New Jersey DWI Defense Update: Law Now Requires Breathalyzer Ignition Interlock for First-time DWI Convictions

New Jersey has added another weapon to its arsenal of drunk driving laws, making even first-time DWI convictions more onerous for those caught driving while intoxicated. As a New Jersey drunk driving defense attorney and motorist myself, I’ve seen the aftermath of accidents caused by impaired drivers. At the same time, I also understand how even a single DWI or drug DUI conviction can haunt a person for many years to come.

The latest law coming out of Trenton last week now makes it mandatory that anyone convicted of a drinking and driving offense must have their vehicle fitted with a breathalyzer ignition interlock device. Not only does the stigma of a DWI conviction cost an individual in court fines and increased insurance premiums, now there is the added embarrassment and inconvenience of starting one’s vehicle. All of which makes it imperative to seek the services of a DWI defense lawyer.

According to reports, legislation has now been passed and signed into law by acting Governor Sweeney to add mandatory ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses in New Jersey. Known as “Ricci’s Law” in honor of the Egg Harbor Township teen killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver, the bill was signed into law on Thursday, January 14.

The now-mandatory ignition interlocks incorporate a breathalyzer-type device that only allows a car to be started is the driver is sober. When attempting to start the vehicle, the driver must first blow into the device. If the interlock registers above a specific blood-alcohol content (BAC) — usually greater than 0.02 percent to 0.04 percent — the vehicle is rendered inoperable.

Under the measure, any person convicted of drunk driving will be required to install an ignition interlock device in any motor vehicle principally owned by the offender, though first-time offenders would have to have a BAC of at least 0.15 percent. In such cases, the court will require first-time offenders to install the interlock for a period of six months to one year.

The previous law imposed driver’s license suspensions on all persons convicted of drunk driving. That penalty is still in effect.

Under the new law, the interlock device will also be mandatory in all cases and will be required to be in effect during the period of time that the license is suspended. In addition, persons who are convicted of refusing the breath test also will be required to install an ignition interlock device.

Bill Requiring Ignition Breathalyzer For DUI Convictions Now Law, NJToday.com, January 15, 2010