New Jersey Sued Over Drunk Driving Law
New Jersey governor Chris Christie, New Jersey Transit, and Attorney General Christopher Porrino have been sued by several unions that represent New Jersey Transit locomotive engineers. The suit is over a 2016 law that bans those with suspended licenses from operating trains. The law was passed as an emergency ban, with unanimous support from state senators.
According to the unions, the state laws that suspend a driver’s license for DUI convictions should not impact train conductors, because federal railroad laws cover these issues. If a state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law will prevail unless the state law provides citizens with additional rights. However, the New Jersey law did not provide additional rights in this case; therefore, the lawsuit claims that the federal law trumps the state law.
The state law provides that those who had their licenses suspended or revoked due to a driving under the influence (or similar) convictions may not operate a train. This legislation was passed after an investigation discovered that an engineer named Thomas Broschart was transporting thousands of passengers each month, even though he could not legally drive because his license had been suspended due to several drunk driving charges. Broschart’s license had been suspended for a period of ten years. Senate President Steve Sweeney commented, “The fact that this engineer can step out from behind the controls of a passenger train at the end of the work day and has to be driven home because he’s not allowed to operate a motor vehicle is plain absurd. We want safety on the rails as well as safety on the roads.”
In the federal lawsuit, filed by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division, the plaintiffs argue that there are already several federal rail laws that address these issues. The federal laws provide exceptions and even counseling options for engineers who may be struggling with substance abuse. Federal railroad laws also provide specific steps that engineers must take to earn re-certification and employment after a driver’s license has been suspended or revoked.
In addition, federal law provides that states may have more stringent regulations as long as they are necessary for local safety, do not conflict with existing laws, and do not place an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.
The plaintiffs argue that the state law breaches each provision, and they seek a ruling that the state law does not apply to New Jersey Transit employees. The president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen stated that the New Jersey law “…does nothing to make the railroad safer.”
A driving under the influence charge should not ruin your life. Seeking legal representation as soon as possible is key to protecting your legal rights. To schedule a free consultation with a New Jersey DUI attorney at Lomurro Law, call 732-482-9285 or contact us online.