People often go into court not knowing what they are facing. Although there are many motor vehicle statutes which require a mandatory suspension, other litigants may face a discretionary license loss. In cases of willful or aggravated conduct, a license loss is a real possibility. New Jersey Statute 39:5-31 permits the Motor Vehicle Commission or 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 the motor vehicle code. This means that for an offense such as Reckless Driving, New Jersey Statue 39:4-96, which, by its definition is a driving “heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others” the prospect of a license suspension is a very real consequence.
The court must, however, engage in a balancing of aggravating and mitigating factors when deciding whether or not to suspend someone’s license for willful or aggravated conduct. In State v. Moran, 203 N.J. 311 (2010) the New Jersey Supreme Court held that sentencing courts must weigh the following factors when making such a decision:
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 do the nature and extent of the defendant's driving record indicate there is substantial risk that he will commit another violation?
4. Do the character and attitude of the defendant indicate that he is likely or unlikely to commit another violation?
5. Was the defendant's conduct the result of circumstances unlikely to reoccur?
6. Would a license suspension or jail term cause excessive hardship to the defendant and or dependents?
7. Are there considerations related to the need for personal deterrence?
8. Are there any other relevant aggravating or mitigating factors clearly identified by the court?
State v. Moran, 202 N.J. 311 at 329 (2010).
The Supreme Court further held that, “It is not necessarily the number of factors that apply but the weight to be attributed to a factor or factors.” State v. Moran, 202 N.J. 311 at 329 (2010).
If you find yourself in a situation where you are facing a license suspension for alleged willful or aggravated conduct, the abilities of your attorney to negotiate and advocate on your behalf may mean the difference between walking out of court with your license intact or not. If you or someone you know has a motor vehicle offense, they are always free to call my cell and discuss at (732) 558-2019. Happy motoring!