Probation is a chance to stay out of jail while serving the penalties for a crime you committed. This is often an excellent opportunity for people to maintain a job, continue caring for their children, and avoid facing the day-to-day conditions of jail. Many crimes do not explicitly authorize probation as a possible penalty, but judges can often give probation as a lighter punishment. The Atlantic City DWI defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych discuss how probation may be granted for DWI charges and what other penalties come with a DWI conviction in NJ.
Can You get Probation for Drunk Driving in NJ?
Under New Jersey law, any drunk driving offense can result in jail time. NJ charges for driving while intoxicated (DWI) are classified into two different “tiers.” The “lower” tier covers general drunk driving or DWI with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% or higher. The “higher” tier covers general drug “intoxication” and drunk driving with a BAC of .10% or higher. There are also additional penalties attached to cases of second, third, or subsequent offenses for repeat DWI offenders.
Both tiers of DWI include a potential jail sentence, even for first-time offenders. For a first-time DWI, you can face a maximum of 30 days in jail along with the fines and license suspensions. This jail time is optional, and judges typically only pursue these penalties in cases of severe drunk or drugged driving, such as cases where you cause injury or property damage.
New Jersey’s sentencing rules allow a judge to “suspend” the jail sentence as part of their order. This means that, instead of sending you to jail directly, the judge will allow you to remain free with certain terms and requirements. If you are able to follow the rules and remain free from further crimes, the jail sentence will be removed. This suspended sentence and the corresponding terms of conduct are known as “probation.” With the right NJ DWI defense lawyer, you could earn probation in some DWI cases.
What are DWI Probation Terms in New Jersey?
While on probation, the judge may order some general terms that apply to any probation case, as well as specific terms that apply to DWI cases. General terms of probation usually include checking in with a probation officer (PO), reporting your address if you move, continuing to stay in school or hold a job, and remaining free from further crime.
New Jersey’s DWI statutes specifically authorize additional terms for probation. Judges may see these as constructive opportunities to help prevent further crime or as a justified punishment related to the crime. First, the judge may order you to participate in a “supervised visitation program.” This could include drug or alcohol screening, monitoring by a PO or another party, and other activities to help prevent repeat DWI offenses. Second, the judge may require education and training to prevent further DWIs. The Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) handles some of this, but the judge may issue additional education on the effects of drunk driving. Lastly, DWI offenses may include community service.
In many cases, these terms of probation are intended to help you avoid future DWI offenses by giving you the skills and resources to help with drug or alcohol problems. Many of these are optional and are typically seen as a benefit to the offender. If you violate any terms of your probation or refuse to participate in any programs the judge has ordered, you may be arrested and sent directly to jail as part of a probation violation. There may be an opportunity to hold a probation violation hearing, and you can hire an attorney to help you fight your probation violation.
Other DWI Penalties in NJ
Aside from the jail time or probation you face because of a DWI charge, you also face other potential penalties.
In most cases, your driver’s license will be suspended. This suspension increases based on the tier of your offense or the number of prior DWIs:
- A first time, low-tier DWI results in a 3-month license suspension.
- A first time, high-tier DWI results in a license suspension lasting 7 months to 1 year.
- A second DWI offense (any tier) results in a 2-year license suspension.
- A third or subsequent DWI results in a 10-year license suspension.
Fines associated with DWI start at $250-$400 for a low-tier offense and increase to $300-$500 for a high tier offense, $500-$1,000 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third or subsequent offense.
You are also required to participate in IDRC screening and evaluation for any DWI offense. You also need to pay mandatory surcharges and fees totaling around $325. In addition, the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) will charge you license restoration fees and annual surcharges for DWI. You could also be required to give up the right to register your vehicle after a second or third DWI and may be court-ordered to use an ignition interlock. This interlock prevents your car from starting unless it accepts a clean breathalyzer sample.
Atlantic City DWI Defense Attorney Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was charged with a DWI in South Jersey, call the Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our attorneys can help fight to keep you out of jail and fight to get DWI penalties reduced. Our phone number is (609) 616-4956.