TRENTON – The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee today approved a bill sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would establish a restricted use driver’s license endorsement to a basic driver’s license for drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked for failure to pay certain motor vehicle surcharges or for an accumulation of motor vehicle penalty points.
Under the bill, a driver would be authorized with a restricted use driver’s license endorsement to operate a motor vehicle exclusively between the driver’s residence and a place of employment, as well as during the person’s employment if necessary to perform his or her duties; an accredited educational institution; a mandated treatment program; a health care facility; or a child care facility.
“When our Legislature commissioned a study in 2007, we found that license suspensions impact the poor far more than the middle and upper classes. This bill is especially important for individuals who lost their license from a failure to pay surcharges because losing their ability to drive could impact their ability to work, get paid and pay off those fines,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “An investigation by the Asbury Park Press found there are many municipal court judges around the state who impose a $200 payment minimum upon the first appearance. Low-income drivers often do not have the means to immediately pay such high fines and they find themselves without hope in a downward spiral.”
The bill, S-1080, would require drivers to apply for the endorsement and agree to a payment plan approved by the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, and, in the case of an accumulation of motor vehicle penalty points attend a driver improvement program.
A person who has been convicted of drunk driving or refusing to take a breathalyzer test or has been assessed surcharges resulting from those convictions would not be eligible for an endorsement.
The bill would require the chief administrator to develop and issue an application for the restricted use driver’s license endorsement and to promptly issue the endorsement to applicants. If an applicant for an endorsement provides false information on the application, the applicant’s driver’s license would be suspended or revoked for an additional year. The chief administrator may charge a fee of up to $25 for the endorsement. The endorsement is to expire when the person’s driver’s license is restored following the period of suspension or revocation.
“This legislation is grounded in fairness, giving drivers the opportunity to get to places essential for their employment, health and childcare, without being too lenient or too harsh,” said Senator Turner. “Enrolling them in an installment plan helps them to pay their surcharges in a manner that allows them to also take care of other household bills.”
The bill would also establish penalties for operating a motor vehicle between points other than those authorized by the endorsement. The endorsement is to be immediately forfeited and the driver would be subject to a fine of not less than $500 or more than $1,000; community service for a period of 30 days; and an additional one year driver’s license suspension or revocation. A driver who is convicted of causing an accident resulting in personal injury or death to another person while driving between unauthorized points would be subject to a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000; community service for a period of 30 days; and an additional two years driver’s license suspension or revocation. A driver who is convicted of drunk driving or refusing to take a breathalyzer while operating a motor vehicle between unauthorized points would be subject to a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 and an additional five years driver’s license suspension or revocation.
Under the bill, a person whose driver’s license is suspended or revoked after or within 10 years of the effective date of the bill would be eligible for an endorsement, provided the person meets the requirements set forth in the bill.
The bill would take effect on the first day of the 13th month following enactment, but the chief administrator could take any anticipatory acts in advance of that date as may be necessary for the timely implementation of the bill.
The bill was released from the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee with a 4-0 vote and advances to the Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.