On appeal from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Yannotti and Skillman.
Jorge Galeano (Galeano) appeals from a final determination of the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (Commission), suspending his driving privileges for 210 days due to an alcohol-related offense committed in the State of Florida. We reverse.
The relevant facts are undisputed. On December 8, 2003, the County Court for Dade County, Florida, entered an order finding Galeano guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), in violation of Fla. Stat. § 316.193, following the entry of a nolo contendere plea.
The court ordered the suspension of Galeano's driver's license for a period of six months. Galeano was also placed on probation for six months, and required that he attend a substance abuse program. The court imposed a fine in the amount of $1254.75, including court costs, monetary surcharges and community service fines.
Thereafter, Galeano successfully completed a program in DUI education, which addressed substance abuse and driving. The Florida court entered a supplemental order dated July 2, 2004, which stated that his probation had been successfully terminated.
The Commission issued a notice dated July 19, 2010, informing Galeano that his driver's license would be suspended for 210 days, beginning August 13, 2010, as a result of an alcohol-related violation that occurred in Florida on August 19, 2003. By letter dated August 3, 2010, Galeano requested a hearing to contest the proposed suspension. The Commission responded with a letter dated August 16, 2010, denying the request for a hearing and stating that the suspension would take effect on September 10, 2010.
Galeano's counsel wrote another letter to the Commission dated August 31, 2010, in which he reiterated Galeano's request for an evidentiary hearing. Counsel stated that a license suspension relating back to a 2003 DUI offense in Florida would create an undue hardship because it would affect Galeano's ability to work and support his family. Counsel also stated that the length of time that had passed since the DUI conviction "create[d] a Due Process violation."
By letter dated September 1, 2010, the Commission advised counsel that Galeano was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing, and the order of suspension previously issued was the agency's final decision in the matter. This appeal followed. We granted Galeano's motion for a stay of the suspension pending disposition of the appeal.
On appeal, Galeano contends that the Commission erred by suspending his New Jersey driving privileges based on a 2003 out-of-state DUI conviction. Galeano asserts that suspension of his license under these circumstances violates his right to fundamental fairness and due process.
Here, the Commission suspended Galeano's license pursuant to the Interstate Driver License Compact, N.J.S.A. 39:5D-1 to -14 (Compact), to which New Jersey and Florida are parties. The Compact provides, among other things, that "[t]he licensing authority of a party State shall report each conviction of a person from another party State occurring within its jurisdiction to the licensing authority of the home State of the licensee." N.J.S.A. 39:5D-3.
The Compact further provides that, for purposes of imposing a suspension, revocation or limitation of the license to operate a motor vehicle, the licensing authority of the home State "shall give the same effect to the conduct reported" as the authority "would if such conduct had occurred in the home State[.]" N.J.S.A. 39:5D-4(a). The Compact states that the agency "shall apply" the ...