What are the Penalties for DWI in New Jersey?
New Jersey drinking and driving laws are some of the harshest and most severe in the country. A major contributing factor is that there are no hardship or work licenses allowed during your suspension period. Moreover, DUI trials in New Jersey are before a municipal court judge and defendants are not given the advantage of plea bargaining or a trial by jury. These elements, combined with the fact that these cases are supposed to be resolved within 60 days from the date of the arrest, put defendants in a very tough and precarious position where they are normally fighting an uphill and often losing battle. However, unlike a lot of other states, a conviction for drunk driving in New Jersey is not a criminal conviction and therefore it will not come up on a criminal background check. However, since it is actually considered a motor vehicle violation it will permanently remain on your Drivers Abstract for life and cannot be expunged.
Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, New Jersey sets different penalties depending on the breath reading and how many prior DWI offenses you have:
- First Offense Conviction: A first offense DWI allows the court the most discretion and flexibility because the penalties often entirely depend on the breath reading and circumstances of the stop. A suspension period can drastically vary between three (3) months and one (1) year. Moreover, there is the possibility of 30 days in jail.
- Second Offense Conviction: The penalties for a second offense DUI increase greatly. There is a two (2) year loss of license, mandatory two (2) day jail term that can normally be credited through IDRC and community. Unlike a first offense, the judge has no discretion in determining the suspension time.
- Third or Subsequent Conviction – The consequences for a third or subsequent are all the same and obviously carry the harshest penalties under the statute. Among other things theses include a ten (10) year loss of license and a mandatory six (6) months in county jail.
Drunk driving charges are, without a doubt, the toughest kind of municipal court cases in this state. The fact that there is no plea bargaining allowed means the only way to beat your charge is to win at trial or present the court with a blatant material problem which demonstrates that the state clearly cannot meet their burden of proof. Moreover, the discovery alone for each case is voluminous and complicated and routinely requires independent expert analysis in anticipation of trial. Therefore, it is always in your best interests to have the counsel and expertise of a defense attorney to navigate the difficulties of your case.