Posted by: Debbie Abrams Kaplan | January 19, 2011

Driving without a license

Q: What do you get for not paying a $24 parking ticket?

A: You get your license suspended (for 6 months), a $48 penalty for not paying the ticket, $75 car impound fee (plus $20/day), $100 to reinstate the driver’s license, $500 municipal court fine, and three subsequent years of $250 DMV  fines. No joke!

This is the story of my friend, we’ll call her J. She got a parking ticket in a neighboring town last February. It was for $24 and she said she mailed in the check (no, she never confirmed that they received it or checked to see if it was cashed at that time).

This January, she got pulled over because her headlight was broken. The officer told her that she was driving with a suspended license – because of an unpaid $24 parking ticket. She never received notice that the ticket wasn’t paid, nor had she gotten notice that her license was suspended. The officer impounded her car. He would not allow J’s friend (a licensed driver) to move the car across the street into a private lot, and his parking spot.

Though all the DMVs were closed on Mondays (state cost-saving measure!), she was able to pay $100 over the phone to reinstate the license. Instead of waiting the normal 7 days to receive the confirmation paper in the mail, someone at DMV actually made a phone call to someone else in DMV to speed it along. She got verbal confirmation that day. She could go pick up her impounded car ($75 impound fee, $20/day).

She also now had a court hearing two weeks away. But in the meantime, she got a dozen emails from attorneys, warning her of the dire consequences of license suspension. Like the $500 penalty and three years of $250 DMV surcharges. She called several of the lawyers who told her this (their charges if hired: $400, $450 and $750). That hearing is now rescheduled and she hopes to plea the fees down, with the help of her new attorney.

Coincidentally, she was also driving an unregistered car. Her car registration was due last March, at the anniversary of her husband’s untimely death. She forgot to send that check in. The penalty for driving an unregistered car? $54.

By the way, did you know that your NJ driver’s license can be suspended for DRIVING WITH A SUSPENDED LICENSE? Yes, read it here on the DMV website.


Mark’s former colleague had just moved to NJ from CA. Her 16 year old son had a legitimate California driver’s license. He got pulled over in New Jersey, and the officer found out that he had been here more than 10 days without getting a NJ license (though who knows if he could, since the driving age here is 17). He charged the kid with driving without a license, and threatened that now, he might not be able to drive legally in New Jersey until he’s 18.

Welcome to New Jersey.

Some fun facts: apparently there are more than 400 reasons you can get your license suspended in NJ. And about half of the suspensions are for financial reasons.

And our friend J is not the only one who has experienced this kind of craziness. A parking ticket goes with the person who registered the car. So if your teen gets a ticket and doesn’t say anything (and doesn’t pay it), the car owner (i.e. parent) can get his/her license suspended.

Here’s what one law firm says about what can happen.


  1. That is terrible and so expensive! I would have worried that they would make me take the test again!

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