Here in the Garden State, penalties for driving while intoxicated are nothing to sneeze at, even for first-time offenders. For those individuals who have never before run afoul of the law, the realization that a conviction for DWI can eventually run into the thousands of dollars (when considering the fines, court fees, assessments and hiked-up auto insurance premiums required by law). Depending on the facts of the case, most especially the level of alcohol in one’s bloodstream, fines themselves can range from $250 to $500, with jail time also a possibility.
As New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys, my colleagues and I have a great deal of experience in representing those motorists who have been accused of intoxicated driving or drug DUI, the latter of which can range from impairment due to taking doctor-prescribed medications to ingesting an illegal controlled dangerous substance (CDS), such as cocaine, meth, marijuana or some other narcotic drug.
License suspension is also a common consequence of a DWI or drug DUI conviction. For professional drivers this can mean the loss of a job or a serious change in one’s employment circumstances. But what many people don’t realize, at least when they first get arrested and charged with driving under the influence, is that there are currently no alternatives to having one’s operator’s license revoked or suspended. If the thought doesn’t enter the mind of a convicted DWI offender, the first time he or she needs to get somewhere will be a stark reminder of the severe consequences provided by the state.
Many defendants initially only consider the monetary effect of a drunken driving conviction, but it is the license suspension that can often cause some of the most tangible hardships for many drivers. The simple act of going to work, picking up groceries or driving one’s children to school become a legal impossibility in the face of a revoke driver’s license. And don’t be fooled, there are no alternatives to not having a motor vehicle operator’s license, short of hitching a ride with friends and family for the duration of the suspension.
Being Garden State DWI attorneys, we are often asked by clients if they can get what is sometimes referred to as a “work license” or “hardship license” following a conviction for DWI. While our approach is not to allow a defendant to even reach that point, the answer, plain and simple, is No, there are no provisions here in New Jersey for any kind of alternative driving permit once a motorist has lost his or her license.
Although a number of states throughout the country do, in fact, offer some kind of limited-use license option for those individuals who have been barred from driving for a period of time, New Jersey law currently states that a motorist cannot drive in the state until his driving privileges have been restored. This applies mainly to those people who have been convicted of intoxicated driving caused by consumption of alcohol, which means that defendants in drug DUI cases may have a brighter outlook following a conviction.
There are certain situations where a conviction for a drug-related driving offense may result in a waiver granted by the court that can negate the license suspension; however, this may occur only when hardship can truly be shown. This, again, is not the case for those convicted of DWI. While it is unlikely that the state of New Jersey will allow so-called work or hardship operator’s licenses following a drunk driving conviction, recent legislation involving changes to the DWI statutes could substitute license suspension for the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), but that has yet to be seen.
It goes without saying that losing one’s driver’s license due to a guilty verdict in a DWI case can have far-reaching effects, not only on the defendant, but also his or her relatives, close friends and local community. As New Jersey DWI attorneys, my firm is dedicated to assisting those accused of drinking and driving. Although the law holds that driving is a privilege, we understand that the reality of modern life makes driving almost a necessity. If for that reason alone, it is essential to seek a qualified drunk driving defense lawyer to learn about your rights and the legal options going forward.