First-Offense DWI/DUI in New Jersey

New Jersey’s DWI laws and the penalties for a first DWI conviction.

In New Jersey, driving while drunk or high is typically called "driving while intoxicated" (DWI). However, lots of people still use the terms "DWI" and "DUI" interchangeably.

This article covers the possible penalties you'll face for a first DWI conviction in New Jersey.

New Jersey's DWI Law

Alcohol per se DWIs. In New Jersey, you can be convicted of a DWI if you operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more. A BAC reading can be obtained from a breathalyzer test or a blood sample. This type of DWI is sometimes called a "per se" offense.

DWIs based on drug or alcohol impairment. You can also be convicted of DWI for operating a motor vehicle while actually under the influence of alcohol, a narcotic, a hallucinogenic, or a habit-producing drug or for allowing someone else to operate your vehicle who is under the influence of alcohol of one of these substances.

New Jersey's First-Tier DWI Penalties for a 1st DWI

A first DWI is considered a first-tier offense when the person's BAC reading is at least .08% but less than .10%. The penalties for a first-tier DWI are less severe than for a second-tier DWI. The penalties include the following:

  • a fine of $250 to $400
  • 12 to 48 hours at the "Intoxicated Driver Resource Center" (IDRC)
  • driver's license suspension of three months
  • imprisonment of not more than 30 days (there is no required jail term), and
  • motor vehicle surcharge of $3,000 (payable as $1,000 per year for three years).

The specific penalties an offender receives depend on the circumstances but generally must be within these parameters.

New Jersey's Second-Tier DWI Penalties for a 1st DWI

A first DWI is considered a second-tier offense when the person's BAC reading is .10% or more. The penalties include the following:

  • a fine of $300 to $500
  • 12 to 48 hours at the IDRC
  • driver's license suspension of seven months to one year
  • imprisonment of not more than 30 days (there is no required jail term), and
  • motor vehicle surcharge of $3,000 (payable as $1,000 per year for three years).
  • Ignition Interlock Device for 6 months to 1 year if the BAC reading is 0.15% or higher.

Again, the specific penalties dependent on the circumstances but typically must be within these ranges.

New Jersey Requires Ignition Interlocks for DWIs Involving a High BAC

For DWIs involving a BAC of .15% or more, the offender will also have to use an ignition interlock device (IID) for six months to one year. An IID is a device that's installed in your motor vehicle that measures your BAC when you blow into it. The device won't allow the vehicle to start if the BAC reading is above the limit set when the ignition interlock device is installed in your vehicle (basically, any measurable amount of alcohol).

Drug DWIs and Cases Without BAC Measurement

If you are convicted of a first-offense DWI and there is no BAC reading (whether the offense is for drugs or alcohol), the penalties will be those for a second-tier DWI.

Refusal to Take Breathalyzer Test in New Jersey

If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test when you're stopped by the police for a DWI in New Jersey, you might be charged with an offense called "Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test" in addition to the DWI. The Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test charge carries severe penalties, which are similar to DWI penalties.

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