It happens all too often. A driver gets pulled over for any number of reasons, only to discover they are driving with a suspended license. The trouble is, there are many people who truly don’t know their license has been suspended. How could this be possible? First, there are two separate entities that have the ability to suspend your license. One is the judicial system. There are a number of traffic and non-traffic violations of law that may result in the suspension of driving privileges. For example, driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving without insurance, failure to pay child support, drug offenses and more. Some violations even carry a mandatory suspension period. If you are convicted of any number of violations, the court has the authority to impose a suspension of your driving privileges.
If your driving privileges were suspended by the court, you would be notified at the court proceeding of the terms of the suspension. Many drivers, however, may be unaware that New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) also has the ability to independently impose a suspension of driving privileges. The MVC can suspend a driver’s license administratively for any number of reasons. The most common reasons for suspension are the failure to pay surcharges or parking tickets. There are many moving traffic violations and disorderly persons offenses that come with insurance and MVC surcharges. If you fail to pay those surcharges, the MVC can impose a suspension of your driving privileges, even if it was not part of your original penalty.
Of course, if the MVC does suspend your driving privileges, they are required to give you notice. In fact, the MVC is required to send you two (2) notices, one to inform you that your driving privileges may be suspended and one to inform you when the suspension actually occurs. For those who find themselves driving on a suspended license, the number one defense is the failure to receive any notice from the MVC. It is important to note that the MVC is only required to send notice to your last known address on record, usually the address listed on your driver’s license. As long as the MVC can prove that notice was mailed to that address, it is considered sufficient notice. It does not matter if you have moved since then and you never received the notice that was sent.
So what can you do when you discover your license has been suspended? Every driver has the ability to request an administrative hearing with the MVC. At the hearing, you can challenge the suspension and present your defense to the MVC. The MVC will issue a decision the same day of the hearing. It is always a good idea to have a lawyer attend the hearing with you. An attorney experienced in handling municipal traffic matters and MVC matters may be able to negotiate a shorter suspension period or have the suspension waived entirely depending on the circumstances. If you want to make sure you’re in the know about your driving record, you can always order a copy of your MVC driver’s abstract online to insure you’re in good standing. If you do find yourself in the proverbial “I didn’t know my license was suspended” scenario, call an attorney to assist you with your defense.