New Jersey Legislature Passes Bill Affecting Transit Engineers With DWI-Related License Suspensions

A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or refusal to submit a breath sample results in mandatory driver’s license suspension under New Jersey law. The length of the suspension depends on whether or not the person has any prior convictions. In DWI cases, a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) can also affect the length of the suspension. The New Jersey Legislature recently passed a bill, S20, which applies to train engineers employed by the New Jersey Transit Corporation, or NJ Transit. Previously, a driver’s license suspension associated with a DWI or refusal case had no effect on transit engineers’ authority to operate trains. One of the sponsors of S20 in the State Senate called this an “outrageous loophole in state law.”

A first-time DWI conviction in New Jersey results in a three-month driver’s license suspension, provided that the defendant’s BAC was less than 0.10 percent. If their BAC was 0.10 percent or higher, the mandatory period of license suspension is at least seven months, up to a maximum of one year. A second DWI conviction results in a two-year suspension, regardless of the defendant’s BAC. For a third or subsequent conviction, the suspension period is ten years.

New Jersey’s implied consent law states that anyone driving on the public roads of this state has consented to providing breath samples to police if they suspect DWI. Refusal to submit a breath sample under these circumstances is itself a motor vehicle offense. The length of the mandatory license suspension is similar to the DWI statute: seven months to one year for a first offense, two years for a second offense, and ten years for a third or subsequent offense. Out-of-state convictions for a similar statute may constitute a prior offense for the purpose of determining the length of the suspension.

S20 reportedly originated from a New York City news report about an engineer for NJ Transit who operates a commuter train, and is also subject to a ten-year license suspension for several DWI and refusal convictions. The engineer reportedly declined to say much to the news crew, and state transit officials noted that he was in full compliance with federal railroad law. State lawmakers responded by introducing S20, which they characterized as closing loopholes left by federal and state law.

The bill amends the New Jersey Public Transportation Act (NJPTA) of 1979, which created NJ Transit and establishes its general policies and procedures. The first of two new sections added to the NJPTA by S20 states that the legislation is necessary “to eliminate or reduce an essentially local safety hazard,” provided that it does not conflict with federal law or “impose an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.” The second new section states that any person who is subject to a driver’s license suspension for DWI or refusal under New Jersey law is barred from operating NJ Transit trains during that period of suspension.

The State Senate passed S20 unanimously on May 26, 2016, three days after the news report aired. The Assembly passed it on June 27 with no opposing votes and four abstentions. The Governor signed it into law on August 31, and it took effect immediately.

If you have been charged with alleged DWI charge in a New Jersey court, you should seek the assistance of a DWI attorney with experience in this state’s court system. Evan Levow has dedicated 100% of his law practice to advocating for DWI defendants. Please contact us online or at (877) 593-1717 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

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