Measure Would Permit Alternatives for Indigent Drivers, Such as Payment Plans, Community Service
Legislation Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Gary Schaer, Joann Downey and Annette Quijano sponsored to ensure that motorists at risk of having their driver’s licenses suspended due to unpaid parking tickets receive proper notice thereof and are afforded sufficient time to rectify the situation was advanced Monday by a Senate committee.
“Drivers who receive no notice that their license may be suspended due to a single unpaid parking ticket may not even realize that their driving privileges are at risk until it’s too late,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “When a motorist drives recklessly or while intoxicated, that person presents a danger to others and should be off the road right away. While there certainly ought to be consequences for parking violations as well, taking away their ability to drive and commute to work when a ticket might have been blown off a windshield seems like overkill. Providing a 30-day notification period and a period of time to cure the wrong is simply rational.”
Under current law, the recipient of a parking ticket may choose to pay the penalty within a specified time frame or appear at the assigned court date denoted on the ticket, during which he or she may contest the penalty. If the motorist does neither, the municipal court must notify the Motor Vehicle Commission, which then may immediately suspend the motorist’s license.
The bill (A-2087) would require the MVC to delay the license suspension and provide written notice to the driver that his or her license will be suspended 30 days from the date on which MVC mailed the notice. Under the measure, a court may permit payment alternatives based on a motorist’s ability to pay, such as payment in installments, community service or a lesser total penalty. The measure also would allow individuals who have paid fines or penalties electronically prior to receipt of a suspension notice to submit proof of the electronic payment to the court, which then would notify the MVC.
“A single unpaid parking ticket that results in the suspension of a driver’s license ultimately can lead to someone losing the job that keeps the lights on and puts food on the table,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “In addition to the potential loss of wages, that person then faces a reinstatement fee on top of the original penalty. This 30-day period will give drivers time to gather the funds and pay, agree to engage in community service or, at the very least, plan alternative transportation arrangements.”
“In certain regions of the state, driving is the only viable option for getting to work, school, a doctor’s appointment or anywhere else from day to day. A license suspension, therefore, can have a real negative impact on someone’s quality of life,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Of course, there have to be consequences for violating laws regarding parking, but, particularly for a relatively minor infraction, we must be mindful about how they’re enforced.”
“As a member of the Assembly and in my job as a municipal prosecutor, I have seen individuals arrested for driving with a suspended license because the MVC had not updated their electronic records fast enough to reflect that they had paid their previously outstanding fines,” said Quijano (D-Union). “The negative outcome of somebody losing their job because they can no longer make it to their work or being penalized because they were detained when they shouldn’t have been is something that needs to be fixed. The sheer volume of records that the MVC updates daily is immense, and a 30-day window will allow them to ensure their records more accurately reflect the information they have received from the municipalities.”
The measure, which received unanimous Assembly approval in November, was advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.