Bills Headed to Governor’s Desk Would Impose Mandatory Jail Time for Repeat Offenders and Stiff Penalties for Enablers
TRENTON – The full Senate today approved a package of bills sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) that would crack down on motorists repeatedly caught driving under the influence or driving with a suspended license. The bills would also impose stiff new penalties on those caught lending their vehicle to someone with a suspended or revoked license, in an effort to deter those who enable repeat offenders.
“I understand people make mistakes, but if you don’t learn from those mistakes and continue to endanger the lives of others, I’ve got a message for you: We’re not going to tolerate it anymore,” said Sen. Codey. “We need to change our approach to these offenses if we really want to send a wake up call to repeat offenders. How can we tell someone caught driving with a suspended license that their punishment is another suspension? That’s the equivalent of throwing in the towel or looking the other way.”
The bills were prompted, in part, by reports last year of an East Rutherford man who injured another man and his young daughter in a DUI related accident and was later found to have 12 previous DUI convictions and 78 license suspensions.
Bill A4303/S2939, approved by a vote of 35 to 0, would impose mandatory jail time of six months to one year for anyone caught driving under the influence while currently suspended for a previous DUI or previous refusal to take a breath test; or for anyone caught driving two times or more while suspended for a DUI or refusal to take a breath test, even if they are not intoxicated. The bill would also make these offenses a crime of the fourth degree, with a fine of up to $10,000.
Under current law, anyone caught driving with a suspended license is subject to a $500 fine and a license suspension of up to an additional six months. Anyone caught driving while suspended a second time is subject to a $750 fine, another six months license suspension and anywhere from one to five days in county jail. Third or subsequent offenders are subject to a $1,000 fine, another six months license suspension and 10 days in county jail.
Bill A4302/S2940, approved by a vote of 33 to 0, would help deter individuals from enabling DUI offenders to get behind a wheel while their license is suspended. The bill would impose a fine of $1,000 and up to 15 days jail time for anyone who knowingly lends their vehicle to someone with a suspended license due to a DUI conviction or refusal to take a breath test. These penalties would apply to the first or second time an individual is caught loaning their car under the above circumstances. If they are caught a third time or more, they would get $1,000 fine, up to 15 days jail time, and forfeit their own right to drive for 90 days. Under current law, the only penalties that exist for this offense are a fine of $200-$500 and up to 15 days in jail.
“If you’re going to loan your car to someone with a history of drunk driving, then you should be held to the same level of accountability as them if they go out and injure someone else on the road. This is about personal responsibility and respecting the lives of others,” added Sen. Codey.
Each bill has been approved by both houses of the Legislature and now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
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