In seeming reaction to the recent sentencing of Shaun P. Campbell, the 40-year-old East Rutherford resident with 16 convictions for driving while intoxicated and nearly 80 related license suspensions to his name, the New Jersey media and public are apparently fed up with any individual having multiple drunk driving convictions on his or her record. As a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer, I know what these folks are going through.
As a drunk driving defense attorney, I also know that some people are less cautious than others and never consider the implications of driving drunk, even if it means just a couple beers. This is why I encourage my friends and family to always have a designated driver for those times when a celebration becomes too exuberant.
According to a recent editorial, the media may be calling for more strict sentencing and harsher laws to keep repeat DWI offenders off public roads. Campbell, who is now going to jail for almost five years as a result of his most recent DWI-related traffic accident, will also have to pay more than $9,000 in fines. Campbell’s latest license suspension means he won’t be eligible to drive legally until he is 81 year old.
As Mr. Campbell’s case demonstrates, the law had been unable to keep him off the road. Now the question people are asking themselves is how can the legal system keep people like Campbell from driving illegally again?
One solution is lengthy jail terms for repeat offenders. Legislators may feel that harsh sentencing is the only way to prevent repeat drunk driving offenders and those who demonstrate little respect for the law from operating a vehicle.
Currently, drivers convicted of DWI can be sentenced up to 30 days for a first-time offense. A second offense carries a prison term from 48 hours to as much as 90 days, while a third DWI brings a 180-day sentence (which can be reduced with community service). New Jersey also requires multiple DWI offenders to have a breathalyzer-ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles under certain circumstances. These interlock devices prevent the vehicle from being started until the driver blows into a breath test device which must register a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading below the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
The shear strength of the public’s outcry for stronger drunk driving laws has resulted in a bill currently working its way through the New Jersey state legislature that would amend the current law to require first-time offenders to install one of these devices after being convicted of having a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or above. Ocean County Assemblymen James W. Holzapfel, Brian E. Rumpf and David W. Wolfe are among the co-sponsors.
Stiffen penalties for DWI offenses, APP.com, September 22, 2009