NJ Drunk Driving News: Stiffer DWI Penalties May Not Discourage Motorists Who Drive While Intoxicated

While some may say that we are still in the dark ages of combating drunken driving on New Jersey’s roadways, others argue that DWIs and drug DUIs have been reduced to acceptable levels. Few will agree exactly on the course to take from this point on, but as a New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyer, I’d say it’s a fair assumption that many of the motorists arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription medication would never have considered themselves impaired.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that some drivers have broken the law knowingly, but these days quite a few individuals find themselves on the receiving end of a drunken driving summons or even arrested for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Whether one is expecting to be charged with DWI or not, there are very stiff penalties for driving drunk in the Garden State.

Recently, critics are claiming that after years of increasing fines and penalties, as well as public awareness campaigns, sobriety roadblocks and saturation patrols, there appears to have been little decrease in the overall number of DWI and DUI arrests on New Jersey’s roadways.

In 2009, there were reportedly 27,838 drunken-driving arrests in this state, fewer than any year in the entire decade now past. According to statistics from the New Jersey State Police, that figure represents a three-percent decline from the previous year. Based on information from various government authorities, the number of drunken driving arrests has held pretty much at the same level for nearly 10 years. The peak, according to news reports, occurred in 2007 when arrests nearly hit 30,500.

Federal grant monies are constantly being funneled to state and local police departments across New Jersey totaling millions of tax dollars to put more police officers on the street over the holidays. Although the idea is to crack down on drunk drivers, some say these DWI campaigns only scare off responsible adults and hurt local businesses such as restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol.

From the government of police agencies, they say that the added patrols and DWI checkpoints are worth the extra tax dollars — typically $5,000 per department — to cover officer overtime, gasoline and other expenses. That $5,000 can, according to news reports, pay for extra 30-plus six-hour shifts for each police department that receives the funding. On the whole, that equates to greater than 3,000 hours of additional DWI patrols in the Bergen and Passaic area, for instance during the most recent grant period, which ran from early December through the New Year.

Penalties aren’t reducing DWIs, NorthJersey.com, December 21, 2010