Driving With Multiple DUI Suspensions (Part 4)

by | Jan 17, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Suspended LicenseThe Court continued in relevant part: Nor are persons such as defendant who have had their driving privileges revoked due to multiple previous DWIs offenses a “suspect” class. Ibid. To the contrary, their classification by the Legislature as a distinctive group of wrongdoers is rational and manifestly justified. It is not fundamentally unfair to treat them differently than other motorists who are caught driving without a valid driver’s license. Their recidivist behavior can be punished more severely, no matter which “tier” of federal scrutiny is applied to the statute. Likewise, we discern no grounds to afford such motorists greater protection under our State Constitution. In sum, we concur with the trial judge in rejecting defendant’s due process and equal protection arguments, under both federal and state law.

Lastly, we briefly consider defendant’s claim that the Legislature intended N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26 to repose judges with discretion to abate the 180-day minimum jail sentence mandated by the terms of the statute. Defendant cites to audio portions of the legislative hearings, arguing they reflect a desire on the part of individual legislators to afford such sentencing discretion.

This argument of statutory interpretation is unavailing. The terms of the statute are clear on their face, and there is no reason to consult extrinsic sources to divine their meaning. State v. Harper, (2017). Further, defendant’s claims about the non-discretionary nature of the 180-day minimum penalty are dispelled by the Court’s recent opinion in Rodriguez, 238 N.J. at 105, which strictly enforced the 180-day jail requirement and held the sentence cannot be served in intermittent stretches. As the Court highlighted in Rodriguez, the statute calls for a mandatory “fixed” period of incarceration. Id. at 116-17. There is simply no interpretative basis for a sentencing judge to have the discretion to impose a lesser sanction.

For all of these reasons, defendant’s arguments to avoid the mandatory 180-day custodial sentence under N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26 are rejected. The trial court’s sound decision is affirmed. To the extent we have not mentioned them explicitly, defendant’s remaining contentions lack sufficient merit worthy of discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). The stay of defendant’s sentence is vacated, effective in twenty days, during which time counsel and the trial court shall make arrangements for defendant to begin serving his mandated sentence.

This opinion has every indication that appellate counsel did a very thorough job for his client. Novel constitutional arguments were raised. He even went so far as to review the audio of the debates that the Legislature had before the law at issue was passed.