Most New Jersey residents are aware that driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both is illegal in New Jersey. But what most people don't know is that state law doesn't limit the definition of DWI to ”driving drunk” or otherwise impaired. You can be arrested for a DWI without actually driving your vehicle. If you have been caught sitting or sleeping in a vehicle while still intoxicated, under state law an arrest and charge is still justifiable.
You may think that sleeping or sitting in your car is the responsible thing to do after drinking all night. But getting arrested for this very act is actually not an uncommon occurrence. But when this happens you need a good defense. The likelihood of a conviction all depends on where you were at the time of arrest, whether you intended to drive while you were intoxicated, or what you were doing in the hours before the police came for you.
Parked Car DWI Law in New Jersey
New Jersey statutes (N.J.S.A 39:4-50) specifically condemn anyone who “operates” a motor vehicle while impaired. The question of what “operation” entails isn't addressed in detail in statutes, but state courts have interpreted this term pretty vaguely. Some motorists are charged with a DWI after being asleep in parked cars - some with running engines, some with keys in the ignition, and others with cars completely off.
Whether or not a motorist was “operating” a vehicle is determined on a case by case basis by the courts. For example, location would matter if you were discovered and arrested for driving under the influence on the side of a long stretch of highway. The officer could be able to conclude that you were driving shortly before the arrest and were impaired while doing so. The officer could even more reasonably jump to the conclusion that you were impaired while driving if your keys are in the ignition upon being discovered.
The law even places the blame on the owner of a car who lets a drunk or otherwise impaired person drive their car. Along with the intoxicated driver, the owner too can be convicted of a DWI.
In order to be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit - 0.08% - while operating behind the wheel of a car.
Parked Car DWI Penalties in New Jersey
First Offense DWI
If your BAC was over the legal limit, 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
- Community service
Second Offense DWI
- Between 2 and 90 days in jail
- A fine between $500 and $1,000
- The suspension of your license for 2 years
- The potential installation of an ignition interlock device for one to three years
- 30 days of community service
Third Offense DWI
- 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
In a parked car DWI case, your fate is entirely in a judge's hands. They have the discretion to cut you a break or carry out the full extent of the law. Their decision will solely be based on the nature of your arrest, your criminal history, your BAC, the officer's testimony, and other relevant factors. These penalty guidelines are strictly suggested as parameters for sentencing, it doesn't mean that your outcome will necessarily reflect as such.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
Being charged with a parked car DWI is confusing, and puts many of your freedoms at stake. But if it's proven that your arrest was 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.
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.