ROBERT B. SPAWN reports on a recent unpublished decision from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.
A recent case involved a Petitioner who appealed from a New Jersey State Commission’s final decision suspending his driver’s license for two years after he was convicted of “driving while ability impaired by alcohol” in New York.
Petitioner had been convicted of two offenses for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey before he was charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol pursuant to an incident that occurred in New York on March 14, 2017. At the time of the New York incident, Petitioner was a New Jersey licensed driver, although he resided in New York. Shortly after the incident, Petitioner obtained a New York driver’s license on March 22, 2017.
Following Petitioner’s conviction of driving while ability impaired by alcohol in New York on August 3, 2017, the New Jersey Commission sent an August 18, 2017 notice to Petitioner proposing to suspend his license for two years in light of his previous convictions. In response, Petitioner sent a September 9, 2017 letter to the Commission requesting a hearing and a stay of the scheduled suspension pending a disposition of the hearing. Petitioner indicated in the letter that he no longer had a New Jersey driver’s license, that he possessed a New York driver’s license, and that he currently resided in New York. Nonetheless, the Commission denied Petitioner’s request for a hearing and ordered the imposition of the two-year suspension. Petitioner then took the matter to the Appellate Division, arguing that the New Jersey Commission had no authority to suspend his driving privileges because it was not the licensing authority in his current home state.
The Appellate Division began its analysis by noting that both New Jersey and New York are signatories of the Interstate Driver License Compact (“IDLC”), which is an agreement that allows each participating state to treat an out-of-state conviction for driving while intoxicated as if the conviction had occurred within its own jurisdiction. Indeed, pursuant to the IDLC, New Jersey may penalize a driver for an out-of-state offense as long as that offense is of a “substantially similar nature” to an offense under New Jersey law. In the case at bar, the Appellate Division noted that New York’s “driving while ability impaired” offense is certainly of a substantially similar nature to New Jersey’s “driving while intoxicated” offense.
Additionally, in dealing with Petitioner’s argument that New Jersey lacked authority to suspend his license because it was not his “home state,” the Appellate Division asserted that the IDLC does not define “home state” as a person’s current state of residence, but rather as the state which issued and has the power to suspend or revoke the use of that person’s driver’s license. Thus, although Petitioner was a New York resident at the time of the 2017 offense, New Jersey fit within the IDLC’s definition of a home state because it had issued Petitioner a driver’s license that he still validly held at the time of the March 2017 incident. Moreover, the fact that Petitioner obtained a New York driver’s license after the New York offense but before the New York conviction did not change Petitioner’s status as a New Jersey licensee at the time of the incident, nor did it deprive New Jersey of its home state status under the IDLC. Accordingly, the Appellate Division affirmed the Commission’s decision to suspend Petitioner’s license.
Please contact Robert B. Spawn if you have any questions or need assistance in connection with this subject.