The School Year Starts Soon; Beware Extended Penalties of a DWI in a School Zone

In deference to the children who may be crying salty tears at the prospect of the start of yet another school year, summer is officially drawing to a close and classes are beginning very soon all over the Garden State. But the end of summer, for children at least, is not necessarily the end of the fun for many adults around the state. Whether near the Jersey Shore or farther inland, as kids are going back to school, those motorists who allegedly drive drunk will continue to face enhanced penalties when those intoxicated driving offenses take place in a school zone.

With summer winding down fast, primary and secondary school students are returning to reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, yet the consequences for drunken drivers remains more or lass the same as it was around Memorial Day. As the warm weather gives way to the cooler days of fall, it may be instructive to remind individuals who might think about taking a drink or two before hitting the road — whether or not kids are actually in school or not — that municipal cops as well as state police are still on the lookout for motorists who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs (drug DUI).

We find over and over again that many people who end up arrested for DWI or DUI in a school zone are surprised by the increased penalties associated with such an offense. These situations usually crop up when a driver is convicted of intoxicated driving, which took place within 1,000 feet of school property. It is important to note that some individuals accused of DWI do not realize that it makes little difference whether school was in session at the time of the initial offense or if children were even present during the alleged occurrence.

As Monmouth County drunk driving defense attorneys, my team of skilled DWI trial lawyers is well versed in the New Jersey DWI-DUI legal statutes. Numerous potential clients who seek our counsel include individuals who have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, impaired by doctor-prescribed medication, or otherwise were found impaired by an illicit drug or controlled dangerous substance (CDS).

Whatever may be the situation, most drivers who find themselves convicted of DUI-DWI will likely be facing some rather unpleasant penalties. Because of the legislation known as “Filomena’s Law,” on the books since 1999, those convicted of DWI near primary and secondary schools will find the standard drunk driving penalties even more costly; which is all the more reason to enlist the assistance of a qualified drunk driving lawyer before stepping foot into a courtroom.

This law in question essentially states that penalties for a drunken driving conviction will be enhanced when the offense takes place within 1,000 feet of a school zone. Interestingly, said “school zone” may be a property owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school, or even the local school board itself, so long as it is used for school-related purposes.

We are often asked by those individuals who have been accused of such offenses whether or not their defense might be improved because they were unaware of having been in a school zone at the time of the offense. Surprising to many, the prosecution need not prove that the defendant was aware that he was within 1,000 feet of school property. Because of this, and since there is no requirement that children be present at the time of said offense, the arresting officer and the prosecutor who argues for the state essentially have what defense attorneys often refer to as “24/7” blanket coverage for all school zones and school crossing areas where arrests for drunken driving are concerned.

Those individuals who find themselves in the unenviable situation of being charged with a school zone-associated DWI should seriously think about retaining skilled DWI-DUI attorney to better understand the charges against them, the penalties following a conviction and their particular rights under New Jersey law. With jail time an unfortunate possibility as well, setting up an appointment with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer can result in very valuable insight into one’s drunk driving case as well as the possible outcomes when fighting these serious charges.