Muni-mail – Supremes sets standards for suspending D/L – State v. Moran

[07-13-10 – 10:43] For the second day in a row, the New Jersey Supreme Court has released a landmark opinion that will dramatically affect the municipal courts. In this morning’s decision in State v. Moran, the Justices, for the first time, set forth standards that judges are to use when deciding whether (and how long) to suspend a defendant’s driving privileges under NJSA 39:5-31. This statute authorizes a license suspension for any “willful” violation of Subtitle 1 of Title 39, the state’s motor vehicle code. In addition to ruling that 39:5-31 applies to situations involving enhanced recklessness, the justices mandated that sentencing judges weigh, evaluate and spread on the record a number of factors before imposing a license suspension, including:

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 indicates 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; and

7) the need for personal deterrence.

Any other relevant factors clearly identified by the court also may be considered.

In addition to the foregoing, the Court reasoned that comparisons to motor vehicle statutes that impose mandatory license suspensions also may be a useful guide in some cases. It is not necessarily the number of factors that apply but the weight to be attributed to a factor or
factors.

Download a copy of State v. Moran.

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