Hefty DWI-DUI Penalties Help New Jersey and Other States Punish Drunk Driving Offenders

These days, the monetary penalties for a DWI or drug-related impaired driving offense can be quite stiff no matter what state one lives in. But here in New Jersey even a first drunken driving carries with it such a significant financial impact for most people that they don’t soon forget that initial DWI arrest. As Garden State drunk driving defense lawyers, my colleagues and I have many decades of collective courtroom experience when it comes to defending New Jersey motorists accused of DWI-DUI, as well as drivers from other states.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, a first-time DWI offender can face upward of a $400 fine in New Jersey, depending on the results of his or her blood-alcohol content (BAC) measurement at police headquarters. We say this with the caveat that under certain circumstances a skilled attorney can sometimes get the court to suppress the breath test results, which may then help to mitigate these first-offender penalties.

It is important to note that if one were to up the ante by having a BAC measurement of 0.15 percent, the court will have no other choice than to include the requirement of an ignition interlock device following the license suspension period for those convicted of driving under the influence. These interlock devices also come with their own costs, which make their mandatory use in such cases expensive as well as inconvenient and, at times, embarrassing. To say the least, New Jersey has some of the more harsh DWI and DUI penalties, but drivers in all nearby states should consider carefully the potential downside of a DWI arrest.

Across the border in Pennsylvania, which has a three-tiered penalty system for drivers charged with driving while intoxicated, the penalties for similar DWI offenses seem somewhat more lenient for a first-time offender than here in Jersey. In fact, a driver arrested in that state, and whose BAC is found to be upward of 0.099 percent, can expect only a $300 fine and six months’ probation. This compares relatively favorably to the penalties over here, which can include possible jail time of up to 30 days (though this can often be avoided with the help of a qualified DWI attorney).

Over in Delaware a first-time offender may be looking at a $500 fine for the same level of intoxication, while in Virginia and Maryland a first-timer may be facing a wide range of monetary fines into the thousands of dollars — $2,500 and $1,000, respectively. Delaware’s non-monetary penalties for first-time offenders include up to six months in jail, as well as a mandatory alcohol evaluation and treatment program. (This is in addition to a one-year revocation of the defendant’s driver’s license.)

Down in Maryland, these first-time offenders can face one year in jail, plus an automatic 45-day suspension of their driving privileges. Farther south in Virginia, convicted first-timers face a five-day jail sentence ,as well as a 12-month license suspension and mandatory attendance in an alcohol safety training program.

Adding to prior DWI offenders’ woes is the sharing of motorists’ driving records between states. While this may not seem too troublesome for some individuals, those who have been convicted of DWI in one state, can end up being treated as a prior offender in the court of another state even though their arrest may have been be their first within the borders of that state.

Regardless of the situation, it is often the better part of valor to consult with an experienced DWI or drug DUI defense attorney before making one’s appearance before a judge. Since fines are only part of the equation — for example, increased insurance premiums often follow a drunken driving conviction – there is no reason not to speak with a skilled lawyer trained in New Jersey DWI and drug DUI law.

At my firm, we are often contacted by out-of-state motorists who have received summonses for impaired driving here in the Garden State. Our legal team can often appear in municipal court on behalf of an out-of-state driver to negotiate a plea. Considering the complications that an outstanding warrant for drunken driving or other traffic violations can have on an out-of-state motorist’s ability to renew his driver’s license in his home state, hiring a qualified New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyer can be very advantageous.

Some states are tougher than Pa. on drunken drivers, PottsMerc.com, September 3, 2013

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