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Jail for Driving While Suspended in NJ Not Always a SLAP on the Wrist

Posted on May 05, 2010

In New Jersey, as in other states, drunk driving is taken  very seriously.  If your license is suspended for a DWI, and you drive anyway, to say that you are in big trouble is an understatement.  The normal penalties for driving while suspended are enhanced under N.J.S.A. 39:3-40(f), and include:

  1. An additional fine of $500 (base fine ranges from $500 to $1000)
  2. An additional license suspension of 1 to 2 years (the base suspension is 0-180 days)
  3. 10-90 days in jail.

It is this last one, obviously, that causes the most concern.   Many sections of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code call for jail time, but most municipal judges are loathe to throw a driver into the county jail for some of them.  Many times they are amenable to work release, time served on weekends only, or a special program called the Sheriff's Labor Assistance Program (more commonly knows as SLAP).

What is SLAP?

This is a program allowable by statute (N.J.S.A. 2B:19-5) that can be set up in a county by its sheriff's department.  It is defined in that statute as being "a work program,established by the county under the direction of the sheriff or other authorized county officer, which rigorously supervises offenders providing physical labor as an alternative to incarceration."  However, a recent ruling by a municipal court judge may reflect a change in this attitude.

Why Might SLAP Be Going Away?

At the end of last month,  a decision from the Municipal Court of Byram Township (Sussex County) was approved for publication by the Committee on Opinion. In the case of State v. White Judge Richard Bowe, ruled that the SLAP program is not available to a defendant who has been sentenced to jail time for driving on the revoked list when the underlying reason for the suspension was for a drunk driving conviction. Rather, only a jail term is permissible under the revoked-list statute.

Although it is extremely rare for a municipal court opinion to be approved for publication, this one was, which makes it of some note.  In addition, the holding in White marks the second time that an opinion written by Judge Bowe has been approved for publication.

Could This Happen?

Even though the decision of this judge is not binding on any other traffic court judge, the fact that the ruling was considered significant enough to publish could indicate how courts in the future may view applications to SLAP as a jail alternative in these types of cases.

If you have been ticketed in southern New Jersey for driving while suspended, call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment to discuss your case.

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