In an effort to reduce recidivism and keep potentially dangerous people off the streets, many states have enacted what's known as “habitual violator” laws. New Jersey is one among many states in the country that has these laws on the books. Offenders who have several prior DWIs endure incredibly severe legal penalties. The consequences only get stiffer when subsequent offenses are committed.
People who commit DWIs and other traffic offenses routinely in short periods of time are labeled “habitual violators” by the state. For the purposes of this article, we'll discuss under what circumstances a person is deemed a habitual violator in New Jersey, and the laws and penalties associated with this classification.
What is a Habitual Violator?
Generally, a habitual violator is a person who has acquired several traffic citations in a short time. New Jersey deems someone a habitual violator when a person's license has been suspended three times for violations occurring within a 3-year period. Being charged with three of any of the following crimes can lead to being classified as a habitual violator:
- Vehicular homicide
- Operating under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Reckless driving
- Driving without a license
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Driving with a suspended license
- Operating an uninsured vehicle
- Leaving the scene of an accident causing property damage
Habitual Violator Penalties
Being charged with multiple DWIs in a short period of time will cost you money, your driving privileges, and your freedom. For a third or subsequent DWI offense, expect to face the following penalties:
- Up to 180 days in jail (approximately 6 months)
- A fine of $1,000
- The suspension of your license for 10 years
- The potential installation of an ignition interlock device for 1 to 3 years after the restoration of your driving privileges
- Community service
License Suspension / Revocation Process
Motorists who are due for a license suspension or revocation will receive a notification in the mail informing them of the condition of their license from the state's department of transportation. Habitual violators will then send their license to the listed agency prior to the assigned date of the suspension or revocation. From here, drivers have two choices: they can either endure the duration of the probation period or seek legal counsel to assist them in appealing this suspension or revocation.
New Jersey state law (N.J.S.A 39:3-10a) outlines the process of restoring your driver's license in the state. The first step is to pay a $100 fee. This expense is added on top of any other fees imposed due to alcohol-related suspensions. There are several different ways to pay this restoration fee. You can pay it online, in person at a motor vehicle agency, or through the mail.
It is your responsibility to submit proof of payments of outstanding fines or tickets owed in order for your license to be restored. It is only after you have completed the suspension period and a driver's program that you will be able to renew your license.
Jail can possibly be avoided by obtaining post-conviction relief from previous convictions. If an attorney can demonstrate that there were deficiencies or inconsistencies in your prior convictions, an order from the prior court dictating that the conviction cannot be used may be sent out, and your sentence will be lessened.
With post-conviction relief, jail time is mandatory for habitual violators. But this sentence doesn't have to be served in county jail. With the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney, you can spend this time in an in-patient rehabilitation center or in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). Consult with a legal professional to decide if this is an available option for you.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
Being deemed a habitual violator in the state of New Jersey puts your freedom at stake. The good news is if it's proven, with the help of a seasoned criminal defense attorney, that any of your arrests were unlawful or an officer's actions strayed from protocol, there's a good chance your charges could be dismissed.
With so much on the line, the best thing you can do is contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney. The sooner a legal representative can get on your case, the more time they have to build a solid defense. In New Jersey, a DWI is an offense that requires skilled and aggressive representation.
For some people, jail time isn't the answer. It can actually exacerbate the deep-rooted issues that cause people to be charged with an excessive amount of DWIs.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired DWI charges. 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.