Driving With Multiple DUI Suspensions (Part 2)

by | Jan 13, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Suspended LicenseThe Court continued in relevant part: Defendant also claims a violation of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The doctrine forbids the government from infringing upon “certain ‘fundamental’ liberty interests, no matter what process is provided, unless the infringement is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.” Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 302 (1993). A right is fundamental when it is “rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people.” Id. at 303. However, where no fundamental right is implicated, it is sufficient that the regulation is rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest. Ibid.

In sum, the federal equal protection and due process doctrines both require heightened scrutiny only where a deprivation of a fundamental right is at stake or a suspect class is involved. Otherwise, a mere rational basis standard applies. Defendant acknowledges the fundamental right to liberty is extinguished by a valid conviction. He nonetheless requests this court adopt a new, more demanding standard of judicial scrutiny for situations like this, where a defendant’s liberty interest allegedly is at stake. We reject that invitation.

Defendant’s brief essentially blends together his due process and equal protection arguments. To advance his contentions, defendant invokes not only the United States Constitution but also cognate aspects of the New Jersey Constitution.

Within the New Jersey Constitution, the principles of both equal protection and due process derive from the same constitutional language, which states: “All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.” N.J. Const. art. I, ¶ 1.

Article I does not contain the terms “equal protection” or “due process.” However, “it is well settled that the expansive language of that provision is the source for both of those fundamental state constitutional guarantees.” Sojourner A. v. N.J. Dep’t of Human Servs. (2003) (quoting Planned Parenthood of Cent. N.J. v. Farmer (2000)).

The use of the term “allegedly” with regard to the defendant’s liberty interest is strange. It seems clear that a mandatory six-month jail sentence invokes a liberty interest.