The penalties for driving with a suspended/revoked license in the State of New Jersey are set forth in N.J.S. 39:3-40. They include mandatory fines, an additional suspension of driving privileges, and even mandatory jail under certain circumstances, as well as for second and third offenders. In order to prove you guilty of driving while suspended/revoked in the State of New Jersey, the State must prove three things:
- That you were operating a vehicle at the time of the offense;
- That your driving privilege was suspended at the time of the offense; and
- That you had been provided "notice" that your driving privilege was suspended
The issue of "operation" is not as cut and dry as you may think. The definition of "operation" is very liberally construed in New Jersey. You do not necessarily need to be driving down the road in your car to be considered an operator. If you are simply sitting behind the wheel of the car with the key in the ignition in the "off" position under circumstances which demonstrate an intent to operate your vehicle, this may be sufficient.
The issue of whether your driving privilege was or was not suspended on the date of the offense, is usually not very complicated. The State will introduce into evidence your certified driver's abstract to prove that your license was, in fact, suspended on the date you were stopped. If it reflects that your license was not suspended, the State will probably be satisfied, and move to dismiss the charge before your trial even starts.
The issue of "notice" is usually the most complicated. Your license can be suspended for many reasons, but there are only two ways you can be notified of the suspension:
- By a judge, as a result of an in-court suspension (e.g. because of a DUI conviction); or
- By the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (e.g. due to failure to pay surcharges or too many points)
If your license was suspended as a result of an in-court suspension, you will have a difficult time arguing that you did not know your license was suspended. Your driver's abstract will reflect the reason for the suspension, and the Court will take judicial notice that your were verbally told directly by a judge on the record that your license was suspended. If your license was suspended by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), the State must introduce two sets of two documents into evidence in addition to your driver's abstract. One set includes a Notice of Scheduled Suspension(a warning letter) along with a Certification of Mailing ( affidavit) that the Notice was mailed to you at your last known address. The second set includes an Order of Suspension along with a Certification of Mailing that the Order was mailed to you at your last known address. If the State can prove all three elements of the offense, the Court will most likely find you guilty. If your suspension was an error, and you show the Prosecutor documentation of that fact along with a copy of your Restoration Notice, he will most likely downgrade or maybe even dismiss your charge. If your license was legitimately suspended on the date of your offense, but is subsequently restored before your hearing date, you may still have a good chance of getting the charge reduced or dismissed if you retain a competent attorney to represent your interests.