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Does 39:3-10 Unlicensed Driver Affect Immigration or Citizenship?

| May 4, 2016 | Citizenship and Naturalization, Immigration Consequences of Crimes

One of the most frequently issued traffic citations issued in New Jersey is a charge of violating Title 39:3-10. This ticket is often referred to as “Unlicensed Driver.” Unfortunately, for the undocumented population, this is a very common offense, given that many individuals will not qualify for a New Jersey Driver License due to their illegal status. Illegal immigrants who have received this ticket are often concerned whether a conviction of this statute will jeopardize their status even more or possibly prevent them from one day applying for a green card.

It is important to understand that for undocumented and out of status individuals, they are already likely removable due to their illegal status (whether they overstayed or entered illegally). However, any subsequent criminal or quasi-criminal convictions may expose them to further charges of deportability or render them inadmissible in the context of a green card application. Fortunately, the general consensus for this particular ticket is that it does not appear to trigger a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (“CIMT”) charge. CIMT charges largely involve crimes where there is knowing and willful conduct that “shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.” Matter of Danesh, 19 I & N Dec. 669, 670 (BIA 1988). Unlicensed driver arguably does not implicate such behavior and comes across more as a regulatory offense, although of course, this is not to say that the government can’t try to argue that this is a CIMT.

Whether or not 39:3-10 poses a CIMT, it nevertheless remains relevant for immigration purposes given that it may reflect on one’s good moral character or influence any finding where discretion is involved. For example, within the context of citizenship, multiple arrests and convictions for unlicensed driver within the statutory period may impact an officer’s determination whether good moral character has been demonstrated. Similarly, multiple arrests/convictions may not necessarily pose a mandatory bar to being granted admission as a lawful permanent resident, but they may still present a negative factor that may be taken into consideration by an officer determining whether a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted.

Even putting aside the immigration impact, the penal consequences of 39:3-10 are worth taking seriously. Under 39:3-10a, the person shall be subject to a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment in the country jail for not more than 60 days; under 39:3-10b (where the person has never been licensed to drive in NJ or any other jurisdiction), a person found guilty shall be subject to a fine of not less than $200 and be prohibited from applying for a license for not less than 180 days.

If you have been charged with 39:3-10 or allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle, especially if you are not a US Citizen, you should strongly consider consulting with an attorney. For the last seventeen years, our office has successfully represented many people charged with this offense and managed to negotiate alternative dispositions that either avoid exposure to jail or minimize any potential immigration consequences. Please remember that this is intended as general information only and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for legal advice.