Let’s cover the main points here.
How do you get suspended?
There are numerous ways New Jersey drivers can see their license suspended. Keep in mind that it's typically the Motor Vehicle Commission or MVC (formerly the DMV) that suspends your license, not the police or the courts. Reasons include failure to pay MVC surcharges, failure to pay child support, failure to appear for a court date, or failure to pay fines related to parking tickets, traffic violations or other offenses. There are many other ways you could be suspended.
The MVC typically sends drivers a “Notice of Scheduled Suspension” but often the import of this notice is missed or simply ignored or the notice is not received. (Never mind using that as a defense to your charge. You will be ignored).
How do you get charged with the traffic offense?
Once you are suspended, if you are pulled over by a police officer, your suspension likely will pop up on the officer’s onboard computer. You can try to fabricate something, like the check’s in the mail, but the computer will have the accurate information for the most part. More often than not, the officer will write you a ticket for violating 39:3-40, or Driving While Suspended. You now have two separate issues: you must deal with the MVC regarding the license suspension, and you must deal with the municipal court where you are charged with violating the statute on a particular date.
Often drivers miss this. The MVC cannot help you with your court case, and the courts cannot help you restore your license. A good traffic attorney will help you with both of these issues.
If you get pulled over again, in another town or the same town, you will have a second charge and second court date. This could happen again and again, until you resolve the suspension. Typically, you will need to clear up whatever caused the suspension. Then you go to the MVC and pay the restoration fee to lift the suspension. Then you should go to court (with your attorney of course!) and resolve the violation.
Remember, you may be restored by the MVC, but in court, you are facing a charge of driving while suspended on such-and-such a date. You more than likely violated that statute on that date, even though you may be restored now. You will need to reduce that charge to a lesser violation so as to avoid the penalties associated with driving while suspended. Sometimes drivers are simply not guilty. It is possible to get dismissals, depending on the facts of your case.
What are the penalties?
Often drivers plead guilty to a sub-section of 39:3-40 and pay a small fine. Seems smart. You tell yourself you saved money. But if you are suspended again, you have a prior violation on your abstract now. A second offense for 39:3-40 includes a significant step-up in fines and penalties, including possible jail time. So typically you do not want to plead to 39:3-40 in any form. This is where your attorney earns his fee: he will try to negotiate a deal that protects you now and in the future.