While there’s no question that tougher DUI/DWI laws have made our state’s roads and highways safer, it is fair to question whether lawmakers have gone too far this time.

As you may be aware, the New Jersey Assembly panel recently passed a bill that would significantly increase penalties for individuals who are charged (not convicted, mind you) with more than one DWI/DUI offense in 60 days. If enacted, anyone who finds their self in that circumstance will automatically have their driver’s license suspended and could see bail set as high as $10,000 — an amount four times greater than the maximum bail for other fourth-degree offenses.

And as is usually the case with new “get tough on crime” proposals, this latest initiative to strengthen the state’s drunk driving laws was launched shortly after the media began to cover a single egregious case. In this instance, it was the story about the Vineland man who was arrested for drunk driving five times over the span of five-and-a-half weeks earlier this year.

Is this really the best way to legislate?

In addition to the increased penalties the new law would impose on drivers who have only been charged, anyone convicted of a second drunk driving offense that occurred within 60 days of a previous one could face up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The full Assembly will vote on the proposed bill soon, and a similar measure is waiting to be heard by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

Whatever happens with this new DWI/DUI bill, the story itself should make it clear to anyone arrested or charged with a drunk driving offense in New Jersey that experienced, competent legal counsel is an absolute must.

Source: The Daily Journal, “Tougher DWI bill moves forward,” June 7, 2012