License Suspension and the Conditional Discharge Under New Jersey Law
The State of New Jersey has very harsh penalties associated with drug crimes. In addition to the prospect of jail time, parole, probation and fines, New Jersey also requires, under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16, that individuals found guilty of drug offenses must lose their driver's license for a minimum of 6 months to a maximum of 2 years. This license suspension provision may even apply in the context of a conditional discharge.
Can I Lose my Driver's License After Receiving a Conditional Discharge?
Under New Jersey law, there are 2 types of conditional discharges, the first involves a guilty plea and the second does not. Some prosecutors will require a plea of guilty with the conditional discharge because it will save them the trouble of re-prosecuting the accused if he fails out of or cannot complete the conditional discharge program. In such a situation if the accused fails out of or cannot complete the program, a Court will immediately sentence such an individual based upon his original plea of guilty.
However, if the accused does not enter a plea of guilty at the time he is admitted to the conditional discharge program and if he fails out of or cannot complete the program, the original charges are reinstated. At that point the accused is simply that, an individual accused of a criminal offense. He can then either negotiate a plea bargain or he can contest the charges and go to trial.
Most prosecutors will not require a guilty plea in order to allow an individual to enter the conditional discharge program. However, if the accused does enter a plea there is another important consequence to the plea, mandatory license suspension.
If an individual enters a plea of guilty to the underlying charge as a condition of his entry into the conditional discharge program, there is a mandatory loss of license. The period of suspension is anywhere from a minimum of 6 months to a maximum of 2 years. However, if an individual does not enter a plea of guilty as a condition of his entry into the conditional discharge program, license suspension is discretionary. In other words, it is up to the judge to decide. If the judge decides to impose a license suspension under this second scenario, the loss of license can be a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 2 years.
Can I Avoid a License Suspension Based Upon Hardship?
Under New Jersey law the license suspension associated with a conditional discharge can be avoided if the accused can show an "extreme hardship" associated with the loss of license. Specifically, the accused must demonstrate and the court must find that the loss of license will result in an extreme hardship and that alternative means of transportation are not available to the accused. If the Court finds that an extreme hardship exists he can ignore the mandatory license suspension associated with a plea of guilty to a drug offense.
Keep in mind that nothing contained in this article should be considered legal advice. The law can and often does change. If you have a specific legal issue or problem, consult an attorney. If you have been arrested for any criminal charge in New Jersey and need professional advice, call one of the criminal defense lawyers at Brickfield & Donahue at (201) 488-7707 to set up a free case evaluation and consultation. Both Joseph Donahue and Paul Brickfield are Certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as Criminal Trial Attorneys and both have extensive experience in State, Municipal and Federal Courts throughout New Jersey.