Driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in New Jersey. Many states split their crimes into “misdemeanors” and “felonies” by seriousness. In New Jersey, this is a little more complicated – and so is DWI.

If you have been charged with DWI in Atlantic City or anywhere in New Jersey, talk to an attorney. Regardless of whether DWI is a felony or not, it carries severe penalties. You could lose your license, face fines, or even face jail time. The Atlantic City DWI attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to help.

Is DWI a Criminal Charge?

New Jersey does not call its crimes “felonies” or “misdemeanors.” Usually, the distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor is based on the severity of the crime. Misdemeanors, traditionally, are punished by one year or less in jail. Felonies are punished by more than one year in prison. This distinction is used in the federal system, and in many states. However, many states with these names use this one year distinction loosely, and have misdemeanors punished by over a year in prison.

New Jersey has two types of offenses: indictable crimes and offenses. “Offenses” include “disorderly persons offenses” and “petty disorderly persons offenses.” Disorderly persons offenses are basically the equivalent of misdemeanors in other states, with a maximum penalty of up to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail. Petty disorderly persons offenses are similar to “infractions,” “summary offenses,” or “violations” in other states, with a maximum fine of $500 and up to six months in jail.

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Most “crimes” in New Jersey are the equivalent of felonies. New Jersey has four levels of crimes, named “first degree” through “fourth degree” crimes. Fourth degree crimes are the lowest level, with up to 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines. This means that all “crimes” are technically equivalent felonies in NJ.

However, DWI is not classified as a “crime.” Most crimes are found in Title 2C of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. Instead, DWI offenses are found in the Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation code under Title 39. The DWI offenses under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50 do not even use the word “crime.”

This distinction of “felony” or “crime,” and the potential penalties are important in some situations. Rules addressing “felons” in particular may not apply to those convicted of DWI, but talk to a lawyer to confirm this applies to you.

DWI Still has Serious Penalties

Whether it’s called a “felony,” a “crime,” or a “traffic offense” does not make DWI any less serious. Any DWI charge still comes with serious penalties and should be taken very seriously. Attorneys are available to help guide you through the legal process, protect your rights, challenge evidence in court, and possibly even beat the government’s case against you. Because the government will treat DWI as a crime, putting police and prosecutors on the case, you must also take these charges seriously.

Even a DWI first offense can land you in jail. Regardless of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), if you are convicted of DWI, you could face up to 30 days in jail. Regardless of your criminal history and driving record, it is up to the judge’s choice as to whether you face this 30-day imprisonment.

For a second drunk driving offense, regardless of your BAC, you are required to spend at least two days in jail. This is a mandatory punishment of 48 hours in jail. Probation is not available to replace these two days. If the court sees fit, this could be extended to up to 90 days in jail.

For a third or subsequent drunk driving offense, the law requires you to spend 180 days in jail. Up to 90 of those days could be spent in rehab or some equivalent treatment center, but the other 90 days must be served in jail.

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On top of this, there are many fines associated. Each case, by its nature, has court fees and other surcharges. On top of that, you face a fine of:

  • $250-400 for a first offense with a BAC of .08% or higher;
  • $300-500 for a first offense with a BAC of .10% or higher, or based on drugs;
  • $500-1,000 for any second offense; and
  • $1,000 fine for any third or further offenses.

You also face a drivers’ license suspension of:

  • 3 months for a first offense with a BAC of .08% or higher;
  • 7 months for a first offense with a BAC of .10% or higher, or based on drugs:
  • 2 years for any second offense; and
  • 10 years for any third or further offenses.

New Jersey DWI Lawyers

The Attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to take your DWI case. If you were charged in Atlantic City, or anywhere in South or Central Jersey, call our attorneys today at (609) 616-4956. We offer free, confidential consultations on new cases.