No one wants to deal with DWI penalties, and steering clear of this issue by arranging a designated driver or Uber is always a best-case scenario when you are drinking and need a ride somewhere else. But that best-case scenario doesn’t happen all of the time, and there are many cases where people may not even realize they are risking a DWI charge when they get behind the wheel.
If you’re facing such a charge, many factors can impact the penalties you might face if you’re convicted. Those include age, number of previous offenses, and the circumstances of the arrest.
When facing DWI charges, consider working with an experienced DWI defense attorney who can help you understand your options and plan a strong defense. To learn more about potential penalties for DWI charges in the state, keep reading below.
DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. Typically in New Jersey, adults of legal age are considered to be driving while intoxicated if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or higher.
However, there are instances where someone has been convicted of DWI without a BAC test or without a test that meets the legal limits. If the prosecution can demonstrate that you were drinking, seemed to be impaired, and were operating a vehicle in a reckless manner, it might be able to get a conviction.
The penalties you might face for a first-offense DWI charge depend on BAC levels. For any drunk driving conviction, you could face fines, imprisonment, license forfeiture, and other penalties.
A BAC just over the 0.08 limit could result in fines of $250 to $400 and potential imprisonment for up to 30 days. You also have to get an ignition interlock that doesn’t let your car start until you pass a BAC test and forfeit your license until the interlock is installed.
These systems can be costly and are required for 3 months. Another expense you face after conviction is a $1,000 insurance surcharge each year for 3 years. Convicted drivers must spend a minimum of 2 consecutive 6-hour days at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, which informs drivers of intoxication risk and evaluates the risk they pose to others.
Being caught driving with a BAC over 0.10 but less than 0.15 means you face the same penalties as above with an increase in severity for some. The fines go up to $300 to $500 and the ignition interlock must be installed for 7 months to a year. The maximum prison sentence, Intoxicated Driver Resource Center requirements, and insurance surcharges stay the same.
A BAC of 0.15 or higher means an increase in license suspension and ignition interlock requirements. Driver’s licenses may be suspended for 4 to 6 months, and ignition locks must be installed for 9 to 15 months.
Second-offense DWI charges typically mean more jail time. In many circumstances, a judge may not sentence jail time for a first offense. A second offense can mean you spend 48 hours to 90 days in jail.
Fines and ignition lock times increase, and community service is added as a penalty. Drivers also have to complete an evaluation, referral, and program requirements with the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
A third offense means penalties get very serious. A $1,000 fine and an 8-year license suspension are unnegotiable. Imprisonment of 180 days is required, but up to 90 days of this sentence may be spent in rehabilitation. Drivers also must install an ignition lock for 2 to 4 years after the suspension period.
Refusal to submit to a BAC test results in facing the same set of penalties as a DWI offense. The first, second, and third offense penalties require time in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, fines, and ignition interlock. Too many offenses results in license suspension, and you also still pay the insurance surcharges. Drivers are usually better off submitting to a BAC test because the court sees them as more cooperative, but drivers can’t be forced to test.
Underage drivers face the addition of underage drinking and possession of alcohol charges and may face penalties for driving with any BAC level over 0.01.
The duration of penalties is usually shorter and includes postponement of driving privileges for 30 to 90 days and up to 30 days of community service. Young convicted drivers must also complete an alcohol and traffic safety education program.
DWI cases and the penalties they result in are complex. Added to this is the fact that campaigns to stop drunk driving may sometimes result in overzealous enforcement and wrongful arrest. New Jersey’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over program attempts to dissuade drunk driving with highly visible enforcement. It’s possible that individuals who are innocent of DWI can get caught up in such programs, and it’s always important to protect your rights and freedom with a strong defense.
Get help from the experienced DWI defense attorneys at Hernandez Law Firm, P.C., by calling 732-286-2700. We work to ensure your rights are protected.