If you frequently use the highways in the Atlantic City area, or you are an out-of-town visitor to Atlantic City, it is important to understand the laws and penalties associated with driving under the influence (DWI) in New Jersey. If you are pulled over for DWI on a highway like the Atlantic City Expressway or the New Jersey Turnpike, you could face additional penalties for your driving. While these are not required simply by the nature of drunk driving on the highway, you should be aware of how your case could become worse.
If you have been charged with DWI in Atlantic City, Atlantic County, or anywhere in South Jersey, talk to an Atlantic City DWI defense attorney today. The lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych can fight your New Jersey DWI case. Call today to set up a free consultation with our attorneys.
DWI on Highways in Atlantic City
While DWI has the same penalties regardless of what type of road you drive on, you could still face higher penalties for DWI offenses on the highway. Because highways generally see more high speed violations than back roads and in-town streets, this creates many opportunities for other potential charges. In addition, accidents on highways are often worse than other accidents. If you cause an accident while you are driving drunk, it can create much more serious penalties.
The basic penalties for DWI shift based on whether it is your first offense, and based on how much you had to drink. Under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50, a first offense with a BAC of .08% can mean 30 days in jail, a $250-$400 fine, a three-month license suspension, and other penalties. If your BAC is .10%, penalties increase to a $300-$500 fine and a license suspension between seven months and one year. (The 30-day jail possibility remains the same.)
For a second DWI of any kind, the fine increases to $500-$1,000, imprisonment for at least 48 hours (and up to 90 days), and a two year license suspension. For a third or further offense, you face a fine of $2,000, imprisonment for at least 180 days, and a 20-year license suspension. With any of these offenses, you could also be made to pay additional fines, take drivers’ education courses, or be required to use a device that locks your car unless it receives a clean breath sample.
Penalties for DWI-Related Offenses
DWI on a highway usually comes with other offenses. Police do not generally pull people over for DWI on its own – they look for signs of drunk driving. This can include any of the following, which usually constitute a New Jersey traffic offense on their own:
- Leaving the lane of travel
- Leaving the road surface
- Reckless driving
- Causing an accident
- Leaving the scene of an accident
If you hit someone (or their car) while drunk, it is the crime of vehicular assault. Causing any injury is a fourth degree crime – but causing serious bodily injury is a third degree crime under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1(c)(2). This is called “assault by auto.” If you leave the scene of an accident that caused serious bodily injury, there are separate penalties. This is a third degree crime under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1.1. If you were involved in a hit and run accident, it is strongly advised to contact an experienced New Jersey hit and run defense attorney immediately.
If you cause death while driving, it could count as “vehicular homicide” under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-5. If you were drunk when you caused the death, it can mean a minimum of three years imprisonment. Otherwise, it follows the same punishments for other second degree crimes. Leaving the scene of an accident involving death, under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-5.1 is also a second degree crime.
Any other time you drive drunk, your behaviors could amount to “reckless driving.” This is a traffic offense under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-96. Simply driving drunk cannot be reckless driving; there needs to be some element to the driving that endangers life, liberty, or property. If you are speeding, swerving, or otherwise driving unsafely while intoxicated, this could amount to reckless driving. This carries a fine, mandatory jail time, and may carry a license suspension.
If your driving is dangerous enough, it could also constitute “endangering another person” under N.J.S.A. § 2C:24-7.1. This is a disorderly persons offense, usually. If you risk causing “serious bodily injury” to another person, it is upgraded to a fourth degree crime, and is upgraded to a third degree crime if it creates a risk of death.
Atlantic City DWI Defense Attorneys
Driving a vehicle at highway speeds while intoxicated is extremely dangerous. If you or a loved one faces criminal and traffic charges from a highway DWI, talk to an attorney. Because so many charges are available, the punishments could stack up to serious prison time. The attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych have experience handing DWI, reckless driving, and vehicular manslaughter cases in New Jersey. Call our attorneys to set up a free consultation today by calling (609) 616-4956.