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Will My Drivers License Get Suspended If I Get Caught With Drugs?

Under the criminal code, someone who is convicted of a drug offense, such as possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance ("CDS"), possession of drug paraphernalia or of being under the influence of CDS, can have their drivers license suspended from six months to two years, regardless of whether the CDS was found in a car or the person was driving.

N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16 holds that if a person is convicted of any of the drug offenses listed in Chapters 35 or 36 of the Criminal Code they will "forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle...for a period to be fixed by the court at not less than six months or more than two years." This is, however, unless the Court finds "compelling circumstances warranting an exception" to the suspension such as "if the forfeiture of the person's right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State will result in extreme hardship and alternative means of transportation are not available."

Getting caught with CDS in a motor vehicle used to be double the penalty because, in addition to facing a suspension under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16 for a criminal complaint, police usually would write a motor vehicle summons for violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1, CDS in a Motor Vehicle. This summons provided prosecutors with strong leverage because, if convicted, a defendant would lose his or her license for an additional two years without any provision for hardship exception. The potential license loss was, however, recently eliminated by our legislature, leaving only the license loss for the criminal offense in place.

If you or someone you know has a criminal or motor vehicle charge, call the office at (732) 750-4600 for a free consultation. I can also be reached by cell at (732) 558-2019 or by email at

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