New Jersey lawmakers have often been recognized for their proactive efforts to improve road safety, but a 2015 survey of traffic laws around the country discovered that the Garden State can be quite forgiving to motorists who behave in ways that could put the lives of other road users in jeopardy. The survey was conducted by the consumer information website Wallethub.com, and it ranked New Jersey among the nation's most lenient states for reckless and intoxicated drivers.
The survey ranked states based on their speeding, drunk driving and careless driving laws and the impact that citations for reckless behavior behind the wheel have on auto insurance rates. The results ranked New Jersey in a 44th place tie with Mississippi and Ohio. Only South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Montana, North Dakota and Michigan were considered more lenient toward dangerous drivers than the Garden State.
The study was particularly critical of New Jersey's drunk driving laws. Motorists charged with their first DWI face no mandatory jail time in New Jersey, and the minimum custodial sentence for a second offense is only two days. New Jersey also allows accused drunk drivers to retain their driving privileges until their case is adjudicated. Most other states use administrative license suspensions to keep those facing drunk driving charges off the road.
While the penalties for drunk driving may be less severe in New Jersey than they are in many other states, the consequences of a DWI conviction can still be significant. Those with a record of drunk driving are often expected to pay higher auto insurance premiums, and a DWI could make it difficult for them to find a job or housing. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to have drunk driving charges reduced by pointing out mitigating factors to prosecutors. Defense attorneys could also seek to have DWI charges dismissed completely by challenging the validity of evidence such as the results of field sobriety or toxicology tests.