Repeat DWI Offenders Take Note: Penalties for Second and Subsequent DWIs Could Get More Strict

Traveling the Garden State Parkway, coastal highways or city streets while legally intoxicated could be much more of a gamble in coming years for those who already have a drunken driving conviction under their belt. As New Jersey DWI-DUI defense lawyers, my firm understands the serious nature of any drunk driving arrest, not to mention the conviction that could follow. But for those already convicted of a first-time drunk driving offense, the next time might be even more expensive than it is today.

According to news reports, the New Jersey legislature is considering a piece of legislation that would increase the fines and other penalties well beyond what are on the books right now. As experienced drunk driving attorneys and skilled trial lawyers, we know that even with large-scale anti-DWI campaigns, frequent roadside sobriety checkpoints and high-saturation DWI patrols, the chances of someone being stopped and arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol are pretty good.

Whether one lives in Monmouth, Ocean, Sussex or Middlesex County; or if a driver is simply traveling through the Garden State, state and municipal police officers are always on the job looking for potentially drunk drivers. And while a patrolman cannot stop a car simply on a hunch that a driver is impaired by alcohol or prescription drugs, there are more than enough potential traffic and vehicle offenses happening on a regular basis to give a policeman any number of excuses to pull a drunk motorist over.

The news earlier this summer was interesting in that some second-time DWI offenders could find themselves shelling out more money following a conviction in years to come. Based on a news article, one bill in particular may end up criminalizing a second-time DWI if that second arrest happened within two months of the last one. This would mean harsher penalties for some repeat offenders whether they are a passenger car driver or a commercial trucker tagged with another drunken driving offense.

Currently, the statutes in New Jersey relegate second-time DWI offenders to the same old “traffic offense” category (which also limits the maximum bail following such a charge at $2,500). The current traffic offense designation allows motorists who have been charged with drunken driving to continue to operate a motor vehicle while awaiting their court date.

More importantly, Bill A3057 as introduced earlier this year would not only bump up fines for a second offense DWI, but it would turn a DWI traffic offense into a fourth-degree crime. The potential penalties for some repeat offenders could include up to 18 months in prison and maybe up to $10,000 in fines. Additional driver’s license suspension time would also likely occur for those convicted of DWI-DUI if the new law goes into effect.

Apparently, the harsher penalties proposed by the bill’s sponsors grew out of a drunken driving case that took place in Vineland, NJ. In that instance, a driver already awaiting his court date for an earlier DWI arrest was stopped and charged on five subsequent occasions within as many weeks prior to that initial hearing. New Jersey Assemblyman John Burzichelli stated that the changes proposed in the bill would address situations like the Vineland case, which represented the unacceptable problem of repeat, high-frequency drunken driving offenders.

New Jersey repeat DUI offenders on notice, LandlineMag.com, June 6, 2013