
If the prosecution’s evidence is weak or deficient, your lawyer may be able to get the charges against you dismissed. Without sufficient proof, they cannot convict you of driving while suspended.
Plea Bargaining Possibilities
Rather than risking trial, your attorney may be able to negotiate a favorable plea deal on the driving while suspended charge, such as:
- Pleading to a lesser traffic offense like failure to exhibit a license
- Agreeing to increased fines in exchange for less license suspension
- Pleading guilty in return for the prosecution dropping jail time
Every case is unique, so your lawyer will pursue the best possible plea deal terms under your specific circumstances.
Avoiding Jail Time
For second and subsequent driving while suspended offenses, jail time is a real possibility. But an experienced attorney can often find ways to keep you out of jail through strategies like:
- Negotiating a plea deal with no jail term
- Presenting mitigating circumstances to the judge
- Getting jail time suspended pending completion of probation
- Filing motions and appeals to overturn the conviction
In State v. Carrero, for example, the court ruled that a 90 day jail term was excessive for a third offense of driving while suspended. The term was reduced to time served of just two days. 
While not guaranteed, avoiding jail is possible in many cases with an experienced DWS lawyer on your side.
If your license is suspended for driving while suspended, immediately apply for an occupational license. This allows you to drive for work, school, and medical purposes during a suspension.
To get an occupational license, you must prove to the court that losing your regular license would cause serious hardship. Your lawyer can help document your need to drive for essential activities.
In In re Pizzo, for example, a real estate agent who lost his license for driving while suspended qualified for an occupational license. Without it, he could not show homes to clients or drive to closings. 
While limited, an occupational license is far better than no license if you need to drive for work or other important needs.
Once your suspension period ends, you must go through New Jersey’s license reinstatement process before legally driving again. This involves:
- Paying a $100 restoration fee to the MVC
- Paying any other fines related to your conviction
- Providing proof of valid auto insurance
- Passing a standard vision test
Your lawyer can guide you through meeting these requirements to ensure the MVC promptly reinstates your driving privileges.
Avoiding Future Suspensions
The best way to avoid another charge of driving while suspended is by not driving at all if your license is suspended again. But if you must drive:
- Contest any new license suspension and seek an occupational license
- Carefully follow all rules and restrictions on an occupational license
- Have your lawyer negotiate limited reinstatement if possible
Following your lawyer’s advice will help minimize your driving and risk while suspended. This reduces the chances of another driving while suspended charge.
Don’t Delay Getting Legal Help
Driving while suspended charges should never be taken lightly in New Jersey. The penalties can damage your finances, freedom, and driving record for years.
But an experienced traffic lawyer can help mitigate the consequences. From negotiating plea deals to avoiding jail to getting your license back, they have the skills to defend your rights and privileges.
If you’re charged with driving while suspended, contact a knowledgeable attorney immediately. The sooner you get legal help, the better the outcome is likely to be.