First DWI in New Jersey

Under New Jersey law, driving while impaired is a serious offense that, even for the first time, can lead to the loss of your driving privileges, high insurance rates, and costly fines. There are also additional punishments for offenders who refuse to submit a breathalyzer test in the process of an arrest.

New Jersey takes a pretty harsh approach to the prosecution of DWI charges. This is done in hopes of deterring future drunk and drugged driving. With this in mind, it is in your best interest to do everything you can to avoid being made an example of by the state's criminal justice system. The most important thing you can do for yourself in this predicament is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and defend your charges.

If you've been arrested and charged with a DWI for the first time, knowing the gravity of your charges and the potential penalties are important.

New Jersey DWI Law

The terms “driving while impaired” (DWI) and “driving under the influence” (DUI) are synonymous in New Jersey. In essence, charges for either crime indicate that you've been arrested for driving with an unlawful quantity of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two, in your system.

Alcohol Impairment

In order to be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit while you were driving. This legal varies depending on the age and status of a motorist. Here are some examples:

  • .01% or higher for motorists under 21
  • .04% for commercial drivers
  • .08% for everybody else

Drug Impairment

Drug DWIs have become increasingly common in recent years due to the state's current drug epidemic. If the prosecution can prove that you were driving under the influence of drugs - whether it be a prescription drug or an illegal substance - you may be convicted.

It's important to note that taking legal, over-the-counter prescription drugs can still result in a DWI arrest.

The central issue in drug DWI cases is determining whether or not the motorist met the legal definition of being under the influence. There are many conditions that can be mistaken for drug intoxication. Also, experts understand that drugs can stay in the body for days, making certain types of testing obsolete. Just because you test positive for marijuana consumption as the result of a urine test, for example, doesn't mean you were intoxicated, it could just mean you smoked marijuana sometime in a few days span. By the time you tested, the effects would have surely worn off despite it still being in your body.

Underage Drinkers

New Jersey is a zero-tolerance state when it comes to underage drinking and driving. This means that if a chemical test determines that a driver under the legal drinking age of 21 has a BAC of .01% of higher on a first offense, said driver can be convicted for driving under the influence. Underage drinkers are rarely charged with just one crime if caught. In addition to a DWI, charges such as minor in possession, soliciting alcohol and the possession of false identification are typically imposed.

Penalties for a First DWI Offense in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the legal penalties for a first time offense depend on your BAC and whether you were using drugs in conjunction with alcohol.

Under N.J.S.A 39:4-50(a), if your BAC was between .08% and .09% and no drugs were detected, you may be facing the following penalties:

  • A jail sentence of up to 30 days
  • A fine of $250 to $400
  • The suspension of your license for 3 months
  • The potential installation of an ignition interlock device for 6 months to a year
  • Probation
  • Community service

If your BAC was .10% or higher or you were using drugs, here's what you should expect:

  • A jail sentence of up to 30 days
  • A fine of $300 to $500
  • The suspension of your license for between 7 months and a year
  • The potential installation of an ignition interlock device for 6 months to a year

Ignition Interlock Device

When you've completed your license suspension, a judge may order you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. This device is a breathalyzer that connects to the vehicle's ignition system. You must breathe into the device and allow it to measure your BAC - your car won't start unless the device reads that you're sober.

During the time of the device is required in your car, you aren't allowed to drive any other car but your own. As aforementioned, a first offense may lead to the installation of an ignition interlock device for a period of 6 months to a year.

New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney

Even if this is your first DWI offense, it requires the representation of an experienced legal professional. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people regarding DWI charges and convictions. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today


When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.