Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a very serious offense in New Jersey. Police and prosecutors pursue DWI charges very aggressively to send a message to others that drunk driving will not be tolerated. In furthering this goal, the NJ legislature has written DWI laws that stack penalties for multiple DWI offenses. The Atlantic City DWI lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych have written this guide to help you understand how second or third DWIs in New Jersey are punished, and what potential jail time you may be facing.
Can You Avoid Jail Time for a Second DWI in New Jersey?
New Jersey’s DWI statutes, like many laws, carry increased penalties for repeat offenders. The basic, first-time DWI offenses carry severe penalties, but repeat offenses carry increased penalties.
First Offense DWI
For a first offense DWI, you face different penalties depending on your intoxication. For general alcohol intoxication or drunk driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08%, you face:
- $250-$400 in fines;
- 12-48 hours of drivers’ education;
- Driver screening and evaluation;
- A drivers’ license suspension for up to 3 months;
- Other standard fines;
- A potential ignition interlock; and
- Up to 30 days in jail.
For a first offense based on drugs or a BAC of .10% or higher, you face the same penalties, except:
- The fine is increased to $300-$500; and
- The license suspension is increased to 7 months to 1 year.
By these penalties, you may face jail time even for a first offense. However, that jail time is only ordered at the judge’s discretion. Usually, the judge will not issue any jail time for a first offense DWI unless there are serious issues or other crimes committed alongside the DWI.
Repeat DWI Offenses
For a second offense, the jail time is mandatory. A second DWI offense for either drugs or alcohol (of any level) also carries other increased penalties:
- The fine is increased to $500-$1,000;
- The license suspension is increased to 2 years;
- Community service for 30 days is added;
- An ignition interlock is mandatory for 1-3 years; and
- There is a mandatory jail sentence for 48 hours to 90 days.
Upon conviction, there is a mandatory 48-hour jail sentence. A judge may ultimately order up to 90 days in jail, but that is only used in especially severe cases or cases where the second DWI occurred very soon after the first. While some of this time may be given as a suspended sentence for probation instead of actual jail time, at least 48 hours must be served in jail.
A third or subsequent DWI offense also carries mandatory jail time, but it is increased to no less than 180 days in jail. Half of this time may be spent in an inpatient rehab facility, where appropriate. Other penalties are also increased for a third or subsequent offense
Second DWI Within 10 Years in New Jersey
For a second DWI to count as a second DWI, it must occur within 10 years of your last DWI. If you previously committed a DWI offense, but it is more than 10 years old, it will not trigger the increased penalties for a second DWI. The same rule holds true for third or subsequent DWIs. With this 10-year clock reset, you may be able to avoid jail time if there is a large enough gap between offenses.
This should, by no means, be taken as an excuse or justification to commit more DWI offenses by merely waiting 10 years. Because a first-offense DWI carries the potential of jail time, a judge could still sentence you to jail for a second DWI that occurs more than 10 years after the first. Though the clock is reset and there are no automatic penalty upgrades, judges may use any available information to help them make sentencing decisions. Even if you will not face the penalties for a second DWI, judges can still order up to 30 days of jail time if they see one or more DWIs older than 10 years on your record.
If you commit a second DWI while the charges are pending on your first DWI, the penalties may also increase. Although there was no record of a DWI conviction yet when you were charged with the second DWI, a judge may still trigger the increased penalties for a second DWI at sentencing. You should always talk to an attorney and consider drug or alcohol counseling when you are charged with multiple DWIs very close together.
Second DWI While Suspended
Because you can face long license suspensions for a DWI offense, it is vital that you obey the rules of your suspension and keep off the road. Even a first offense DWI can ultimately mean up to a year of license suspension. If you commit another DWI during this period, you can face additional suspensions, jail time, and other penalties for driving with a suspended license.
South Jersey Multiple DWI Lawyer
The Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent people charged with DWI throughout New Jersey. If you or a loved one is facing a DWI charge, especially a second or further offense, call our law offices today for a free consultation on your charges at (609) 616-4956.