Capitol Report

Capitol Report

December 3, 2018
Bill increases use of ignition interlock devices 

In an effort to reduce re-arrest rates among driving under the influence (DUI) offenders, and provide an alternative to driver’s license suspensions, the Assembly Judiciary Committee released a bill last week that allows for increased use of ignition interlock devices in DUI sentencing.

A-2089 (Downey/Benson) reduces the time period for any license suspension associated with a first-time drunk driving offense, but requires the installation of an ignition interlock device during and following the license suspension period.

The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) supports efforts to address the penalties associated with driving under the influence more effectively to allow for rehabilitation of offenders, but expressed concerns about provisions in this particular measure. The association noted the bill will have an unfair disparate impact on those who do not own cars, who would be subject to double the suspension period. In addition, under the bill, private interlock companies would be responsible for providing critical information about a defendant’s appropriate use of an interlock device, but there is no mechanism for oversight of those companies, nor are there provisions for regulations regarding the devices themselves, the process for obtaining reports to lift the interlock penalty or the costs permitted to be charged by the companies. Finally, the NJSBA suggested amending the appeals process, which is currently designed to occur through the Motor Vehicle Commission instead of the court system.  
Although released by the committee, the NJSBA continues to work with the sponsors and other interested groups to address its concerns. The bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.
NJSBA prepares for the legalization of cannabis

In a widely anticipated move, the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees, meeting jointly, released measures last week that would allow New Jersey to join nine other states that have legalized the possession, personal use and sale of cannabis.

S-2703/A-4497 (Scutari/Quijano) would legalize, for persons 21 years of age or older, the possession and personal use of cannabis in the amount of one ounce or less, or the equivalent of one ounce or less of cannabis-infused product in solid, liquid or concentrate form. The measures also provide relief for individuals with past or current marijuana-related criminal charges, allowing for the immediate expungement of convictions for any past acts that would no longer be a crime or offense under the bill, the dismissal of any pending possession cases, and the release of individuals currently incarcerated for marijuana possession.

The NJSBA has been monitoring the legislation closely, as it was discussed, debated and revised behind the scenes for months. A special NJSBA Cannabis Law Committee was formed to keep attorneys interested in the issue apprised of the latest developments and to help educate the greater bar on the potential ramifications to their clients. Several continuing legal education programs have focused on the topic, including one last week featuring key players in the debate, who discussed the measure working its way through the Legislature and the impact it will have on various practice areas. More educational programs are planned, as the legislation, expected to be voted on and signed into law within weeks, takes effect.