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Assembly Panel Advances Mainor, Sumter, Wimberly & Spencer Bill Package to Ease Burdensome Motor Vehicle Surcharges & Restrictions

Bills Would Allow Certain Drivers to Work off Surcharges through Community Service & Create Restricted Driver’s License Program

A two-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Charles Mainor, Shavonda Sumter, Benjie Wimberly and L. Grace Spencer aimed at helping drivers climb out of the financial hole created by motor vehicle surcharges and license suspensions was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

The first bill (A-4304), sponsored by Mainor, Sumter and Wimberly, would establish a “Motor Vehicle Surcharge Community Service Program” to allow a person who is unemployed but has enrolled in an education or job training program to perform community service in lieu of paying motor vehicle surcharges.

The bill requires the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to coordinate with the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to waive motor vehicle surcharges imposed on applicants who complete a community service project in participating counties and municipalities.

“Motor vehicle surcharges can be extremely costly, especially for those with limited means, often times preventing people from having their license reinstated for years,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “This bill would create an alternative to help pay off surcharges or get driving privileges reinstated while also benefiting the community.”

In order to be eligible to participate in the program, an applicant would be required to demonstrate that he or she is unemployed, has been assessed and is unable to pay a motor vehicle surcharge or surcharges, and is enrolled in a job training or education program. The process of applying for a commercial driver license or endorsement constitutes job training under the bill.

“For someone with a limited income, motor vehicle surcharges can snowball into a serious financial burden that can eventually lead to license suspension,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This solution is a win-win because it will enable drivers with less serious infractions to climb out of the surcharge hole without paralyzing their finances while contributing to their surrounding community.”

“These surcharges can have a serious impact on someone’s quality of life if they don’t have the means to pay them off,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It can lead to a license suspension which can then impact their ability to get to work, take care of their child, and so on. Community service is a mutually beneficial option for both drivers and their communities.”

If the driving privilege of an applicant has been suspended for failure to pay surcharges, the chief administrator is required to reinstate the applicant’s driving privilege when the applicant commences the community services program. If an applicant fails to complete a community service project, the applicant’s total outstanding motor vehicle surcharges and any interest accrued become due immediately. In addition, the applicant’s driving privilege is to be suspended until the applicant satisfies the outstanding surcharge assessment.

After a person has completed a community service project under the program, the bill requires the chief administrator to waive all surcharges and interest levied for accumulated motor vehicle points and those levied for motor vehicle violations or convictions for which points are not assessed.

The bill stipulates that any driver whose outstanding surcharges include levies imposed for a drunk driving conviction or refusal to submit to a blood alcohol content test are not eligible to participate in this program.

The governing body of any county or municipality may apply to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to participate in the program. The eligible community service projects include, but are not limited to: improvements to county and municipal buildings, grounds, roads, streams, and other county or municipal property. The volunteer labor used by a municipality or county would not displace or remove from employment any paid public or private employee or in any way reduce the workforce within a county or municipality.

The second bill (A-4570), sponsored by Spencer, would establish a restricted use driver’s license endorsement for those whose license has been suspended or revoked for certain motor vehicle offenses.

“When a driver’s license is suspended because someone failed to pay certain motor vehicle surcharges it creates a Catch-22 that can make it impossible for some to pay off their surcharges,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “Not everyone has access to public transportation to get to and from their job or to medical appointments or to pick up their child from school or daycare. How are they ever going to be able to pay off the surcharges if they can’t get to work? This bill would help address that issue in a practical manner.”

The bill would allow drivers with a restricted use driver’s license endorsement to operate a motor vehicle exclusively between their residence and their place of employment; an accredited educational institution; a mandated treatment program; a health care facility; or a child care facility.

Drivers may apply for the endorsement under the bill if their driver’s license has been suspended or revoked for failure to pay motor vehicle surcharges or accumulation of motor vehicle penalty points, but only if they attend a driver improvement program. A person who has been convicted of drunk driving or refusing to take a breathalyzer test is not eligible for an endorsement under the bill.

The bill requires the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to develop and issue an application for the restricted use driver’s license endorsement and to promptly issue the endorsement to applicants. If an applicant for an endorsement provides false information on the application, the applicant’s driver’s license is to be suspended or revoked for an additional year.

The chief administrator may charge a fee of up to $25 for the endorsement. The endorsement is to expire when the person’s driver’s license is restored following the period of suspension or revocation. Only those drivers whose license is suspended or revoked after the effective date of the bill may apply for the endorsement.

The bill also establishes penalties for operating a motor vehicle between points other than those authorized under the restricted license. The endorsement would be immediately forfeited and the driver subject to a fine of not less than $500 or more than $1,000; community service for a period of 30 days; and an additional one year driver’s license suspension or revocation.

A driver who is convicted of causing an accident resulting in personal injury or death to another person while driving between unauthorized points would be subject to a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000; community service for a period of 30 days; and an additional two years driver’s license suspension or revocation. A driver who is convicted of drunk driving or refusing to take a breathalyzer while operating a motor vehicle between unauthorized points is subject to a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 and an additional five years driver’s license suspension or revocation.

Both bills were approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.