Although most people know that they should never get behind the wheel after drinking, data shows that drivers often fail to follow the law. Statistics from 2020 reveal that 18.9% of survey respondents admit to driving while intoxicated at some level.
What you might not realize is that driving under the influence in New Jersey is taken quite seriously by law enforcement. Even first-time offenders face major penalties for drunk driving. To help you avoid these scenarios — and to show you that you absolutely need help from a DWI attorney if you’re arrested for drunk driving — let’s take a closer look at some of the penalties you could face for this crime.
Penalties For Driving Under the Influence in New Jersey
It’s important to note that New Jersey law prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle for any adult with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% or higher. For drivers under the age of 21, the threshold is 0.01% or higher. Don’t assume that just because it’s your first time being arrested for driving under the influence that you’ll get off with a slap on the wrist. As you’ll see below, the penalties for first-time offenders can be quite steep. Of course, if you’re found guilty of drunk driving multiple times, you could experience even more severe consequences. Below, we’ll break down the penalties.
First-Time DWI Penalties:
Typically, an adult driver with a BAC between 0.08% and 0.10% will experience license suspension for three months; license suspension can be extended to between seven months and one year if the first-time offender’s BAC is above 0.10%. However, recent changes to New Jersey law allow first-time offenders to have their licenses reinstated if they can prove they’ve installed an ignition interlock device in their vehicle and maintain it for anywhere from three months to one year.
First-time offenders with BAC levels above 0.15% will still have their licenses suspended for up to six months and will also be required to install an IID. Fines can range between $250 and $500, depending on BAC levels, as well as insurance surcharges.
First-time offenders are required to attend an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) program to complete 12 to 48 hours of education. Depending on the circumstances, first-time offenders could also spend up to 30 days in jail for driving under the influence.
Second DWI Penalties:
If you’re arrested for a DWI a second time, the penalties understandably become more serious, particularly if the second event takes place within a decade of the first arrest. Under those circumstances, your driver’s license will be suspended for up to two years. You could also face fines of $500 to $1,000 and be sentenced to jail time — anywhere from 48 hours to 90 days.
If arrested for a second DWI offense, you’ll also have to complete the IDRC program; this can be good news for some, however, because jail sentences may sometimes be completed through this program rather than in a county jail. That said, 30 days of community service may also be included in the list of penalties for second DWI offenses.
Third DWI Penalties:
While New Jersey laws have recently been amended to be a bit less harsh for some first-time and second offenders, the penalties associated with third and subsequent offenses remain largely the same as before.
It used to be that third-time offenders would have their licenses suspended for 10 years, but that penalty has now been reduced to eight years. However, you’ll face a mandatory $1,000 fine, a six-month mandatory jail sentence (of which no more than half can be served in an IDRC program), and up to 90 days of community service (which could count toward jail time).
In the end, the penalties you could face stemming from your DWI could largely depend on the circumstances of your specific case. But the reality is that even a first offense can have huge ramifications for your future. If you’ve found yourself facing a DWI charge, you need legal support to maximize your chances of a positive outcome. For more information on how we can help, please contact The Segalas Law firm today.