Drunk driving laws are in place throughout New Jersey. These laws prohibit all driving while under the effects of drugs or alcohol, carrying potentially high penalties. If you were arrested for drunk driving, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer about your case.
The Hamilton, NJ drunk driving defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those accused of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and other serious driving offenses in New Jersey. For help with your case and to schedule a free legal consultation, contact our law offices online today or call us at (690) 800-2942.
New Jersey’s Drunk Driving Statute
New Jersey’s drunk driving law is called “driving while intoxicated” (DWI). Some states use the term “driving under the influence” (DUI), which is essentially an interchangeable term, not a different type of crime. Under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50, it is illegal to drive while under the effects of drugs or alcohol.
Most drivers are familiar with the “legal limit” of .08%. This number is a “blood alcohol concentration” (BAC), which is a measure of the amount of alcohol in your blood. If drivers have a BAC of .08% or higher, they are already considered “under the influence” when driving, and they can be charged with drunk driving. A BAC of .10% or higher has increased penalties.
However, drivers can still be charged with DWI for a BAC under .08%. If you are “intoxicated” from drugs instead of alcohol, it is also illegal to drive. Alternatively, you can still face alcohol DWI charges if you are too drunk to drive, even if your BAC is under .08%. Cases like this commonly arise when you are charged with DWI after refusing a breathalyzer test or if you have a borderline BAC but still caused an accident or drove unsafely because of alcohol in your system.
You can also be charged with DWI if you were not actively driving. If you are “in control” of your car but not driving, you can still face DWI charges. If your keys are accessible or your car is turned on, police can still arrest you and charge you with DWI, even if you were pulled over and asleep. Alternatively, the New Jersey statute authorizes charges against a non-driver who allowed a drunk driver or high driver to drive their car.
Penalties for DWI in New Jersey
Drunk driving charges in New Jersey can result in substantial fines. In addition, each level of DWI offense can result in other potential penalties, including jail time.
DWI has two “tiers” in New Jersey. The “low tier” punishes drunk driving for general intoxication or a BAC under .10%. The “high tier” punishes drunk driving with a BAC of .10% or higher for drugged driving. These different levels of the offense carry different penalties for a first-time offense, but repeat offenses carry more serious penalties regardless of which tier of offense you commit.
Low-tier, first time DWI offenses are punished with…
- Fines of $250-400
- A 3-month driver’s license suspension
- Up to 30 days in jail
High-tier, first time DWI offenses are punished with…
- Fines of $300-$500
- A 7-month to 1-year license suspension
- Up to 30 days in jail
A second DWI offense within 10 years is punished with…
- Fines of $500-$1,000
- A 2-year license suspension
- 48 hours to 90 days in jail
A third or later DWI is punished with…
- A $1,000 fine
- At least 180 days in jail (or 90 days in jail and 90 days in inpatient rehab)
- A 10-year license suspension
Every DWI offense also comes with other penalties and potential penalties, in addition to those listed above:
- Potential supervised probation
- Potential community service
- Screening and lessons at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
- Potential use of an ignition interlock, which will prevent your car from starting unless it receives a clean breath sample
- Potential revocation of your vehicle registration
- Yearly surcharges from the Motor Vehicle Commission of $1,000 per year for 3 years after a first or second offense ($3,000 total) or $1,500 per year for 3 years after a later offense ($4,500 total)
These penalties give the judge wide latitude to assign your final sentence. Because of this, you should always have an attorney represent you at your sentencing hearing.
Although the penalties are upgraded for repeat offenses, a DWI only counts as a “second DWI” or a “third or subsequent DWI” if it occurs within 10 years of the last DWI. If you go 10 years without a DWI, you should be sentenced as though this new charge was your first DWI, avoiding automatic upgrades. However, the judge could still use older DWIs in a decision to give you the maximum penalties for another “first-time” DWI.
Hamilton, NJ Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one is facing charges for DWI in Hamilton, NJ, call our Hamilton Township drunk driving defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Our attorneys have experience handling thousands of DWI cases for residents of New Jersey and out-of-state visitors charged with DWI in NJ. For help with your case, call to schedule a free consultation with our lawyers today at (609) 625-3006, or contact us online.