First Offense DWI

Loss of Driving Privileges

There is a mandatory loss of driving privileges for a DWI first offender and, to make matters worse, there is no hardship or work license in New Jersey. If you get convicted of a DWI with a BAC ranging between 0.08% to 0.99% or if there was no valid breath reading, the license loss is 3 months. For defendants with a BAC of 0.10% or greater or who were under the influence of drugs, the range of license loss will be between 7 months to 1 year. During the suspension period, the defendant may not operate a motor vehicle in New Jersey for any reason. If the defendant does operate a motor vehicle during the period of suspension imposed by the court, he or she will be subject to a mandatory jail sentence and certain other enhanced penalties for Driving While Suspended. If the operation of the motor vehicle occurs within a school zone, the jail sentence and other enhancements are even more severe. New Jersey law requires that defendants be informed of these consequences both orally and in writing by the sentencing judge after sentence has been imposed. The drunk driving statute, does not contain any guidance on how sentencing judges are to exercise their discretion in determining the length of a license suspension within the statutory range. As a result, judges make these decisions in New Jersey on an ad hoc basis. The general practice is for the judges to impose a minimum suspension unless there are aggravating factors associated with the case such as:

1. A motor vehicle accident resulting in property damage or personal injury to another;
2. The defendant has a prior offense for DUI, but must be sentenced as a first offender due to the age of the prior offense;
3. Evidence indicates that the defendant had extremely high blood alcohol concentration;
4. The defendant’s driving conduct was particularly reckless and endangered innocent people;
5. The defendant was aggressive with the police and was charged with related disorderly persons offenses;
6. Victims of the defendant’s conduct appear in court and request enhanced sentencing of the court during their victims’ impact statement.

If the defendant is a New Jersey licensed driver, the court will collect the driver’s license at the time of sentencing and forward it to the DMV. If the defendant’s driving privileges were in good standing prior to conviction on the DUI charge, the sentencing court will normally provide the defendant with a temporary license to drive from the courthouse directly back home. If the defendant does not hold a New Jersey license, the court will suspend the defendant’s right to operate a motor vehicle in New Jersey, but it cannot collect the defendant’s license. Accordingly, your attorney can ask the court to stay the loss of driving privileges of the out-of-state defendant for a sufficient period of time for the defendant to leave New Jersey. The New Jersey DMV will notify the defendant’s home state of the DWI conviction and they may take further action and suspend the defendant’s driver’s license. Every drunk driving suspension must be served consecutively to these types of pre-existing suspensions. In order to get your driver’s license restored in New Jersey, you will have to pay a $200 restoration fee and have new license issued after completing the terms and conditions of sentence.

Jail Term for 1st DWI Offense

A first offender may be subject to a jail sentence of no more than 30 days. As a practical matter, it is rare for a first offender to be sentenced to any term of incarceration. If the defendant’s conduct while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol has resulted in serious personal injury to someone other than the victim or extensive damage to property, the likelihood of a jail sentence becomes more probable. However, these serious cases are normally accompanied by indictable criminal charges and in such circumstances any jail term will be imposed in conjunction with the criminal matters. The decision as to whether to impose a jail sentence is in the complete discretion of the sentencing judge. There is no guidance in the statute as to when and under what circumstances a jail sentence should be imposed in a first offender case. In fact, no analysis of aggravating or mitigating factors is required prior to the imposition of any jail term in a drunk-driving case. If a jail sentence is imposed the judge will sometimes suspend the sentence conditioned on the completion of certain requirements which include payment of fines, community service, or the completion of IDRC.

Intoxicated Driver Resource Center

A first offender is required to spend a period of detention in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). The period must be for at least 12 to 48 hours. The classes will be held over two consecutive days and the defendant must remain in detention for at least six hours on each of these two days. The IDRC is authorized to charge a per diem fee of $75 for a first offender program. During the period of detention, the alcohol and drug counselors will interview the defendant and determine if he or she could benefit from continuing alcohol education. If this is the case, the counselors may refer the defendant for treatment for a term of up to one year. From an administrative standpoint, the defendant will be required to attend the IDRC located in his or her home county. When the defendant’s conviction occurs in another county, the IDRC will transfer the file to the proper office. If the defendant does not reside in New Jersey, the IDRC will provide him or her with a listing of facilities in the home city and state where the alcohol education detention period can take place. However, the out-of-state defendant will be required to pay program fees to New Jersey. If the defendant fails to appear at the IDRC, fails to pay the program fee or fails to complete an aftercare referral program, a report will be made to both the sentencing court and the Motor Vehicle Commission. A defendant who fails to comply with the IDRC is subject to a mandatory two-day jail sentence. The Motor Vehicle Commission will also continue the defendant’s suspension until the IDRC requirements have been satisfied.

Ignition Interlock Device

Ricci’s Law, which became law in January 2010, made the installation of an interlock device mandatory for a first offense depending on the facts. If you are convicted of a first offense DUI in New Jersey and the breath reading is less than 0.15% the imposition of an ignition interlock device is not mandatory but the judge may still impose the installation depending on the circumstances. If the BAC is 0.15% or more the defendant will be required to install the interlock device in their vehicle for a period of six (6) to twelve (12) months to be set by the court once your driving privileges are restored. Ignition interlock devices, which permit a motor vehicle to be started only when the driver is sober, offer a technically feasible and effective means of further reducing the incidence of drunk driving. The use of these devices was initiated in California in 1986 and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they are presently being used or tested in at least 37 states.

Fines and Assessments

Monetary Sanction

Required Amount

Statute

     

Fine

$250-$400

N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(1)(i)

Fine

$300-500

N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(1)(ii)

VCCB

$50

N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3.1

SNF

$75

N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3.2

DUI Enforcement

$100

N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.8

DUI Surcharge

$100

N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(i)

Court Costs

$33

N.J.S.A. 22A:3-4

Additional fine assessments

$6

N.J.S.A. 39:5-41

     

If the defendant’s BAC ranges from 0.08 to 0.99 or the defendant was under the influence of alcohol, the defendant will be subject to a fine ranging from $250.to $400. If the BAC is 0.10% or greater, or the defendant was under the influence of drugs, the fine range is $300 to $500. The sentencing judge may be inclined to impose a higher fine when one or more aggravating circumstances as mentioned earlier.