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New Jersey Relaxes License Suspension Rules
New Jersey enacts laws relaxing the imposition of license suspensions in the wake of its driver responsibility tax.

Shirley K Turner
New Jersey Governor Jon S Corzine (D) signed into law a series of bills this week designed to address the dramatic increase in license suspension since the state implemented a driver responsibility tax. Under previous law, the state automatically suspended the driver's license of any motorist who was unable to pay the large fees imposed on traffic citations, boosting the number of uninsured and unlicensed drivers on the road. State Senator Shirley K Turner (D), the President Pro Tempore, sponsored the new laws in response to recommendations of a commission charged with reviewing the fairness of the state's licensing laws. The commission had found that only six percent of the 800,000 suspensions issued each year were directly related to driving conduct.

To address this, Turner's measure gives judges and the state motor vehicle department discretion to suspend a vehicle registration instead of a driver's license. This allows a motorist to keep a job, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that he will earn the funds needed to pay the fines imposed by the state.

"It penalizes the driver by taking away personal driving privileges but still allows them to go about their daily work," Turner explained in a statement. "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."

The other new laws allow indigent motorists to retain their driving privileges while making payments on the surcharges over a period of up to 36 months. Judges will also have the authority to waive up to one-half of the cost of a ticket tax imposed on low-income drivers and to offer an opportunity for them to work off this amount through community service. The law changes the official name for the ticket tax to the "Motor Vehicle Violations Surcharge System."

The full text of the suspension legislation is available in a 22k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 2326 (New Jersey Legislature, 1/8/2008)

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