The DWI laws in New Jersey continue to evolve and the trend has been that offenders are increasingly subject to more significant penalties. Meanwhile, experienced defense attorneys had continued to develop more effective strategies for defending these cases. In 2008, 85% of those charged with DUI offenses were convicted. Now approximately a decade later, the percentage of those found guilty h
as decreased to around 71%. This nearly 17% shift is partially attributed to negotiated agreements that involve pleading to alternate charges and other factors.
This realm of practice has also changed as most jurisdictions now enforce “drugged driving” in addition to those under the influence of alcohol. Offenders are charged according to the same DWI statute regardless of whether the offense involves alcohol or drugs. The technology for accurately detecting if a driver is currently impaired by drugs has yet to be refined. New Jersey has instead certified over 400 members of law enforcement as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) that are trained in detection.
In New Jersey, those charged with a DWI may be deemed a repeat offender if they have any convictions in the prior ten-year period. This “look back” period varies from state-to-state. For example, among neighboring states, New York considers convictions within the prior 15 years and Delaware considers any prior convictions in a lifetime. These lengthier periods can create potentially significant problems for those who in prior years would otherwise be facing the lesser penalties associated with a first offense.
Understanding Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
New Jersey law considers those who are operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08% to be impaired and subject to DWI. For those who are under the legal age for alcohol consumption, this limit is merely .01%. For those who operate commercial motor vehicles the established limit is .04%. Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, drivers who refuse to submit to such testing are subject to a license suspension and are charged similarly to those who are determined to be impaired based on BAC.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
New Jersey's Motor Vehicle Commission also defines DUI as operating a vehicle while under the influence of a “narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing” drug. A “narcotic drug” is said to be that which generates a “narcotic effect” and impedes the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The presence of these drugs may be revealed through a blood test.
Do I Need an Attorney When Charged With DWI?
The penalties that may result from a DUI conviction have potentially devastating consequences. Those charged with operating under the influence should promptly consult with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer. The Lento Law Firm has the experience that can only be obtained by representing clients in many New Jersey cases and offers an aggressive legal defense.
The Concept of Implied Consent
Those who have driving privileges in New Jersey have provided “implied consent” to submit to testing at the request of law enforcement. Failing to comply with such testing is an offense of its own that has consequences. Penalties may include a suspension of driving privileges and enhanced penalties such as requiring the driver to install an ignition interlock device.
Seven Months to One Year
$300 - $500
$500 - $1000
Effects of a DWI Conviction
The state imposes penalties for DWI on two levels based on the driver's BAC level. The standard level for BAC is between .08% and .10%. The penalties are heightened when the BAC exceeds .10%.
• DWI: First offense and BAC of .08 to .10% results in a three-month license suspension
• DWI: First offense and BAC of .10% or higher results in a license suspension of between seven months and one-year
• DWI: First offense for drivers yet to reach the legal age for alcohol consumption will face a license suspension period of 30 to 90 days
• DWI: Second offense leads to a two-year license suspension
• DWI: Third offense leads to a ten-year license suspension
Driving Under a Suspension
Another negative effect of a DWI is the possibility of losing your driving privileges. If you are caught driving under suspension, you will face further penalties. First-time offenders will have an additional suspension imposed of up to six months and a $500 fine. Second-time offenses will lead to an additional six-month suspension, a $750 fine, and up to five days in jail. Those whose license is currently suspended for a DWI or refusal to submit to testing may face a suspension of up to two years. Offenses that occur in school zones carry enhanced penalties as well.
Commercial Driver's License (CDL)
Those with a CDL may be convicted of a DWI if their BAC is .04%. First-time offenders will have their passenger vehicle license suspended for between three months and one-year and a one-year CDL suspension. Subsequent DWI offenses will result in revocation of the CDL.
Jail time may be imposed on DWI offenders as follows:
- First offense: Up to 30 days
- Second offense: From 48 hours to 90 days
- Third offense: Up to 180 days
You may be ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle. This device requires you to submit a breath sample prior to operating the vehicle. Offenders with a BAC of .15% must have an interlock device installed amid their suspension and up to one year after. Repeat DUI offenders may require the device to be installed for up to three years.
There are significant financial consequences associated with a DWI conviction such as these:
• Vehicle towing and impound fee
• Attorney Fees
• Fines of $250 to $1,000
• Ignition interlock device fees (when applicable)
• Fee for Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
• Surcharge for three-years on auto insurance: $1,000 to $1,500
• Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund fee ($100)
• Intoxicated Driving Program fee
• Safe and Secure Community Program fee
• Driver's License Reinstatement fee
Impact on Employment and Professional Licenses
DWI offenders may have employment-related consequences. Those who operate a vehicle for a living, such as a truck or a taxi driver may lose their job. Many professional occupations require licenses such as those who are nurses or attorneys and are often subject to background screens that may create adverse consequences.
New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney
Those charged with DWI or of failing to comply with testing for alcohol or drugs certainly will face penalties. Joseph D. Lento is an attorney who represents clients in these actions in New Jersey. For a consultation, please call the office at (888) 535-3686.