Will I Lose My License For a Drug Charge in New Jersey?

By far one of the lesser known but more devastating consequences of being convicted of a drug offense like the possession of marijuana under 50 grams, the possession of drug paraphernalia, the possession of heroin or the possession of Oxycontin is the mandatory license loss. Everyone assumes that if they are convicted of a drug offense there is a potential for jail, probation and high fines but most are completely blindsided when they come to learn that they could be losing their driving privileges for up to two years. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16, anyone convicted of a drug offense, whether it be for drug possession or drug distribution will be subject to a mandatory six month to two year loss of license. With that being said, there are exceptions to the statute and as such, we strongly urge that if you or a loved one has unfortunately found yourself in this type of situation that you contact a criminal defense attorney immediately about your options. All to often we receive phone calls from potential new clients in a panic, stating that they just walked out of court and that the judge imposed a license suspension for their drug charge. Once the license suspension is imposed it is extremely difficult to reopen. Do not make the mistake of trying to handle this situation alone, a license suspension, even for the minimum of six months, can have a crippling effect on your life. To set up a free initial consultation today, please contact our office at 908-533-1064.

Is the Loss of License Mandatory for a Drug Charge in NJ?

First and foremost, it is important to understand what drug offenses are applicable under this statute. Pursuant to NJSA 2C:35-16, “any offense defined in this chapter or chapter 36 ” is subject to the mandatory loss of license. Some of the most common offenses include:

But yes, the loss of driving privileges is mandatory. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16, anyone convicted of a drug offense will be subject to a mandatory loss of license. However, as mentioned above, there is an exception built into the statute. N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16 states in pertinent part:

  • Any person convicted of or adjudicated delinquent for a violation of any offense defined in this chapter or chapter 36 of this title shall forthwith forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period to be fixed by the court at not less than six months or more than two years which shall commence on the day the sentence is imposed unless the court finds compelling circumstances warranting an exception. 

How to Avoid a Loss of License on a Drug Offense in NJ

In order to avoid a loss of license on a drug charge, the Court must find compelling circumstances warranting an exceptionSo, what exactly are the compelling circumstances warranting an exception? The statute goes on to state that:

  • For the purposes of this section, compelling circumstances warranting an exception exist if the forfeiture of the person’s right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State will result in extreme hardship and alternative means of transportation are not available.

So the key to avoiding a loss of license on a drug charge in New Jersey is to establish that an extreme hardship would exist. These arguments typically involve a fact sensitive driven analysis  of an individual’s personalized hardships. It is important to note here that the norm is to suspend an individuals license unless an exceptions is granted. That means that the burden shifts towards the Defendant to establish that the such a hardship exists. The application made to the court is commonly referred to as a Bendix application, which comes from the leading case on this subject, State of New Jersey v. Bendix.

This exception is ONLY applicable to those seeking to avoid a loss of license pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16. This exception DOES NOT apply to anyone facing a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1, Possession of Controlled Dangerous Substance in a Motor Vehicle. That offense carries a mandatory two year loss of license and their is no hardship exception.

Need Lawyer to Avoid Loss of License on Drug Offense in Hillsborough

If you have been arrested and charged with a drug offense like the possession of marijuana, the possession of heroin, the distribution of Oxycontin or any other drug related offense in Somerset or Hunterdon County, the Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help. Our office has been successfully helping those avoid the mandatory loss of license on drug convictions in courts throughout the county for almost a decade by now. We serve all of Somerset and Hunterdon County, including Hillsborough, Bridgewater, ManvilleBound Brook, Clinton, Flemington, North Plainfield, Bedminster, Raritan and Readington. To speak to one of our criminal defense attorneys today about your options, please contact our Bridgewater office at 908-533-1064 or you can try contacting us online.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.