Why Sentencing Can Be Complicated if You Are Convicted of Driving with a Revoked or Suspended License

Person being handcuffed

One of the harshest punishments involved with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is losing one’s driving privileges after a driver is convicted. When your license becomes revoked or suspended, you may lose your ability to drive to work and earn money to support your family —New Jersey does not allow for any temporary, provisional or “work” licenses. Suspension can also affect your ability to take your children to school, go to the supermarket, and do other things that seem essential. You may be on the revoked list for many reasons, and, regardless of the reason for your suspension, if your license has been revoked, the law says you cannot operate a motor vehicle in New Jersey during the period of your suspension for any reason.

Nevertheless, many people decide to drive without a valid license, every day. Thousands of drivers on the revoked list are pulled over for routine traffic stops every year in New Jersey, and if you are convicted of driving with a revoked license, you can face additional and severe consequences.

Unfortunately, sentencing issues for drivers who are convicted of driving on the revoked list presents many challenges, even for professionals who deal with DUI / DWI questions every day like judges and lawyers. There are three reasons why difficulties with this area of law exist. First, the statute that governs driving on the revoked list is somewhat unclear, and can require conflicting sentencing alternatives in certain situations. Second, judicial opinions written by the various Courts of the State of New Jersey have disagreed with each other in the past, and new laws sometimes make old cases inapplicable with a law change that happened after the case was decided. Finally, the law has failed to address how a driver should be sentenced if more than one of the sentencing enhancements written into the law applies.

Because this area of law is so complicated, it can become very important for you obtain an experienced DUI/DWI attorney to represent you, because a lawyer who understands these issues will be best prepared to get you the best result when your case goes to court.

An Example of Contradictory Mandates and Court Opinions

The driving with a suspended or revoked license law, N.J.S.A. 39:3-40, sets forth certain general punishments for anyone who is convicted of driving with a suspended license. There are also special provisions in the law that apply depending on how, why, or how many times your license has been suspended, and these may increase or decrease your punishment, or provide you with an alternative punishment such as paying a fine and pleading to a different charge completely.

In State v. Wrotny, which was decided in 1987, the Court determined that the special provisions included additional consequences that should be applied in addition to the general punishments. However, in State v. Rought (1987) and State v. Walsh (1989), the Court determined that the special provisions replaced the punishments set forth in the general provisions. Newer cases may agree or disagree with any of these cases, or may set forth a new rule entirely. For that reason, if you are charged with driving with a suspended license, it can be almost impossible to understand what is at stake if you are not experienced and completely familiar with DUI/DWI law.

An Example of Difficulty with Enhancements

If you are pulled over and found to be driving with a revoked license, you could also be facing jail time if convicted. How much jail time? There may not be a straight-forward answer.

For instance, if you are convicted of driving with a suspended license, and have had two prior convictions for driving on the revoked list, you would normally face a jail sentence of ten days and a set fine of $1000. However, certain circumstances can enhance your jail sentence if you were on the revoked list as a result of a drunk driving conviction that included an injury to another person that also happened to be within 1000 feet of a school, you could face multiple enhancements that increase your jail time to 60 days or 90 days, or more depending on if the jail sentences are added together or substituted for the original ten-day sentence. Likewise, your monetary fine could stay the same, be doubled, or tripled, or more depending on how the law is read.

The Need for an Experienced DWI / DUI Attorney

At the end of the day, if you are charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license, you are will be facing serious penalties no matter what. Nonetheless, the question of whether you lose your license for an additional 6 months or 30 months is extremely important, and the issues may not be something you can understand if you wait until you go to court to ask a prosecutor or judge for an explanation. Because this area of law is so confusing, an experienced drunk driving lawyer will be able to take the time, sit down with you and review your case, and explain what consequences you are facing in your specific situation. If you go to court, an experienced lawyer can help argue on your behalf to get you the best result possible.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Explain and Fight for Your Rights

A charge for operating a motor vehicle with a revoked or suspended license can result in serious and complicated penalties that affect you and your loved ones. If you are charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license in New Jersey, an experienced DWI / DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.