NJ Legal Defense: Penalties Abound for Garden State Motorists Convicted of Driving While Intoxicated

Being stopped by the police here in New Jersey for a traffic-related offense is not uncommon, nor out of the ordinary. With more than eight million residents and a population density of nearly 1,200 people per square mile, the odds of someone you know getting a traffic ticket in the next 12 months is actually quite high. What many people do not expect, when their “time” comes, is that they could also receive a summons for DWI as well.

The fact of the matter is, anyone who takes a drink prior to hitting the roads anywhere across the Garden State runs the risk of being arrested for drunken driving. Not that every driver who gets pulled over for a broken taillight or cracked windshield will be charged with driving while intoxicated, but the chance does exist. The odds of being accused of driving under the influence rises with the amount of beer, wine or hard liquor one may have consumed before getting behind the wheel.

As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, I and my colleagues have extensive experience representing motorists who have been arrested for drunken driving, as well as drug DUI. Drug DUI, it should be explained, is similar to DWI, except it applies to an individual who is suspected of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of prescription medication or illicit drugs. Marijuana, cocaine and crystal meth come under the latter heading.

Whether you live in Hudson, Essex, Passaic or Bergen County, if you are convicted of DWI or drug DUI, severe penalties can be attached to that conviction. Someone who has been issued a traffic ticket or a summons for DWI, DUI or breath test refusal, is well advised to contact a qualified legal professional to better understand his or her rights, as well as familiarize themselves with the potential fines and fees associated with a drunken driving conviction.

These penalties include mandatory driver’s license suspension and at least $4,000 in fines, court fees and other related assessments. Keep in mind that here in New Jersey it is illegal for the prosecution to offer any kind of “plea bargain” to a DWI offender. Because of this, a person so accused cannot rely on any so-called relationship with individuals with the municipal prosecutor’s office or the local courthouse.

Penalties imposed by the court following a DWI conviction include both monetary fines and sometimes jail time, depending on the circumstances. The following is a condensed listing of some of the penalties that a convicted drunken driving defendant can expect. (For anyone hoping for leniency in the way of a provisional license following a DWI conviction, this is a non-starter; be aware that, by New Jersey statute, there are NO work-related licenses or hardship permits allowed in this state.)

First-time Drunken Driving Offense (Under 0.08% BAC)
For a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of less than 0.08 percent (or no reading available), fines can range from $250 to $400; plus additional assessments of $351; a $3,000 “out-of-court” surcharge (billed at $1,000/year or divided up on a monthly basis); as well as separate auto insurance premium surcharge from one’s car insurance company; Jail time can be as much as 30 days; plus a mandatory 12-48 hours participation in the intoxicated driver’s resource center (IDRC); driver’s license suspension up to three months.

First-time DWI (0.10% BAC or higher) and Drug DUI Offenses For a DWI at 0.10 percent BAC or more (or a drug DUI offense), fines can range from $300 to $500; plus additional assessments of $351; a $3,000 “out-of-court” surcharge (billed at $1,000/year or divided up on a monthly basis); as well as separate auto insurance premium surcharge from one’s car insurance company; Jail time can be as much as 30 days; plus a mandatory 12-48 hours participation in the IDRC; driver’s license suspension no less than seven (7) months and up to one year.

Second DWI Offenses For a second drunken driving offense, fines can range from $500 to $1,000; plus additional assessments of $351; a $3,000 “out-of-court” surcharge (billed at $1,000/year or divided up on a monthly basis); as well as separate auto insurance premium surcharge from one’s car insurance company; Jail time can range from two days to three (3) months; plus a mandatory 48 hours of participation in the IDRC; driver’s license suspension of two years, or having an ignition interlock installed from one to three (3) years after license reinstatement.

Third and Subsequent DWI Offenses For a third and subsequent DWI offenses, penalties call for a fine of $1,000; plus additional assessments of $351; a $4,500 “out-of-court” surcharge (billed at $1,500/year or divided up on a monthly basis); as well as separate auto insurance premium surcharge; Jail time is mandatory — minimum 180 days or court may specify 90 to 180 days in IDRC, or approved alcohol or drug rehab program; driver’s license suspension of 10 years, or having an ignition interlock installed from one to three (3) years after reinstatement of driver’s license.

DWI “School Zone” Penalties Under New Jersey law, a convicted drunken driving offender can face enhanced penalties if the offense took place A) on or within 1,000 feet of any property owned or leased for elementary or secondary school use, or for use by the local school board; B) driving through a locally-designated school crossing; or C) driving through a locally-designated school crossing while knowing that youngsters are present.

New Jersey law requires a convicted first-time offender to pay a penalty fine of $500 to $800; jail time of up to 60 days; plus a license suspension of one to 2 years
Second-time offenders who are convicted for school zone violations can face fines of between $1,000 and $2,000; jail time of 96 hours (minimum) and up to 180 days; Driver’s license suspension of four (4) years; plus 60 days of community service.

Third-time offenders convicted of school zone DWI violations can face a fine of $2,000; jail time of 180 days (At the court’s discretion, 90 days of this 180-day sentence may be spent in an approved drug or alcohol treatment program); Driver’s license suspension of 20 years.