Legal Action Delays NJ's New License Standards

New rules for obtaining a license put on hold

Stricter requirements for people seeking to obtain or renew driver's licenses in New Jersey are being unlawfully imposed and would create privacy concerns as well as hardships for legal immigrants and others, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a legal brief challenging the new standards.

The state Motor Vehicle Commission had been planning to start enforcing the new standards on Monday, but the agency announced over the weekend that those plans were on hold due to a court filing the ACLU made late Friday afternoon.

It was not immediately clear when a hearing on the injunction request would be held or when a ruling would be issued. MVC officials have said that any delays in implementing the standards would pose a serious disruption for drivers and adversely impact other program changes the MVC is planning.

ACLU officials, joined by advocates for homeless, immigration, minority and women's groups, announced their objections to the plan during a news conference Monday in Newark. They said the injunction was sought mainly on claims that the state imposed the system without publishing details or soliciting public comment.

Under the new standards, people could no longer state their Social Security number but would have to show the card itself, a paystub or tax documents. They also would have to show two proofs of residence, rather than the one that's required now. And if a passport is used, it would have to be current and not recently expired.

The new federal standards must be met in order for driver's licenses or IDs to be used for boarding a commercial flight or entering a federal building, for example. That means the state's Motor Vehicle Commission must provide every license- or ID-holder with new documents.

In its motion, the ACLU noted concerns about how the state would collect, store and protect the personal information that people would be required to present under the new standards. They also cited the likely “substantial costs” of implementing the new standards, and said many people -- such as domestic violence victims, homeless people and Americans who were born in other countries -- would likely face new, major hurdles in getting or renewing licenses.

Any delay in imposing the new standards in New Jersey will likely delay implementation of another recent MVC initiative known as Skip the Trip. Under that program, residents born on or before Dec. 1, 1964, with licenses or other IDs expiring in July or later would be able to renew their driver licenses or identification cards by mail.

The state says mail renewals for about 1 million customers 48 and older -- at least for the next several years -- will make it easier for New Jersey to make the move to a more stringent ID system required by federal law.

Residents born after Dec. 1, 1964, will be required to have a new ID by Dec. 1, 2014, under the federal law. Those who can renew by mail won't be required to have new IDs until the end of 2017.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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