New Jersey DWI Defense Update: Minors in a Car Make for Worse Drunk Driving Penalties

As professional litigators, I and my skilled legal staff here at the law offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have been practicing law collectively for nearly a century. Because of this extensive experience in and out of the courtroom, I and my team understand New Jersey’s DWI-DUI statutes and we know how the law affects the outcome of drunken driving cases from Passaic and Bergen County to Atlantic, Ocean and Cape May County. When asked, we usually tell prospective clients that fighting a drunk driving charge is usually a wise course of action.

Having represented hundreds of defendants, many of whom have been charged with offenses such as DWI, drug DUI, impaired motor vehicle operation and breath test refusal, we know which cases are going to be tough to win and which may even be thrown out on technicalities. Having a qualified legal professional on your side can not only be reassuring, but it can help you avoid the most severe of DWI penalties should the court rule against you.

One of the more serious charges for a driver who is caught drinking and driving has to do with minor children in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Just as operating a motor vehicle within 1,000 feet of a school zone while drunk, can result in much greater penalties following a possible conviction, having kids with you while DWI-DUI is similarly a bad combination.

New Jersey state law, specifically N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.15, calls for an additional six month of license suspension should a motorist be convicted of the charges. This shouldn’t be too surprising since state legislators, like most parents, place a high value on our youngsters, especially those who are not old enough to make decisions for themselves. This is why a driver convicted of being intoxicated behind the wheel will face greater penalties if children were present inside the vehicle at the time of the DWI-DUI offense.

In addition to longer potential driver’s license suspension, if convicted the court may order the defendant to pay additional monetary fines and surcharges, perform a certain number of hours of community service, and even be sent to jail for a period of time simply for having a child or children in the car or truck following a drunk driving incident.

The penalties following a conviction for DWI with minors aboard comes to mind whenever we hear of a parent, relative or professional driver who was allegedly drunk as he or she transported kids in a car, truck, taxi or bus. Because the presence of the kids typically bring an additional “disorderly persons” charge, the disincentives to driving under the influence of alcohol with kids in the car is usually significant enough to make most people think twice, that is if they knew about the potential penalties.

Take, for example, the relative recent news article that described a 35-year-old woman who was arrested by police after officers were alerted to a Cadillac sitting idle at the intersection of Naughright Road and Rte 46 a little before 10pm. Approaching the vehicle, the patrolmen saw the driver, her husband and four kids all together in the car. Police officers believed that the woman to be impaired by alcohol.

Suspecting this, police asked the woman to perform several of the standardized field sobriety test; she apparently failed those tests as the police arrested the driver and took her to police headquarters. While there, she reportedly refused to submit to a breath sample. Ultimately, the driver was charged with an array of offenses, including DWI with a minor passenger, breath test refusal and reckless driving, among others. She was eventually released to a sober driver pending a court appearance.

Police blotter: Mother charged with DWI in Mount Olive, liquor theft in Hackettstown;; April 4, 2013

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