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New Jersey Governor Amends State’s Comprehensive Drug Reform Act to Allow Discretion for Suspension of Driving Privileges

Posted On: September 17, 2008 by Marc Neff

New Jersey’s Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987 stated in part that based on criminal history, the extent of the offense, and other criteria, a person could be sentenced to a term of probation if found guilty or if he/she plead guilty to a drug offense. Under the original legislation, such a sentence would have required the judge to suspend the defendant’s driving privileges for a period of 6-months to 2-years. As a result of changes in drug laws last year, the New Jersey legislature authorized judges to forego the suspension of a driver’s license if the defendant could demonstrate an extreme and compelling hardship due to the loss of such privileges. The amendments signed into law yesterday will now allow judges to forego suspension of driving privileges in the cases of extreme hardship and will also allow a judge to reinstate a convicted person’s driving privileges if they are currently in a suspended status and can show evidence of hardship.

The amendments state in part that a suspension of driving privileges may be foregone when the suspension will result in extreme hardship and alternate means of transportation are not available. Extreme hardship was defined by the New Jersey Superior Court in a 2007 appellate case; State v. Bendix. In Bendix, the defendant was convicted of two disorderly persons offenses relating to possession of cocaine and paraphernalia. The defendant was a state certified mechanic and argued that the loss of his license would not only affect his getting to work, but also his ability to road test vehicles he worked on, drive customers to and from his garage, and also that New Jersey law required a state inspector to be a licensed driver. Further, the defendant claimed that two employees he had hired in anticipation of losing his license had become disabled and had to quit respectively. The trial court expressed great concern in considering the defendant’s situation a hardship, noting that if granted a hardship, the court would have to grant many others a hardship based on their difficulty in getting to work. On appeal, the Superior Court took into consideration the defendant’s job as a mechanic as his means of earning a livelihood and therefore, granted the hardship.

Drug offenses are serious matters which involve serious penalties, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and throughout the United States. If you have been charged with a drug offense, there are many defenses which may be available. Contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff immediately so that we may assist you in your situation.

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Posted in: Drug Crimes