Recently, states across the nation have toughened their DUI/DWI laws in an effort to reduce repeat offenses, prevent accidents and encourage drivers to think twice before drinking and driving. New Jersey has proved no exception to this trend as it strengthened its DUI/DWI punishment scheme on several fronts shortly after the first of the year.
Backlash Against the Crusader
The media has reported that provisions in the current New Jersey law, effective January 2010, which strengthen DUI/DWI laws would have been even tougher had it not been for New Jersey legislators who have assured citizens that the state hosts some of the toughest driving laws in the nation. Ever since New Jersey became one of the first states to require seatbelt use, the state has acquired the reputation of a "nanny state" in regards to policing the driving practices of its inhabitants. This stigma was reinforced when New Jersey became one of the first states to prohibit handheld cell phone use while driving in 2003. Partly because of this backlash against its reputation as a "nanny state," New Jersey legislators decided to exercise a moderate amount of restraint when cracking down on DUI/DWI offenders.
The New Laws
The notable change in New Jersey's DUI/DWI law involves the installation of ignition interlock devices for certain offenders. Under previous New Jersey law, the court could require first time offenders to install such a device in their vehicles for six months to one year. Similarly, under the old law, the court could require repeat offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles for a period of one to three years. Under the new law, first time offenders whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.15 percent or higher now must install an ignition interlock device in their motor vehicles for a period not less than six months and not more than one year. A 0.15 percent BAC is nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent. For repeat offenders the new law now requires the installation of an ignition interlock device for a period not less than one year and not more than three years. The interlock legislation was inspired partly by statistics indicating that while the devices are installed, repeat offenses decline at a rate of between 50 and 90 percent. Forty-seven states have adopted some use of ignition interlock devices for offenders. Only seven states mandate the use of the devices for all offenders.
Additional Punishments for DUI/DWI Offenses
The new DUI/DWI laws in New Jersey simply expand on the already extensive punishment scheme for offenders. Other consequences of DUI/DWI conviction in New Jersey include:
- First Offense: If convicted with a BAC over 08% but less than 0.10 percent, offenders face fines up to $400 in addition to administrative costs and state surcharges, 12-48 hours of service in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center ("IDRC"), up to 30 days imprisonment and a three month license suspension. If convicted with a BAC of 0.10 or higher, offenders face fines up to $500 in addition to administrative costs and state surcharges, 12-48 hours of service in the IDRC, up to 30 days in jail and a license suspension of no less than seven months and no more than one year.
- Second Offense: Offenders face fines up to $1,000 in addition to administrative costs and state surcharges, two to 90 days imprisonment, a two year license suspension, 30 days community service and the installation of an ignition interlock device.
- Third and Subsequent Offenses: Offenders face a $1,000 fine in addition to administrative costs and state surcharges, imprisonment of not less than 180 days, a ten year license suspension and the installation of an ignition interlock device.
Please note that commercial drivers and minors can be convicted of DUI/DWI offenses at BAC thresholds that are much lower than other drivers. Note also that the general punishments differ from those imposed on certain special classes of offenders. For example, offenders driving with minor passengers and those whose intoxication leads to the death of another will be charged with other harsh criminal penalties.
For Further Reference
Given the severity of consequences that one faces if convicted of a DUI/DWI, it is important that those who are charged with a DUI/DWI offense immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorneys at Brickfield & Donahue today!