State v. Moran, and Why Your License Can Be Suspended for a Speeding Ticket

Most New Jersey drivers are aware that Reckless Driving, or very high-speed Speeding Tickets come with substantial penalties in terms of points and fines. What a lot of drivers fail to realize is that a judge has the power to suspend your license without any involvement by the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission, due to case precedent, for any motor vehicle infraction under certain circumstances.

In a 2010 New Jersey Supreme Court case, our justices held that those who commit a “willful” violation of the reckless-driving statute, warranting imposition of driver’s license suspension, engage in an aggravated form of reckless driving, i.e., conduct that is highly likely to endanger a person or property. In this case, Defendant, Laura Moran, was found guilty in municipal court of reckless driving, a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4–96. In addition to imposing penalties specifically referenced in N.J.S.A. 39:4–96, the municipal court judge suspended defendant’s driving privileges for forty-five days under N.J.S.A. 39:5–31. N.J.S.A. 39:5–31 authorizes a municipal court or Law Division judge to “revoke the license of any person to drive a motor vehicle, when such person shall have been guilty of such willful violation of any of the provisions of [N.J.S.A. 39:1–1 to 39:5G–2] as shall, in the discretion of the [judge], justify such revocation.” 

Willful or Wanton Violations Resulting in License Suspensions for Speeding/Reckless Tiekctes

The Superior Court in Monmouth County found that defendant’s willful violation of the reckless-driving statute, combined with her past driving infractions, justified the license suspension. At this proceeding, the defendant challenged the constitutionality of N.J.S.A. 39:5–31, which empowers the court to suspend a defendant’s license. The Law Division rejected defendant’s constitutional challenge that the statute invested municipal court judges with “unbridled discretion” and did not give fair notice of the penalty. It was this challenge to the constitutionality of N.J.S.A. 39:5-31, that made this case so important and allowed it to reach the NJ Supreme Court.

In its ruling, the Court held that the statute authorizing imposition of license suspension for willful violations of motor vehicle and traffic laws, as construed, was not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad and did not improperly give unbridled discretion to sentencing judges. Further, the court stated that Municipal court and Law Division judges are to consider the following factors in determining whether to impose a license suspension for willful violations of motor vehicle and traffic laws, and, if so, the length of the suspension:

  1. The nature and circumstances of the defendant’s conduct, including whether the conduct posed a high risk of danger to the public or caused physical harm or property damage;
  2. The defendant’s driving record, including the defendant’s age and length of time as a licensed driver, and the number, seriousness, and frequency of prior infractions;
  3. Whether the defendant was infraction-free for a substantial period before the most recent violation or whether the nature and extent of the defendant’s driving record indicates that there is a substantial risk that he or she will commit another violation;
  4. Whether the character and attitude of the defendant indicate that he or she is likely or unlikely to commit another violation;
  5. Whether the defendant’s conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur;
  6. Whether a license suspension would cause excessive hardship to the defendant and/or dependents;
  7. The need for personal deterrence; and
  8. Any other relevant factor clearly identified by the court. N.J.S.A. 39:5–31.

If you are facing a Motor Vehicle charge and fear that you may face a license suspension based on the recent rulings in Moran, then contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall today at 1 (877) 450-8301. You can speak with an experienced NJ traffic attorney about your charges and how we can help you keep your license.

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