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Making Sense of New Jersey’s Recent Changes in DWI Law

Car driver holds an alcoholic beverage while driving at night

In August 2019, Governor Murphy signed legislation that changed the existing DWI penalties. Realizing that lengthy suspensions have no deterrent effect on eradicating drunk driving, the new law – effective January 1, 2020 – was intended to lessen the length of the suspension for first time DUI offenders, allowing individuals convicted of driving while intoxicated to continue to drive with mandatory ignition interlock devices (IID).

Lawmakers realized that lengthy suspensions leave drunk drivers, including first-time offenders, with no means to get back to work, pay their surcharges and hefty fines, or take care of basic needs. They determined that ignition interlock devices are more effective in deterring drunk driving and give people the chance to support their families and to carry on with necessary day-to-day responsibilities.

The Takeaways of the Changes to the DWI Laws in the State of New Jersey

Under the old law, the higher your BAC, the lengthier the license suspension. Under the new law N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, if you’re convicted of a DWI, the rules are as follows:

  • If you’re a first-time offender with a BAC of 0.08% to 0.10%, you will be required to have an IID installed in your vehicle for three months.
  • If you are a first time or subsequent offender with a BAC of 0.10% to 0.15%, you will be required to have an IID installed in your vehicle for 7 to 12 months.
  • If you’re a first-time offender with a BAC above 0.15%, you will have your license suspended for 4 to 6 months, and must have an IID installed during and after the suspension for 9 to 15 months.
  • The old law mandated a one-year driver’s license suspension for failing to install a required IID. The new law increases that suspension to 18 months.

What Exactly Is An Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device is a small, handheld breathalyzer installed in your car to prevent users from starting their vehicle after drinking alcohol. It requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece on the device before starting or continuing to operate the vehicle. If alcohol is detected, the car will not start. A convicted individual must have the device installed on any vehicle they drive.

As part of the regulation, the Motor Vehicle Commission in the State of New Jersey is responsible for certifying all approved interlock devices as well as for licensing the ignition interlock installers. The Motor Vehicle Commission is required to imprint a notation on the defendant’s license stating that the person shall not operate a vehicle unless it’s equipped with an IID, a passive enforcement designed to alert a law enforcement officer that the driver is only permitted to operate such a vehicle. You can find more information about breath alcohol ignition interlock devices here.

Repeat Offenders & Other Special Circumstances

For the most part, the new law has a beneficial impact for first time offenders. However, not everyone charged with a DUI receives the same consequences. For instance, first-time offenders who refuse to submit a breath test will also have their license suspended until an IID device is installed. Subsequent or repeat offenders are not given the same privileges and face substantial license suspensions in the state of New Jersey. Under the new law, second offense DWI is punishable by a license suspension of between one and two years, while a third DWI is punishable by an eight-year suspension of all driving privileges.

In the past, the law allowed for enhanced punishment for those driving while intoxicated in a school zone. However, the amended law has done away with this provision.

What About Driving Under the Influence of a Substance = Drugs?

If found guilty of a DUI involving the use of a habit-producing drug or narcotic, you will not be given the option of having an IID device installed instead of a license suspension. An IID can only monitor alcohol, not drug use, in which case, your license will be suspended from anywhere between 7 to 12 months. Keep in mind that the implied consent law in the State of New Jersey does not currently extend to someone suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana or controlled substance. You can find more information about implied consent here.

If You Move Out of State or Become Licensed in Another State

If you used to live in New Jersey and got a DWI requiring an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, but you now live out of state, you are not in the clear. According to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, your license is still suspended in New Jersey, and failure to get the IID installed may keep you from getting a license in your new state of residence.

If you are licensed and live in another state, the state of New Jersey cannot force you to install an ignition interlock device in your car after a DWI conviction. However, the state of New Jersey may notify your home state. You will need to check with your state Department of Motor Vehicles to determine the specifics of your case. The state of New Jersey can, however, require you to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle that you drive within the state of New Jersey. Since the ignition interlock requirement is ordered by the court, even if you live out of state, getting the device installed is the smart choice. Unless you show proof to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission that you got the device installed, your driving privileges in New Jersey will remain suspended, a red flag on the National Driver Register. As a result, your state will most likely not allow you to renew your license until you clear the New Jersey suspension. You can find more information about suspensions and restorations in the State of New Jersey here.

The Law Office Of Michele Alcalde Can Help You Get A Fair Chance

If you have been charged with a DWI or DUI offense in New Jersey, you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of your present circumstances. The Law Office of Michele Alcalde can help you go through the right steps and make sense of the charges. Michele has the experience to handle these complex cases and to answer the complicated nuances of this aspect of the law, especially for foreign nationals who are not yet United States citizens or are here on a variety of Temporary Work Visas. With caring and knowledgeable representation, many offenders can get DWI or DUI charges reduced and, in some cases, even dismissed. Find us at our social media accounts or call us at 732.766.1407. We’re here to help you receive a fair chance regarding your DWI or DUI charge.

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