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In re Johnson

Decided: January 11, 1988.

IN THE MATTER OF EDMOND D. JOHNSON, APPELLANT


On appeal from New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Motor Vehicles.

Muir, Jr. and Skillman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Skillman, J.A.D.

Skillman

Appellant was convicted in New York State of driving while impaired by alcohol in violation of section 1192.1 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law. At the time of this offense appellant held motor vehicle operator's licenses from both the states of New York and New Jersey. The New York Department of Motor Vehicles suspended appellant's New York automobile operator's license for 90 days based upon this conviction. The Director of the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles subsequently suspended appellant's New Jersey automobile operator's license for 720 days based upon the same conviction. The Director also imposed an insurance surcharge upon appellant of $1,000 per year for three years.

Appellant filed appeals from both of the Director's decisions, which we consolidated. He asserts that he was a New York resident at the time he committed the offense in New York and that New Jersey therefore lacked the authority to impose any license suspension or insurance surcharge based on that conviction. We conclude that the Director of Motor Vehicles has statutory authority to suspend a New Jersey license and to impose insurance surcharges based on motor vehicle violations occurring outside of New Jersey, regardless of the licensee's state of residency at the time of the offense. Therefore, we affirm.

I

Appellant's license to operate a motor vehicle in New Jersey was suspended pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:5-30(a), which provides:

Every registration certificate and every license certificate to drive motor vehicles may be suspended or revoked, and any person may be prohibited from obtaining a driver's license or a registration certificate, and the reciprocity privilege of any nonresident may be suspended or revoked by the director for a violation of any of the provisions of this Title or on any other reasonable grounds, after due notice in writing of such proposed suspension, revocation or prohibition and the ground thereof.

This section does not condition the Director's authority to suspend a New Jersey motor vehicle license upon a finding that the licensee is a New Jersey resident. In fact, even if the driver of a motor vehicle is neither a New Jersey resident nor a New Jersey licensee, N.J.S.A. 39:5-30 confers expansive authority on the Director to suspend a driver's reciprocity privilege on "any other reasonable grounds." This includes the operation of a motor vehicle in another state while impaired by alcohol. See Div. of Motor Vehicles v. Kleinert, 198 N.J. Super. 363, 366 (App.Div.1985); Matter of Kovalsky, 195 N.J. Super. 91, 95-97 (App.Div.1984); Tichenor v. Magee, 4 N.J. Super. 467, 471 (App.Div.1949). Therefore, appellant's status as a New Jersey licensee provided the requisite authorization for the Director to suspend that license for an alcohol related motor vehicle violation, regardless of whether the violation occurred within New Jersey or whether appellant was a New Jersey resident at the time of the offense. See N.J.A.C. 13:19-11.1.

The Director's authority to suspend appellant's license based on his conviction in New York is reinforced by the Interstate Driver License Compact, which New Jersey entered into through enactment of Chapter 73 of the Laws of 1966, and which is now codified as N.J.S.A. 39:5D-1 et seq. N.J.S.A. 39:5D-4(a)(2) provides:

The licensing authority in the home State, for the purposes of suspension, revocation or limitation of the license to operate a motor vehicle, shall give the same effect to the conduct reported, pursuant to Article III of this compact, as it would if such conduct had occurred in the home State, shall apply the penalties of the home State or of the State in which the violation occurred, in the case of convictions for:

Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a narcotic drug, or under the influence of any other drug to a degree which renders the driver ...


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