Having represented hundreds of NJ residents arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, I know what drivers accused of DWI are up against. As an experienced New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyer and former municipal prosecutor, I also have the background to understand how to successfully defend many driving while intoxicated cases. What I can’t change is the public’s opinion of convicted drunk driving offenders.
That became quite evident the other day when I noticed the results of a survey recently conducted by the American Automobile Association’s Mid-Atlantic region. More than 60 percent of the respondents to the AAA Mid-Atlantic Web poll voted in favor of installing a mandatory breathalyzer ignition interlock on the vehicle of any convicted DWI offender.
This type of interlock device requires the driver to blow into a device not unlike the Alcotest breath testing machine used by the New Jersey State Police as well as other law enforcement agencies across the Garden State. If the device detects that the driver’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) is above 0.05 percent the vehicle cannot be started.
But the surprising part of the poll was that the question asked if even first-time offenders should be required to use the in-car breathalyzer. Yes, was the answer given most often by 390 participants in the July AAA poll. Here are the results:
- 238 (61 percent) voted yes
- 59 (15 percent) voted no
- 93 (24 percent) voted only for second and subsequent offenses
Although many states have instituted mandatory ignition interlocks for people convicted of repeat DWI offenses, New Jersey still leaves this up to the sole discretion of the presiding judge, even for convicted first-time offenders. Current New Jersey law allows a judge in a DWI case to impose the following sentences on those convicted of drunk driving:
— First DUI offense: Installation of interlock device for six months to one year
— Second DUI offense: Installation of interlock device for one to three years, or a two year suspension of registration privileges — Third DUI offense: Installation of interlock device for one to three years as a condition of restoring your driving privileges, or a 10 year suspension of registration privileges
Because these sentences are left up to the court, it is all the more important to retain the services of a qualified and experienced New Jersey DWI attorney. I always remind people that the penalties of a drunk driving conviction not only can be severe, but a conviction can adversely affect an individual’s future.
Poll: No second chances for first-time DUI offenders, NewJerseyNewsroom.com, 30 July 2009