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Surcharges - Can I Get My Driver's License Back in New Jersey?

Feb. 19, 2021

Motor vehicle surcharges aren't any fun. They are imposed by the MVC (Motor Vehicle Commission - many people still call the MVC the DMV. The DMV stands for the Division of Motor Vehicles - but they officially changed their name to the MVC quite a while ago). Surcharges are in addition to court fines and penalties. For example, if someone has been convicted for DUI, the penalties imposed by the court will be quite serious. As if that wasn't bad enough, that person is also going to have to pay a substantial amount of surcharges. It's usually $1000 a year for 3 straight years.

So let's say that you lost your license for 7 months because of a DUI conviction, Now it's 7 months later, and you have paid your court fines, and you have done everything else you are supposed to do to get your driving privilege restored, but you don't have $1000 to pay your surcharge for the first year. Can you legally drive?

Well, the MVC isn't going to restore your driving privilege unless you pay them that $1000 surcharge or unless you work out a payment plan to pay that $1000 in monthly installments.

I've represented many people who have owed a lot more than $1000 in surcharges to the MVC. Some of my clients have owed well over $10,000 in surcharges, and they haven't had a legal license for 10 years or more simply because they haven't been able to pay their surcharges to the MVC,

Well, here's some good news. Filing for bankruptcy can totally wipe out your surcharges, and it can be a very major step in getting your New Jersey driving privilege restored. When a client comes to me and tells me that they've heard that they can get their surcharges wiped out, and they can get their license back if they file for bankruptcy, there are a number of things we have to check out to make sure that we can help them get their driving privilege restored.

  1. First, we want to make sure that they are legally eligible to get their driving privilege restored.

  2. Let me give you an example of what I mean. My client Joe lost his license 1 year ago for DUI. The judge was pretty rough on him and took away his license for 2 years. Joe wants to wipe out his surcharges and get his license back. The MVC imposed surcharges of $1000 per year against him for 3 years, and he hasn't been able to pay them any money at all. In this scenario, can I help Joe get his license back by filing for bankruptcy?

    The answer is that filing a successful bankruptcy can get Joe's surcharges wiped out, but he still won't get his license back because he still has to wait one more year until the 2 year suspension period expires.

  3. In this example, I might suggest to Joe that maybe he should wait before he files for bankruptcy, and here's why. What if we file for bankruptcy today, and he gets his surcharges wiped out? He still has to wait one more year until he officially can be restored, and what if during that year he gets caught driving while revoked and gets more surcharges as a result of a conviction for driving while revoked? Well, his previous DUI surcharges may have been wiped out, but now he has new surcharges,(those new surcharges don't get wiped out by a previous bankruptcy) and maybe the judge suspended his driving privilege for another 6 months, and who knows what could happen while Joe is waiting for all that time to go by?

  4. Here's something else we have to consider. What if Joe has outstanding court fines that he still owes. Maybe he even has some unpaid fines for some old tickets that he got 4 or 5 years ago in 3 different courts, and he owes those courts a lot of money. Or what about if he had tickets 2 years ago, and he never even showed up for court for those tickets, and the court issued a warrant for his arrest that is still outstanding. All of these things can prevent Joe from getting his license.

  5. So you can see that sometimes these kinds of cases can get pretty complicated. We might be able to wipe out Joe's surcharges, but the MVC still isn't going to restore his driving privilege until all this other stuff is taken care of.

  6. So when someone comes to us and they want to wipe out their surcharges, well I want to do more than just wipe out their surcharges, I want to make sure that we can help them get their driving privilege restored as soon as possible.

  7. I have found that the best way to help a client in this situation is to contact the MVC and get a whole lot of information about Joe's driving record. We want to be able to tell Joe exactly what has to be done to get his driving privilege restored as quickly as possible.

  8. Filing a successful bankruptcy case can get rid of your surcharges, but you still might have to do a number of other things before you can get your license back.

  9. The ideal situation would be for our client to file for bankruptcy after all of this other stuff has been taken care of in advance of filing for bankruptcy. This includes taking care of court fines, (Joe can probably work out a payment plan with the courts), making sure our clients have no outstanding warrants for failure to appear on some previous tickets, making sure that the time is up on Joe's time suspension (if he isn't going to be eligible to get his license back until 2023, why should we file bankruptcy for him in 2021?), paying his restoration fee to MVC, and whatever else is required by the courts and the MVC. In that type of case, if we filed bankruptcy for Joe today, he might be able to go to the MVC tomorrow, and they might be able to issue a new license for him right on the spot. That is the ideal case, but very few clients come to us with the ideal case.

  10. One more thing we tell clients is that if their driving privilege has been revoked for 3 years or more, they have to take the driver's test all over again, and obviously they have to pass it.

So I guess you can see that it's one thing to wipe out your surcharges, and it's another thing to make sure that your driving privilege is restored right away.

It obviously helps to have an attorney that understands this stuff fight for you when its time to get your license back.

If you need our help, feel free to call us for a totally free consultation. Our number is 856 696 8300. Getting your license back could be pretty complicated or it might be pretty easy. It depends on your driving history, your driving record, whether you have taken care of all your fines and court appearances, other legal responsibilities you might have, and who knows what else.

Everyone's situation is unique to them, and it could very well take some time until we can find out exactly what has to be done to get your driving privilege restored.

The easiest case is if the time for your suspension has expired, and the only reason you can't get your license back today is because you can't afford to pay your surcharges.

We hope you have an easy case.