This charge is probably the most defensible credential violation in the Motor Vehicle Code. The defenses are complex and usually cannot easily be established by a layman, however an experience attorney is very often successful. The terms “revoked” and “suspended” are synonymous for purposes of N.J.S. 39:3-40. The State must prove that you were operating a motor vehicle, that your license was suspended, and that you knew or should have known that it was suspended. All of these points can be defended.

The State normally will try to prove your knowledge by providing copies of notices sent to you by the DMV. If you were suspended by the DMV they send you two notices. The first is a proposed suspension the second is the notice of actual suspension. This is the same in the failure to pay surcharge situation. The old rule was that you had to receive both notices. Recent cases indicate that either one may be sufficient. However these notices are sent to the address on your license. If you have moved and have not changed your address the notices will go to the wrong address. The State only needs to prove that the DMV sent the notice to your last known address. You can defend this situation if it is presented properly. The notices are also routinely generated after the dates indicated on the letters. These notices are sometime returned undelivered. Many clients are involved in marital problems were their spouse is in control of the location of the mailing address. Other times the postmaster can confirm problems in mail delivery establishing a failure of notice. All of these areas need to be investigated. The DMV can also be mistaken. For example you may have paid the surcharge or fixed the claimed problem. This position was more easily presented under the old rules, but it is still a potential defense.

A license may also be suspended by order of a Court. If you were present for this Order it is difficult to argue you did not know of the suspension. However even in this situation there are defensible positions. You may not drive until the suspension is over and you reinstate your license. Many people do not realize this and drive after the ordered suspension period although you are still on the suspension list. This is defensible.

There are also suspensions by Court Order where you were not present. Examples of these situations are failure of child support payments, failure to pay parking tickets or fines and failures to appear in Court. These are all very defensible positions.

In enhanced penalty situations it is imperative that you have counsel. The period of enhancement may have transpired. You may need to file a PCR appeal to open a previous conviction. A State v. Laurick motion may be needed to discount a previous conviction because of a Constitutional infirmity.

Success in all these areas happens often. Pleading guilty to this particular charge without first seeking legal advice is truly foolish. The penalties start at $500 with $250 surcharges for three years, in addition to a potential license suspension for 6 months.