Common Defenses for Driving While Suspended


New Jersey law prohibits a person from driving when that person’s driver’s license has been suspended or revoked.

If you drive while your license is suspended and the police discover your actions, you face some serious consequences.  However, with the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney, you may be able to raise a valid defense to the charges.

The first possible defense is improper notification of suspension.  The type of suspension notification that the state is required to provide you varies according to the type of infraction involved.  However, the state does have to provide some kind of notice.  For administrative/DMV suspensions, you may be able to get the charges dismissed by showing that you did not receive proper notice and hence had no idea that your license had been suspended.  Your lawyer should ask the prosecutor to provide proof that both the notice of impending suspension and order of suspension were mailed to you. If your suspension was an in-court suspension, you might be able to argue that the in-court suspension was improper because you weren’t notified to be in court, and the court acted without your presence.

The next possible defense is a necessity defense. When this defense is successfully asserted, conduct that would otherwise constitute a criminal offense is justifiable.

While the defense of necessity has been successfully asserted in New Jersey to defend a charge of driving while intoxicated, its success in beating a charge of driving while suspended is less certain.  New Jersey courts have held that elements of common law necessity are:

  1. A situation of emergency arising without fault on part of actor
  2. The emergency is imminent to raise a reasonable expectation of harm, either to the actor or upon those he or she was protecting
  3. The emergency presented no reasonable opportunity to avoid injury without doing criminal act
  4. The injury impending from emergency must be of sufficient seriousness to out-measure the criminal wrong

The most commonly asserted justification for necessity is that the defendant was confronted with a medical emergency (e.g. pregnant wife needing to be taken to the hospital). However, most of these defenses are rejected on the grounds that the medical emergency was not life threatening or the defendant had other reasonable alternatives.

Posted in Criminal Defense | Tagged criminal defense, medical emergency, suspended license