DWI in New Jersey – License suspensions, jail, insurance surcharges and how your bodyfat affects your blood alcohol content (BAC)
With the holiday season upon us, the last thing anyone wants to think about is drunk driving. It is, however, a very important issue. New Jersey, similar to Pennsylvania, maintains strict drunk driving laws within the State. In addition to a license suspension, a drunk driver faces the possibility of up to thirty (30) days of jail for a first-time offense along with a mandatory minimum license suspension (See 39:4-50).
What is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI – aka drunk driving) in New Jersey
In New Jersey, a person is guilty of drunk driving (DWI) if he or she operates a car with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC of .08% or greater).
BAC is the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. The law refers to .08% BAC as legally drunk, but it is important to keep in mind that even if your BAC is below .08 consuming even a small amount of alcohol dulls your senses, decreases reaction time and hinders judgement, along with vision and alertness.
Blood Alcohol & Intoxication (Impairment) & Body Composition
If you consume any amount of alcohol and your driving is negatively impacted, you can still be convicted of drunk driving in New Jersey. It doesn’t take a lot of alcohol to get over the legal limit! For most men, it only takes 2-3 drinks to be at or above the legal limit of 0.08 and for women, less than 120 pounds, it can be as little as 2 drinks. It depends on a number of factors such as body weight, metabolism, age, body fat and muscle mass ratio.
For people equal in bodyweight and gender, those with lower body fat will have lower BAC’s than those with a higher percentage of body fat. Further, muscle holds more water than fat, so alcohol will be diluted more in one with more muscle tissue. The more muscle and less bodyfat you maintain, the better distribution in your body of the alcohol you drink, which means you need more alcohol to feel drunk.
Drugged DWI – New Jersey
In addition to alcohol, a person is DWI in New Jersey if he or she operates a car or motor vehicle under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogen, habit producing drug or any other drug (legal or illegal). This means that a person can be DWI in New Jersey if they are under the influence of even a prescription drug.
Allowing DWI Offense
In addition, unlike Pennsylvania, a person can still be convicted of a drunk driving offense if he or she allows another person to operate a motor vehicle when that person does so in violation of the drunk driving law. This means that if a person is drunk and you give them the keys to your car, and they drive it, you face the same penalties as a drunk driver.
Here is a summary of the drunk driving law penalties in New Jersey:
If a person’s BAC is .08 or higher, but less than .10%, or if the person allows another person to drive the vehicle with the same BAC, the penalties are as follows:
- A fine of $250 to $400
- Jail up to thirty (3) days
- License forfeiture until ignition interlock is installed for three (3) months
- A minimum of six (6) hours a day for two (2) consecutive days in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)
- An insurance surcharge of $1,000 for three (3) years
If a person’s BAC is .10, but less than .15 for a first offense, the fines are as follows:
- Fine of $300 to $500
- Jail up to thirty 30) days
- License suspension until ignition interlock is installed for seven (7) months to one (1) year
- Minimum six (6) hours for two (2) consecutive days in the IDRC
- Insurance surcharge of $1,000 for three (3) years
Finally, for a first-time offender whose BAC is .15 or higher, they must install ignition interlock device on a vehicle for four (4) to six (6) months and in addition keep the device on the vehicle for nine (9) months to fifteen (15) months after license restoration. Keep in mind that ignition interlock device is not free and, in moist cases, costs an additional $1,000 to $1,500 for installation and service.
A second time offender in New Jersey faces the following fines and penalties.
- Fine of $500 to $1,000
- Jail of at least forty-eight (48) hours to ninety (90) days
- Minimum of one (1) year of the two (2) year license suspension
- Completion of evaluation, referral, and program of the IDRC
- Thirty (30) days of community service
- An insurance surcharge of $1,000
- Ignition interlock device for a period of license suspension and two (2) years to four 4) years of license restoration
A second offense in New Jersey will not allow a person to obtain an ignition interlock device until serving the minimum one (1) year license suspension. This is very important because a first-time offender is still allowed to drive despite a conviction, whereas the second time offender is not permitted to do so.
THIRD OFFENSE – DWI New Jersey
Finally, a third offense in New Jersey faces
- a mandatory $1,000 fine,
- imprisonment of 180 days (mandatory minimum) and a Court may award, however, ninety (90) days credit toward the mandatory 180 days with drug treatment of alcohol inpatient care,
- an eight (8) year license suspension,
- thirty (30) days community service,
- completion of evaluation, referral and program at the IDRC,
- automobile insurance surcharge of $1,500 to $3,000,
- a three (3) year license suspension, installation of ignition interlock device for a period of license suspension and
- two (2) years to four (4) years after license suspension.
Ignition Interlock Device – Registration/Revocation
New Jersey takes ignition interlock device very seriously. Ignition interlock device measures a driver’s blood alcohol level and may be required for up to four (4) years following license registration after a DWI in New Jersey. Any person may start a motor vehicle equipped with an interlock device for safety reasons or to repair the device or the motor vehicle, but at that point, the convicted offender may not operate the vehicle if someone else starts it.
It is important to keep in mind that if a person starts a vehicle equipped with an interlock device and the convicted offender drives it, the person who started the vehicle may be charged with disorderly person’s offense.
Finally, a person convicted of drunk driving in New Jersey who is a parent or guardian and does so with a minor in the vehicle (17 years of age or younger), is guilty of disorderly person’s offense in addition to drunk driving. A person also forfeits the right to operate a motor vehicle for a maximum of six (6) months and must perform service up to five (5) days in addition to all drunk driving penalties.
Our criminal defense law firm wish you and your family a happy and safe holiday season!
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