Tougher New Jersey Drunk Driving Laws Pushed for by State Senate

Repeat drunk driving offenders may face greater fines and jail time if New Jersey State Senate President Richard Codey gets his way. Intoxicated drivers accounted for nearly 30 percent of New Jersey’s fatal car crashes in 2007, according to State Police records, and this statistic is one of the driving forces behind the latest initiative.

Being a New Jersey DWI and DUI defense lawyer, I am familiar with the lack of teeth in some parts of DWI law. This bold legislation calls for increasing fines and extending or adding jail time for certain drunk driving offenses, all of which could go a long way toward reducing DWI-related traffic deaths and injuries. Hopefully, this will be a benefit to everyone traveling on New Jersey roadways and not result in added harassment of law abiding citizens.

Motivated by a recent DWI injury accident, Senate President Codey is mainly targeting motorists who repeatedly drive drunk, and has proposed mandatory jail time for some offenders. A package of several bills, scheduled to be introduced in June, would increase penalties for a variety of drunk driving offenses.

Those caught with a 0.20 blood alcohol content (BAC) — more than twice the legal limit — within five years of their last DWI conviction would face 180 days of mandatory jail time. Under current law, only three-time offenders can receive this penalty.

For those persons caught driving drunk while their driver’s license is under suspension for a previous DWI offense, the new law calls for six to 12 months in jail. And don’t think if you’re not drunk you’ll get a pass — even sober drivers who are caught two times driving on a suspended license due to a DWI offense would face up to a year in jail.

These are stiff penalties compared to what is currently on the books. At this time, there is no jail time for people caught driving with a suspended license. First offenders face a $500 fine and a possible six-month extension on their current license suspension. The current maximum punishment — for those caught three or more times — is a $1,000 fine and up to 10 days in county jail.

Codey made his point when he asked, “How can we tell someone caught driving with a suspended license that their punishment is another suspension?” He likened current law to catching your child sneaking out their bedroom window while they are grounded, and then sending them back to their room with the window still open.

If you or someone you know is facing drunk driving charges, The Law Offices of John F. Marshall is fully staffed with experienced attorneys who will represent you in a court of law. Call us at 1-877-450-8301 for a free initial consultation.

Codey proposes tougher penalties for repeat drunken drivers, NJ.com, May 24, 2009