Currently, in New Jersey, if you are convicted for the first time of driving while intoxicated, you could lose your driver’s license for up to a year. Each case is different, however, and the penalties for a DWI conviction can vary significantly.

For example, if a person is convicted of DWI within 10 years of a previous drunk driving conviction, then the penalties may include a two-year license suspension, jail time and the requirement to install an ignition interlock device. Under New Jersey’s “Ricci’s Law,” an ignition interlock could also be required if a driver is found to have a blood-alcohol content higher than 0.15 percent.

However, a bill now being considered by state lawmakers would change the penalties for DWI in New Jersey. The proposed legislation, which was approved by the New Jersey Senate back in June, would shorten license suspensions for first- and second-time offenders to 10 days, but also require those individuals to have ignition interlocks for up to six months.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the bill, claiming that most people convicted of DWI still end up driving on suspended licenses. Ignition interlocks are more effective in preventing drunk driving, the group claims.

Still, not everyone agrees with the proposed changes. The mother of the teenager for whom Ricci’s Law is named argued that the bill, if passed, would essentially give drunk drivers too many chances to re-offend.

In any case, New Jersey residents who have been accused of DWI should be aware of the possible penalties for driving on a suspended license. Such a conviction could result in heavy fines and a jail sentence of up to five years.

With so much at stake, it is important that individuals accused of DWI establish a legal strategy for defending against the charge.

Source: Press of Atlantic City, “State bill would expand ignition locks for DWI offenders,” Derek Harper, Dec. 28, 2013