New Jersey imposes severe legal ramifications for repeat DWI offenders. Most notably, a second offense DWI carries a penalty of mandatory jail time in addition to costly fines, surcharges, community service, probation and the loss of one's driving privileges.
If you've been charged with your second DWI in New Jersey within 10 years, the most important thing you can do for yourself in this predicament is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can protect your rights, give you viable options, and fiercely defend your charges.
New Jersey DWI Law
The terms “driving while impaired” (DWI) and “driving under the influence (DUI) are interchangeable in New Jersey. A charge for either crime indicates that you've been arrested for driving with an unlawful quantity of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two, in your system while behind the wheel.
In order to be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that your blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit while you were driving. This legal limit 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
Driving under the influence of drugs has become an increasingly common criminal charge in recent years due to the state's current drug epidemic. Plus, police are becoming savvier when it comes to identifying the signs of drug impairment. If the prosecution can prove that were driving under the influence of drugs - whether it be a prescription medication or an illegal substance - there is a possibility of conviction.
It's important to note that even taking legal, over-the-counter prescription drugs can still result in a drug DWI arrest.
One major issue for the prosecution has been determining whether or not a motorist meets or exceeds the legal definition of impairment. There are a number of conditions that can be mistaken for drug intoxication. Also, drugs can stay in a person's system for several days, making testing for certain types of drugs pointless. Testing positive for marijuana consumption, for example, doesn't mean that one was impaired with this substance while driving. It just means that the marijuana was consumed within the span of a few days. The effects of marijuana wear off way before it leaves a person's system.
New Jersey is a zero-tolerance state when it comes to underage drinking and driving. As most people are aware of, the legal drinking age is 21 or older. If a chemical test determines that a driver under this age has a BAC of .01% or higher, this driver may be convicted of driving under the influence. There are multiple criminal charges that are pinned alongside a DUI in circumstances involving underage drivers. Charges such as minor in possession, soliciting alcohol and the possession of false identification are typically imposed.
Penalties for a Second DWI Offense in New Jersey
The more prior DWI offenses one has acquired, the more severe the legal penalties become. First offense DWI sentences are evaluated based on a number of factors, such as BAC level and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Second offense DWI penalties, on the other hand, are the same regardless of BAC.
Under N.J.S.A. 39.4-50, if your BAC was over the legal limit of .08% and you were convicted of a previous DWI, New Jersey's courts will sentence you to:
- 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
Jail time is mandatory for a second offense. But it doesn't necessarily 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 an attorney to decide if this is a viable option for you.
A second DWI is also very costly. Convicted offenders of this crime are required to pay costly surcharges to your insurance company, to the state, and to several funds. You should expect to pay an additional $8,000 to the fines imposed by the state.
It's important to note that if your first DWI conviction occurred more than 10 years before your second one, in the eyes of the state you are a first-time offender.
Ignition Interlock Device
Once the duration of your license suspension is over, a judge may order you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. This device is essentially a miniature breathalyzer that connects to a vehicle's ignition system. In order to start your car, you must breathe into the device so it can measure your BAC. The car won't start unless the device reads that you're sober.
For the entirety of this sentence, you won't be allowed to drive any other car but your own. As aforementioned, a second offense DWI may lead to the installation of an ignition interlock device for a period of one to three years.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
A second DWI offense requires the representation of a seasoned 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.