TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner welcomed approval by the Senate Transportation Committee today of her package of bills that would implement several of the recommendations of the Motor Vehicle Affordability and Fairness Task Force aimed at making it easier for individuals with driver’s license suspensions to get their driving privileges reinstated.
“In New Jersey, driving is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “For many New Jerseyans, the loss of their driver’s license can equate with the loss of their job and their ability to support their families.”
As part of the Senator’s package, the Committee approved a pair of bills that would reduce the severity of license suspensions for certain offenders. Bill S-2326 would provide judges or the MVC with the option to suspend an individual’s vehicle registration rather than driver’s license if the person has not answered or appeared in response to a failure to appear notice or has not satisfied outstanding parking fines or penalties.
“For those individuals whose livelihood comes from sitting behind the wheel of a company-owned car or truck, this is a crucial change. It penalizes the driver by taking away personal driving privileges but still allows them to go about their daily work,” explained Senator Turner.
Senator Turner added, “Even if the job doesn’t involve operating a motor vehicle, employers will ask applicants if they have a driver’s license. Finding alternatives to license suspensions help to alleviate another barrier many face when trying to enter the workforce.”
Bill S-2328 would change the mandatory suspension of a driver’s license for driving without liability insurance from one year to a period of two to twelve months and allow the court to take into consideration if the owner acquired liability insurance coverage prior to conviction.
“We need to provide incentives to people to get auto insurance,” explained Senator Turner. “A driver’s efforts to get coverage should be seen as a measure of good faith when it comes to determining penalties in these cases.”
Two of the Senator’s bills were aimed at making it easier for individuals to pay outstanding fines and surcharges and get their license reinstated because of a failure to pay such fees. S-2331 would modify the Motor Vehicle Commission’s (MVC) license surcharge repayment program to require only 5% of each surcharge be paid before a license suspension can be lifted and allow payment plans of up to 36 months. S-2332 would allow judges to work out payment plans for motor vehicle fines and fees for drivers who can show that they meet certain financial hardship criteria and waive up to $200 dollars of any non-DUI fine owed by such an individual and replace it with community service
“When many suspensions are the result of individuals not having the money to pay fines and fees or buy insurance, it makes absolutely no sense to take away their means of getting to the job they need to afford those costs,” added Senator Turner. “Too often these situations spiral out of control without a real solution. These proposals are the solutions.”
Bill S-2330 would separate violations for not complying with a time payment order or for failure to respond to or pay a parking judgment from those of driving related offenses. The bill is in response to a recommendation that non driving related offenses not be penalized with the severity of driving related offenses.
The Committee also approved S-2329, which would require the MVC establish within six months a public awareness campaign to inform the public about the importance of maintaining a current address with the Commission.
These changes to the law are part of a larger effort by Senator Turner to enable individuals to keep their driver’s licenses so they can continue to drive to work, apply for jobs that require a valid driver’s license, and earn an income while ensuring the State receives the money that is owed from these penalties and fines.
Bills S-2326, S-2329, S-2330, S-2331, and S-2332 passed by a vote of 5-0 while S-2328 was approved 3-0. All six bills now go to the full Senate for their approval.