How Will a New Jersey DWI Conviction Affect Your Driving Privileges?

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In what circumstances will the State of New Jersey suspend or revoke your driver’s license for a DWI (driving while intoxicated) conviction? Can you take steps to keep that from happening to you? If DWI has put your driving privilege at risk, speak to a New Jersey DWI attorney.

The still-new DWI law that took effect in New Jersey in 2019 eliminates driver’s license suspensions for most first-time DWI offenders, but it requires all convicted driving while intoxicated offenders to have ignition interlock devices (IIDs) installed in their personal vehicles.

(An ignition interlock device is essentially a breathalyzer unit that is attached to a vehicle’s ignition. It can immobilize the vehicle if it measures too much alcohol on the driver’s breath.)

Are Driver’s Licenses Suspended for Repeat DWI Offenses?

But what if you are convicted for a second or third DWI offense in New Jersey? Will your driver’s license be suspended? And if your license is suspended, will you be allowed to have a restricted driver’s license? If you continue reading, these questions will be answered below.

The new law eliminates license suspensions for first-time DWI offenders convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level below 0.15%. Upon conviction, these drivers must install an IID in their vehicles for up to a year and breathe into it before they can drive.

If a driver measures a BAC level at or above 0.05%, an IID device will not allow the vehicle to start.

When Can a First DWI Conviction Trigger a License Suspension?

Additionally under the new law. first-time DWI offenders who are convicted for driving with a BAC level at or above 0.15% may still be penalized with a four-to-six month driver’s license suspension followed by the installation of an IID for another nine to fifteen months.

A second driving while intoxicated offense in ten years – without regard to the driver’s BAC level – exposes a defendant to a driver’s license suspension for up to two years and requires IID installation for two to four years.

And a third DWI offense within ten years may be penalized upon conviction with an eight-year driver’s license suspension followed by IID use for another two to four years. Convicted DWI offenders also must pay a restoration fee to have a driver’s license reactivated after a suspension.

First-time DWI offenders need to know that if their BAC measurement meets or exceeds 0.15% at the time of the arrest, or if the charge involves drugs rather than alcohol (whether the drugs were prescribed, over-the-counter, or illegal), they will face a temporary license suspension.

Why Do the Courts Order IID Installations?

Ignition interlock devices have been ordered in some New Jersey DWI cases for more than a decade, but before the new law took effect, only repeat offenders or those whose BAC level met or surpassed 0.15% were ordered to install the devices.

New Jersey is now one of 34 states that require every convicted DWI or DUI offender to install an IID in his or her personal vehicle. Research indicates that IIDs are more effective at preventing offenders from driving than license suspensions because an IID can disable a vehicle.

Over the last 11 years, ignition interlock devices have prevented impaired New Jersey drivers from starting a vehicle more than 7,000 times. The state’s Motor Vehicle Commission provides a list of authorized IID vendors and the service centers that are authorized to install the devices.

A convicted DWI offender may lease the device from a vendor for about $75 a month. The offender also pays for the device’s installation. IIDs record and store breath test data. The device must be returned to the installer every 60 days for recalibration.

How Many Fatalities Do Impaired New Jersey Drivers Cause?

Even with some of the strictest DWI laws in the nation, driving while impaired is still a serious concern here in New Jersey. In 2018, 125 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in our state, a slight increase over the 121 alcohol-related traffic fatalities reported in 2017.

Every New Jersey driver should understand what may happen to your driving privilege if you are convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in our state. The most important thing to remember is that if you are charged with DWI, a good New Jersey DWI lawyer may be able to help.

If Your License is Suspended, Can You Get a Restricted License?

While many states offer drivers with suspended licenses the opportunity to acquire a restricted license, New Jersey does not make restricted licenses available when a driver’s license is suspended for a driving while intoxicated conviction.

A DWI arrest does not necessarily result in a DWI conviction. A prosecutor must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a driver was in fact under the influence while driving (or within a short time after being stopped by the police) in order to convict that driver of DWI.

Are Licenses Still Suspended for Drug-Related DWI Convictions?

Drinking and driving is not the only reason why New Jersey drivers can be charged with DWI. If you drive in this state while impaired by any drug other than alcohol, a 7-to-12-month driver’s license suspension is mandatory upon conviction along with the other standard penalties.

For a second drug-related driving while intoxicated conviction, the defendant’s driver’s license may be suspended for two years.

What If Your License is a Commercial Driver’s License?

If you hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), everything discussed above is superseded by federal law. If you have a commercial driver’s license and you are convicted of DWI, DUI, or refusal to take a breathalyzer test, federal law requires a one-year commercial driver’s license suspension or a three-year suspension if you were hauling hazardous materials at the time of your arrest.

A second driving while intoxicated conviction for a commercial driver triggers the revocation of commercial driving privileges for life, even if the driver was in his or her private vehicle and not driving commercially at the time of the arrest.

What is the Best Way to Avoid a DWI Arrest or Conviction?

Of course, “Do Not Drink and Drive” is still the best strategy for avoiding DWI convictions and the penalties that accompany those convictions. If you plan to enjoy drinks with friends away from home, plan some transportation as well.

Still, if you make a judgement error – or if you are wrongfully charged with driving while intoxicated and you are innocent – a good New Jersey DWI attorney can challenge the state’s evidence and witnesses on your behalf.

Related Blog Posts

What Are the Consequences of a DWI Conviction in New Jersey?

Will I Automatically Be Deported After a DWI Conviction in New Jersey?

Steven W. Hernandez, Board-Certified DUI Attorney

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