Consequences of DWI Conviction in New Jersey Extend Beyond License Suspension, Could Include Loss of Employment Benefits

A DWI conviction in New Jersey has numerous repercussions, starting with a three- to seven-month driver’s license suspension for a first offense. Courts may also impose a jail sentence for DWI and order a defendant to complete various services. These penalties are prescribed by the New Jersey Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulations Code, but other areas of New Jersey law may also impose consequences for a DWI conviction. Defending a DWI case requires understanding all the ways in which the case could affect your life. The New Jersey Appellate Division reviewed the consequences of a DWI conviction for public pension benefits earlier this year in Tavaglione v. Bd. of Trustees, Police and Firemen’s Ret. Sys.

Most public employees in New Jersey at the state, county, and city levels are eligible to participate in pension funds established under state law. A pension is a type of retirement account. An employee makes contributions to the pension account from their wages. The employer establishes a trust to manage these contributions for the employees’ benefit. Upon an employee’s retirement, they receive periodic benefit payments.

Laws like the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the New Jersey Public Employees’ Retirement-Social Security Integration Act establish guidelines that employers must follow in the management of pensions and other retirement funds. New Jersey, along with other states, also sets guidelines that public employees must follow in order to receive benefits. New Jersey law states, first and foremost, that pension benefits are dependent upon “the rendering of honorable service by a public officer or employee.”

Numerous acts by a public employee may result in the loss of pension benefits, even if the employee has been paying into the system. Conviction of certain criminal offenses, for example, results in forfeiture of pension benefits as a matter of law, provided that the illegal conduct directly related to the employee’s position in government. The statute provides a list of offenses that includes various theft-related offenses, bribery, money laundering, bribery and other official corruption, perjury, and other forms of official misconduct. Other convictions are subject to an evaluation based on factors like the employee’s work history, the relationship of the offense to their official duties, and “the quality of moral turpitude” of the offense.

The defendant in Tavaglione was employed by a New Jersey borough police department as a patrolman. Early one morning in July 2010, police in a different town found his vehicle stopped in the middle of the road. He was arrested after failing a field sobriety test and charged with DWI. His department charged him with multiple conduct-related infractions that September, and he was suspended with pay. He also filed an application that month for accidental disability retirement benefits with the Board of Trustees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS).

The Law Division affirmed the defendant’s DWI conviction in 2012. The PFRS Board determined that he had forfeited his pension benefits that May, noting that his conduct had breached “the high standard of conduct expected of police officers.” Multiple appeals affirmed this finding, culminating in the Appellate Division’s ruling in January 2016.

A DWI charge or conviction in New Jersey can have a profound impact on your life, including fines, license suspensions, and more. In order to protect your rights and prepare an effective defense for your case, you should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable DWI attorney. We have dedicated 100% of our law practice at Levow DWI Law, P.C. to the defense of people in your situation, and we are available to help you 24/7. Contact us online or at (877) 593-1717 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

New Law Makes Expungement of Criminal Records in New Jersey Easier, but Still Does Not Include DWI, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, January 23, 2016

Courts Rule on Mandatory Sentencing in Certain New Jersey DWLS Cases that Involve DWI Charges, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, May 31, 2015

Out-of-State DWI Convictions Count as Prior Convictions in New Jersey DWI Cases, Appellate Court Holds, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, April 9, 2015

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