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.