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Last Updated on: 23rd September 2023, 05:52 am
NJ License Suspension for Possession or Use of a Controlled Dangerous Substance Lawyers
In New Jersey, getting convicted of a drug offense can result in losing your driver’s license – even if you weren’t driving or impaired at the time. This controversial practice is known as a drug-related license suspension.
Losing driving privileges for drug possession feels unfair to many people. But thousands face this harsh penalty every year in New Jersey. The only way to avoid suspension and keep your license is with an aggressive legal defense.
This article covers the laws that trigger drug-related license suspensions in New Jersey. It also explains how an experienced traffic lawyer can help you fight to protect your driving privileges.
New Jersey’s Drug License Suspension Laws
New Jersey has two main laws that impose license suspensions for drug crimes:
- N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16 – Mandatory suspension for certain drug convictions
- N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10 – Discretionary suspension for possession of CDS (controlled dangerous substance)
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16, a 6-24 month suspension is required if you’re convicted of:
- Possessing CDS in a motor vehicle
- Distributing, dispensing, or possessing CDS with intent to distribute
- Possessing drug paraphernalia
The suspension takes effect immediately upon conviction. There are no exceptions or waivers – it’s mandatory. 
N.J.S.A 2C:35-10 allows a judge to suspend licenses for 6-24 months of those convicted of simple CDS possession. Unlike the mandatory law, this suspension is discretionary based on the circumstances. 
Both laws apply even if you weren’t driving at the time of the drug offense. The state legislature believes suspending driving privileges deters illegal drug use.
Defending Against Drug License Suspensions
The best way to avoid suspension under these laws is by fighting the underlying drug conviction itself. If your attorney can get the charges reduced or dismissed, there will be no grounds for suspension.
Possible strategies in drug possession cases include:
- Filing a motion to suppress evidence due to an illegal search
- Disputing whether the substance was actually a CDS
- Arguing you didn’t knowingly possess the CDS
- Negotiating to plead guilty to non-CDS charges
If you already pled guilty or were convicted of a CDS offense, your lawyer can still argue against license suspension at sentencing. They may cite factors like:
- You need to drive for work or school
- You have a clean driving record
- You’re seeking drug treatment
- The drug offense was unrelated to driving
Judges have discretion to waive suspension under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10. But the mandatory suspension under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16 is harder to avoid after conviction.
Appealing the Conviction
If arguments against suspension at sentencing fail, your attorney can file an appeal. Appealing the conviction itself provides another avenue to fight the suspension.
In State v. Gibson, for example, the court reversed a defendant’s CDS conviction, eliminating the grounds for his license suspension. 
On appeal, your lawyer may argue issues like:
- Illegal search and seizure
- Incorrect application of the CDS laws
- Harshness of the sentence
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
If the appeal succeeds, your drug conviction and suspension will be overturned. But appealing takes time, so you may lose your license temporarily while the case works its way through the courts.
If your license is suspended under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16 or N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10, immediately apply for an occupational license. Also known as a conditional or restricted license, this allows you to drive for work purposes during a suspension.
To get an occupational license, you must prove to the court that losing your driving privileges would cause serious hardship related to employment, education, medical care, or other key life activities.
In In re Rios, for example, a laborer who lost his license due to a drug conviction qualified for an occupational license. Without it, he couldn’t drive to job sites and faced losing his livelihood. 
An experienced attorney can help gather evidence and make the strongest case that you need an occupational license. This allows you to keep driving for essential purposes while fighting the underlying suspension.
Getting your full driving privileges back after a drug-related suspension requires going through New Jersey’s license reinstatement process. The steps include:
- Completing the suspension term (6-24 months)
- Paying a $100 restoration fee to the MVC
- Providing proof of valid auto insurance
- Passing a standard vision test
An attorney can walk you through the reinstatement process smoothly. They can also advise you on steps to take if the MVC gives you any trouble getting your license back.
For example, in rare cases the MVC may try to impose additional requirements before reinstating you. A lawyer can challenge any unfair conditions and negotiate for full reinstatement of your driving privileges after suspension.
Avoiding Future Suspensions
The best way to avoid losing your license again in the future is by avoiding further drug convictions. But if you do face new drug charges, a skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to:
- Get the charges dismissed or reduced to non-CDS offenses
- Negotiate a plea deal with no license loss penalty
- File motions to suppress evidence to weaken the prosecution’s case
Vigorous defense against new drug charges reduces the risk of another driver’s license suspension down the road.
If you completed a rehab program after your past suspension, make sure to mention this to your attorney. It shows you’ve taken steps to improve yourself and that further license suspension may be unwarranted.
Don’t Delay Getting Legal Help
The prospect of losing your license due to a drug offense can be scary. But an experienced criminal defense and traffic lawyer can help you navigate New Jersey’s tough drug-related license suspension laws.
From defending your drug charges, to appealing your conviction, to regaining your license, a knowledgeable attorney will aggressively protect your driving privileges at every step.
Don’t wait to seek legal representation if you face drug charges. The sooner you retain a lawyer, the better your chances of avoiding license suspension or getting reinstated quickly.