Unlicensed drivers bill sent to New Jersey governor

| Wednesday, July 13, 2005

New Jersey Assembly lawmakers have unanimously approved a bill that would create stiffer penalties for unlicensed drivers in the state who cause accidents resulting in another person’s death.

The effort now heads to acting Gov. Richard Codey’s desk. It previously won unanimous support in the Senate.

Dubbed “Christopher’s Law,” it is named for Christopher Williamson, a 12-year-old Cranford, NJ, boy who was riding his bicycle when he was struck and killed by an unlicensed driver in June 2004.

The driver, 64-year-old Tomas Pineda, was fined a total of $433 in a municipal court. That total included court costs and a contempt fine for failure to appear at an initial hearing, localsource.com reported.

Under current New Jersey law, the maximum penalty for driving without a license is a $203 fine.

Sponsored by Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Linden, S2144 would allow unlicensed drivers to be found guilty of a third-degree crime, which would include anywhere from three to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine, or both.

Drivers also would need to wait a year before applying to obtain a license.

A separate bill in New Jersey would toughen penalties for driving without insurance.

Democratic Assemblymen Douglas Fisher of Cumberland and John Burzichelli of Gloucester have introduced a measure that would permit police to have an uninsured vehicle removed from a roadway and be impounded. Currently, an officer may have an unregistered vehicle impounded. However, doing the same to an uninsured vehicle is not allowed.

While uninsured vehicles are often also unregistered, this bill is intended to clear up any uncertainty in the law.

A4212 is in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

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