New Jersey Court Rules on Surcharges Based on Out-of-State DWI Convictions

A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey can result in several kinds of penalties, including jail time, a fine, and suspension of one’s driver’s license. Another penalty, which is found in a separate part of state law, involves the payment of a surcharge for three years after a New Jersey DWI conviction. An agreement among multiple U.S. states regarding traffic offenses also gives New Jersey the authority to impose penalties for DWI convictions that occurred in certain other states. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled in Koscinski v. N.J. Motor Vehicle Comm’n on a challenge to the imposition of a surcharge in New Jersey based on a DWI conviction in Illinois.

Surcharges for DWI convictions are imposed by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) in a process that is separate from DWI prosecutions in municipal court. A first or second conviction results in a total surcharge of $3,000, payable over three years. The statute identifies this as a surcharge of $1,000 per year, but it is often payable in monthly payments of $83.33. A third conviction, if it occurs within three years of a prior conviction, results in a $4,500 surcharge, also payable over three years. Surcharges are also imposed in the same amount for refusal convictions. If a single incident results in convictions for both DWI and refusal, however, the statute states that only one surcharge will be imposed.

The Koscinski case raised the question of whether the MVC may impose a surcharge for an out-of-state conviction. New Jersey is member of the Interstate Driver License Compact (IDLC), an agreement among U.S. states to share information about traffic offenses. The IDLC also allows states to impose administrative penalties for traffic violations that occur in another member state. New Jersey law requires the MVC to “apply the penalties of the home State or of the State in which the violation occurred” in cases involving DWI and other offenses. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are members of the IDLC. New Jersey joined in 1967, while Illinois, the other state involved in Koscinski, joined in 1970.

The defendant in Koscinski was convicted of DWI in New Jersey in 2008. He was charged in Illinois in connection with the same offense in 2011. That case was resolved in April 2015 with a guilty plea, resulting in payment of a fine. The MVC suspended the defendant’s driver’s license in May 2015, after receiving notice of the Illinois conviction. One year later, the MVC notified the defendant that it was increasing his monthly surcharge payment. The defendant requested a hearing. Instead, the MVC issued a written decision stating that the defendant owed $1,062 towards the surcharge imposed in 2015, and that the increased monthly payment constituted a payment plan for that amount.

On appeal, the defendant argued in part that the MVC lacked authority to impose a surcharge for the Illinois conviction since he paid a fine in Illinois. The Appellate Division denied the appeal. It ruled that the surcharge is mandatory under New Jersey law, regardless of whether the defendant paid a fine under Illinois law. The IDLC, it noted, gives both states the power to impose penalties.

DWI attorney Evan Levow advocates for the rights of people who are facing alleged DWI charges in New Jersey municipal courts. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our experienced and skilled team, please contact us today at (877) 593-1717 or online.

More Blog Posts:

Understanding Surcharges in New Jersey DWI Cases, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, May 16, 2018

New Jersey Law Enforcement Patrol Vehicles Required to Have Video Cameras Under New Law, Funds to Come from New DWI Surcharges, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 1, 2014

NJ DWI First Offense Cases, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, February 13, 2014

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