In New Jersey, driving while intoxicated (DWI) (also called "driving under the influence") carries serious penalties. The severity of these penalties generally depends on the number of prior convictions. This article covers New Jersey's DWI laws and the consequences you'll face for a first, second, and third conviction.
New Jersey prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater. Also, a vehicle owner can get a DWI conviction for permitting an intoxicated person to operate the owner's vehicle. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 39:4-50.)
A person can be convicted of DWI for operating or attempting to operate a vehicle under the influence. For a conviction, there must be evidence of intent to drive (actual physical control and overt action) but there doesn't need to be actual movement of the vehicle.
Drivers are prohibited from being under the influence of intoxicating liquors, narcotics, hallucinogens, or habit-producing drugs. "Under the influence" is defined as a substantial deterioration or diminution of the mental faculties or physical capabilities.
A driver can be convicted of DWI without proof of actual intoxication if the driver's BAC is .08% or more. This is termed a "per se DWI."
The main factor that determines the possible penalties for a DWI conviction is the number of prior convictions. An offense that occurs more than ten years after a first offense will be penalized as a first offense. And a third offense where none of the priors were within the last ten years will be penalized as a second offense.
For a first DWI conviction, the driver will generally face:
However, for first offenses involving a BAC of at least .10% or drug impairment, the fines are $300 to $500 and the license revocation is seven to 12 months.
For a second DWI conviction, the driver will generally face:
Second offenders are also required to complete 30 days of community service.
For a third DWI conviction, the driver will generally face:
Third offenders are also required to complete up to 90 days of community service, but these days count toward the driver's jail term.
At the time of arrest, the officer is supposed to impound the driver's vehicle for 12 hours and will likely request a breathalyzer test. A test failure can be used by the prosecution in court to prove a DWI charge in court. And, as previously explained a conviction will result in license revocation. But a driver who refuses testing can face license revocation even without a DWI conviction.
Pursuant to New Jersey's implied consent laws, a driver who unlawfully refuses a breathalyzer test will face the following consequences.
Generally, the revocation periods for a test refusal and a conviction will run consecutively (back-to-back), but the judge can permit the suspensions to run concurrently (at the same time) on a first offense.
For DWIs involving only alcohol, the court will order the installation of an ignition interlock device in lieu of suspension. The IID period for a first offense depends on the BAC recorded and will range from three to 15 months. An IID must be maintained for two to four years for a second offense and eight years for a third offense.
A driver who refuses testing or is convicted of DWI will be required to pay an annual insurance surcharge for three years. For a first offense, the surcharge is $1,000 annually ($3,000 total). The surcharge for a second or subsequent offense is $1,500 annually ($4,500 total).
New Jersey drivers who are under the age of 21 are prohibited from having a BAC of .01% or more. Any underage driver with a BAC of .01% to .08% will face 30 to 90 days of license revocation, 15 to 30 days of community service, and must participate in the IDRC or a similar treatment program.
If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, you should talk to a qualified DWI attorney. DWI laws are complicated and the consequences of a conviction are serious. An experienced DWI lawyer can review your situation and help you decide on the best course of action.