Ignition Interlocks: The Current Reality for Many Convicted New Jersey Drunken Driving Offenders

It’s safe to say that most people who have more than a few decades under their belts may have seen and experienced quite a bit in their life so far. That said, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that being arrested by a police officer for anything would be a relatively scary proposition for almost anyone, not the least an average law-abiding citizen. The last thing that anybody wants is to be branded as is a scofflaw, or worse, a criminal.

But being arrested for a DWI or drug DUI is exactly what thousands of Garden State residents experience every year in this state. Having been stopped for a traffic violation can rattle most any motorist, but to find oneself being placed in the back of a patrol car and taken to police headquarters for a breathalyzer test and possible drunken driving charges, well that can be a downright frightening experience.

Not only can a DWI-DUI arrest be unnerving, but having been charged and then facing the serious consequences of a drunk driving conviction the potentially expensive penalties that go along with a guilty verdict can weigh on a person. As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, my colleagues and I truly understand what the average person is facing when that squad car door slams shut and the ride to police headquarters begins. Maybe you won’t be charged with driving while intoxicated, but many people are and those odds aren’t comforting.

When it comes to penalties, the monetary fines, fees and assessments can run into the thousands of dollars, but loss of driving privileges and potential jail time are also possibilities depending on the circumstances. For many convicted drunk drivers, the trials and tribulations of a DWI conviction don’t necessarily end with the restoration of one’s driver’s license. That’s where ignition interlock devices (or IIDs) come into play.

These days, even a first-time DWI offender has a good chance of being ordered to have an IID installed on his vehicle as a condition of sentencing. It can apply to drivers found guilty of having as little as 0.05 percent blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) in their bloodstream (and some legislators in Trenton have been pushing for every convicted DWI offender to have one of these devices installed). But for anyone convicted of DWI with a BAC of 0.15 percent or over, the law mandates that an IID be installed.

Regardless, the reality of being saddled with an IID for a period of time after one’s driving privileges are restored is quite evident, and certainly not cheap. To add more expense to an already costly DWI conviction, the defendant is required to pay for the device to be installed and maintained on his or her car for the duration. This can amount to almost $100 a month for lease and maintenance costs.

And everyone has a chance of being required to have an IID following a DWI conviction. Take, for instance, the news of an Ocean City councilman who pleaded guilty this past summer to drunk driving charges. Based on reports, Councilman Scott Ping received his sentence in the Egg Harbor Township Municipal Court where the judge ordered his driver’s license suspended for seven months, as well as requiring the man to pay over $500 in fines and to put in 12 hours at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.

In addition to those penalties, because his BAC was found to be 0.156 percent, Mr. Ping was ordered by the court to install and use an ignition interlock device for six months following the return of his driver’s license.

And Ping could arguably be any of the hundreds of average people who find themselves convicted of a first-time drunken driving charge. For his part, Mr. Ping was arrested following a single-car crash back in March on a portion of Ocean Drive between Longport and Ocean City. The 64-year-old councilman was injured in the crash and accepted his sentence wearing a neck brace due to the accident.

While Mr. Ping’s prior driving record was essentially clean — with no prior DWI offenses and only one minor traffic infraction from more than a dozen years prior — the penalties he received amounted to a rather expense lesson in why being arrested for drinking and driving is not something anyone should look forward to.

Ocean City Councilman Pleads Guilty to DWI, Patch.com, June 15, 2013