A controversial law that took effect in May 2010 was recently upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The law requires drivers under the age of 21 to display reflective decals on the upper left corner of their license plates.
The decals signal to police officers and to other motorists that the driver of the vehicle is under 21.
This makes it much easier to catch junior drivers who have too many passengers in the car or are driving during times that their provisional license does not allow.
The law was challenged based on several grounds.
According to Gregg Trautmann, the attorney fighting to have the law struck down, it violated the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, the right to equal protection under the law, and the right against illegal searches and seizures.
More specifically, the attorney argued that the statute violated a federal law prohibiting states from releasing a driver’s personal information.
According to Mr. Trautmann, the age of a motorist ought to have counted as personal information and the use of the decal should have amounted to a release of that information.
Aside from these issues, Mr. Trautmann also argued that the decals make underage drivers more vulnerable to criminals since they advertise the fact that an automobile is being driven by someone of “tender years.”
However, the Supreme Court did not see it that way.
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state law was not a violation of the federal law or constitution.
According to them, simply mandating that a decal be placed on a car’s license plate is not on par with directly revealing a driver’s personal information.
Likewise, the Court also explained that an age group is not considered to be “highly restricted personal information.”
Furthermore, the Justices noted that “[t]he policy arguments for and against [the law] are not for this Court to consider, but are properly made before the Legislature. It is not in our province to determine the wisdom of this statute or to weigh its value to police officers in enforcing [the law] against any safety concerns that are raised by the decal requirement.”
A spokesman for Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, said, “We are pleased with the Court’s decision, which affirms that neither the federal nor state constitution was violated by the state’s exercise of its authority to impose reasonable requirements on youthful drivers in furtherance of the public safety.”
Failure to use the decal can lead to a $100 fine, and, as of May, police had issued approximately 1,800 summonses on underage drivers who were not displaying the decals.