Articles Posted in Effect of Arrest or Conviction

New Jersey DWI law identifies multiple levels of penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI), primarily based on the number of convictions a defendant has during the ten years prior to the current alleged offense. A third or subsequent offense includes a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in jail. Municipal courts in New Jersey are authorized by law to allow “periodic service” of a jail sentence, meaning that a person does not have to serve their entire sentence continuously. After a municipal court sentenced a defendant to periodic service of a mandatory 180-day sentence for DWI, prosecutors appealed. They argued that periodic service is not available for a third DWI offense. The Appellate Division agreed with the prosecutors’ argument in July 2018 in State v. Anicama.

Municipal courts in New Jersey have original jurisdiction over motor vehicle and traffic offenses, with some exceptions. The periodic service statute provides that municipal courts may allow a person to serve a jail sentence “periodically on particular days, rather than consecutively.” The person gets credit for each day spent in jail, or for fractions of days “to the nearest hour actually served.”

The penalty for a first DWI offense may vary based on a defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC), with enhanced penalties for BAC of 0.10 percent or more. For a second offense within a ten-year period, the penalty is enhanced further regardless of BAC. A third or subsequent offense carries the greatest possible penalty, including a $1,000 fine, a minimum 180-day jail sentence, a ten-year driver’s license suspension, and mandatory use of an ignition interlock device. According to the DWI statute, a court may decrease the jail sentence by up to ninety days if the defendant completes an approved drug or alcohol inpatient treatment program.
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A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey carries multiple penalties, including driver’s license suspension, a fine, and possible jail time. The severity of the penalties depends on the number of prior convictions or, in the case of a first offense, the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The penalties for DWI and refusal to submit to breath testing can also include mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) after reinstatement of a defendant’s driver’s license. Two bills currently pending in the New Jersey Assembly would expand the use of IIDs in DWI and refusal cases. One bill would reduce the period of license suspension for DWI offenses with the use of an IID. The other bill would require IID installation while a DWI or refusal sentence has been stayed pending appeal. If you have questions about the latest laws that relate to charges you might face, reach out to a New Jersey DWI attorney.

An IID is a device attached to a vehicle’s ignition mechanism. The device tests a sample of the driver’s breath to determine BAC, and prevents the vehicle from starting if BAC is above a certain level. Under current state law, municipal court judges have the discretion to order a defendant convicted of a first DWI offense to install an IID at the end of the mandatory license suspension period, provided that the defendant’s BAC was less than 0.15 percent. If BAC was 0.15 percent or higher, IID use is mandatory. For any first-time refusal conviction, IID installation is also currently mandatory. For either offense, the period of court-ordered IID use may be anywhere between six months and one year. Defendants must bear the cost of installing and maintaining an IID.

A bipartisan group of New Jersey legislators introduced A2089 in the Assembly in January 2018. The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the bill in late November, and referred it to the Appropriations Committee. A companion bill, S824, received a favorable committee report in September. The bill would amend the DWI and refusal statutes, changing the provisions for license suspension and requiring IID installation in some cases.
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A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey can result in several kinds of penalties, including jail time, a fine, and suspension of one’s driver’s license. Another penalty, which is found in a separate part of state law, involves the payment of a surcharge for three years after a New Jersey DWI conviction. An agreement among multiple U.S. states regarding traffic offenses also gives New Jersey the authority to impose penalties for DWI convictions that occurred in certain other states. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled in Koscinski v. N.J. Motor Vehicle Comm’n on a challenge to the imposition of a surcharge in New Jersey based on a DWI conviction in Illinois.

Surcharges for DWI convictions are imposed by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) in a process that is separate from DWI prosecutions in municipal court. A first or second conviction results in a total surcharge of $3,000, payable over three years. The statute identifies this as a surcharge of $1,000 per year, but it is often payable in monthly payments of $83.33. A third conviction, if it occurs within three years of a prior conviction, results in a $4,500 surcharge, also payable over three years. Surcharges are also imposed in the same amount for refusal convictions. If a single incident results in convictions for both DWI and refusal, however, the statute states that only one surcharge will be imposed.

The Koscinski case raised the question of whether the MVC may impose a surcharge for an out-of-state conviction. New Jersey is member of the Interstate Driver License Compact (IDLC), an agreement among U.S. states to share information about traffic offenses. The IDLC also allows states to impose administrative penalties for traffic violations that occur in another member state. New Jersey law requires the MVC to “apply the penalties of the home State or of the State in which the violation occurred” in cases involving DWI and other offenses. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are members of the IDLC. New Jersey joined in 1967, while Illinois, the other state involved in Koscinski, joined in 1970.
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A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey can lead to driver’s license suspension, fines and surcharges, and jail time. It can also have legal consequences beyond those established by the state’s motor vehicle laws. It is important to understand all of the ways a DWI charge or conviction can impact your life. The New Jersey Appellate Division recently ruled on an appeal from a decision by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) to place an individual on the state child abuse registry, partly because of an alleged DWI. The decision in DCPP v. H.V. addresses issues commonly found in DWI cases, such as blood alcohol content (BAC) and observations of outward signs of intoxication.

Under New Jersey law, DWI is a motor vehicle offense punishable by jail time, a fine, and license suspension. A first offense involving BAC of at least 0.08 percent, but less than 0.10 percent, has the least potential penalty, which may include a fine of $250 to $400 and up to thirty days in jail. A third or subsequent offense, regardless of BAC, carries the greatest possible penalty, including a $1,000 fine, a minimum term in county jail of 180 days, license suspension for ten years, and mandatory use of an ignition interlock device. Defendants may also be subject to surcharges payable to the state, based on factors like the number of prior offenses.

The H.V. case involves a case of suspected DWI that led to an investigation by the DCPP. State law defines “neglect of a child,” in part, as “failure to do…any act necessary for the child’s physical…well-being.” It requires “any person having reasonable cause to believe” that a child’s parent or guardian has committed abuse or neglect to make a report to the DCPP. Within twenty-four hours of receiving such a report, the DCPP must initiate an investigation. Within seventy-two hours, it must forward the report to the child abuse registry maintained at the division’s headquarters.
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New Jersey DWI (driving while intoxicated) and related offenses are not considered criminal offenses. Instead, they are classified as traffic offenses, meaning that the maximum penalties, while still potentially quite onerous, are generally not as severe as in many criminal cases. A case involving alleged DWI can include criminal charges when injury or death occurs, but a defendant may also be subject to criminal prosecution merely for driving while their license is suspended (DWLS) when they have prior DWI-related convictions. The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division recently considered what prior convictions are necessary for the criminal DWLS statute to apply in State v. Dougherty.

New Jersey’s criminal DWLS statute imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in jail. The statute identifies two scenarios based on the reason for the license suspension and the defendant’s prior record.
1. An ordinary DWLS charge can become a criminal charge if the license suspension is because of a conviction for first-time DWI or refusal to submit to breath testing, and the defendant has a prior conviction for DWLS during the same period of license suspension. This provision appears to require two prior convictions: one for DWI or refusal, and one for DWLS.
2. The criminal statute may also be invoked if the reason for the license suspension is a second or subsequent DWI or refusal conviction. This provision does not require a prior conviction for DWLS, but does require multiple prior DWI or refusal convictions.

The defendant in Dougherty was charged with criminal DWLS under the second scenario identified by the statute. He was convicted of DWI in August 2015, resulting in a three-month license suspension. In November 2015, he was convicted of refusal and sentenced to a seven-month license suspension. A police officer pulled him over while driving in December 2015, during the suspension period resulting from the refusal conviction. A grand jury indicted him for criminal DWLS.
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In New Jersey, driving while intoxicated (DWI) and most related offenses are not considered criminal in nature. They are instead classified as traffic or motor vehicle offenses. Driving while license suspended (DWLS) is usually a motor vehicle offense, punishable by a fine, driver’s license suspension, and potential revocation of vehicle registration. In certain circumstances, however, DWLS is a criminal offense. Prosecutors may charge a defendant with both forms of DWLS for a single alleged incident. A defendant convicted of both offenses recently argued on appeal that the trial court should have merged the penalties. The New Jersey Appellate Division agreed earlier this year in State v. Koerner. While it affirmed the conviction, it remanded the case to the lower court for resentencing.

Under New Jersey’s motor vehicle laws, a first DWLS offense carries a fine of $500. If the offense occurs during a period of license suspension for a DWI or refusal conviction, the penalty also includes vehicle registration revocation. For a second offense, the penalty includes a $750 fine and up to five days in jail. The penalty for a third or subsequent offense is a $1,000 fine and up to ten days in jail. If a second, third, or subsequent offense occurs within five years of a prior DWLS conviction, the defendant is also subject to registration revocation. Municipal courts typically hear motor vehicle cases.

The state can charge a person with criminal DWLS in two situations: (1) when the individual has a prior traffic conviction for DWLS during a period of license suspension resulting from a DWI or refusal conviction; or (2) when the alleged offense occurs while the individual’s license is under suspension for a second of subsequent DWI or refusal conviction. In both cases, it is a crime of the fourth degree, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in county jail. New Jersey’s sentencing statute allows sentences of up to eighteen months for crimes in the fourth degree. The New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division is the venue for most criminal cases.
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A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey results in mandatory driver’s license suspension. The duration of the suspension varies based on the number of prior DWI convictions, including convictions from other states. New Jersey has adopted the Interstate Driver License Compact (IDLC), which provides for “reciprocal recognition” of driver’s licenses, as well as the applicability of other state’s laws when considering prior convictions for certain traffic offenses. In order for a DWI conviction in another state to count as a prior conviction in New Jersey, the other state’s statute must be substantially similar to New Jersey law. A defendant in a license suspension case recently appealed a finding by the state government that counted a conviction under New York law as a prior conviction. The New Jersey Appellate Division’s ruling in Markowiec v. N.J. Motor Vehicle Comm’n reviewed the standards for determining when an out-of-state conviction counts under New Jersey law.

A first DWI offense in New Jersey includes a three-month suspension. If a first-time DWI defendant has blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.10 percent, however, the statute requires suspension for seven months to one year. A second offense includes a two-year license suspension, regardless of BAC. For a third or subsequent offense, the period of license suspension is ten years.

The IDLC states that certain out-of-state convictions, including DWI, may be considered by New Jersey officials for the purpose of license suspension or revocation. The DWI statute includes a similar provision, but it also includes an exception. A defendant can have an out-of-state conviction excluded if they “can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence” that the out-of-state offense arose from “a violation of a proscribed blood alcohol concentration of less than 0.08%.” This exception was the basis for the defendant’s appeal in Markowiec.
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New Jersey law regarding driving while intoxicated (DWI) imposes progressively harsher penalties for multiple convictions. A defendant might not face heightened penalties, however, through “step-down” provisions in New Jersey statutes and caselaw. If enough time passes between convictions, a second offense might be treated as a first offense for sentencing purposes. A step-down might also apply in other situations, such as if a prior conviction involved a guilty plea without representation by an attorney. Convictions that have been modified through the post-conviction relief (PCR) process may also be subject to a step-down. Courts must weigh a wide range of factors in determining how to sentence a second, third, or subsequent conviction. The Appellate Division took on several of these factors in a recent decision, State v. Terpstra.

The New Jersey DWI statute imposes increasingly harsh sentences for second DWI offenses and third or subsequent offenses. The statute directs courts to treat a second conviction as a first conviction, for the purposes of sentencing, if the first offense occurred over a decade before the second. Likewise, if a third offense occurs more than 10 years after the second, the court shall sentence it as a second offense. The relevant date is when the offenses occurred, rather than the convictions.

Representation by counsel in prior DWI cases may also affect whether the step-down provisions apply. In 1990, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an important ruling, State v. Laurick. The court held that courts may not impose sentencing enhancements if a prior conviction involved a non-counseled guilty plea. In other words, a second DWI conviction must be treated as a first at sentencing if the defendant pleaded guilty in the first case without a lawyer. A third offense would be sentenced as a second.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) can affect a person’s life in nearly countless ways. Many potential consequences are not contained in the DWI statute itself. A recent decision by the New Jersey Appellate Division, N.J. Div. of Child Protection and Permanency v. T.S., demonstrates how a DWI case, even when it doesn’t result in a conviction, can have far-reaching consequences—in this case, charges of child endangerment.

New Jersey defines DWI in simple terms. A person commits an offense when they drive while “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol, or when they drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. The statute focuses solely on the act of driving and the fact of “influence” by drugs or alcohol. A person’s ability to drive safely, even after a few drinks, is therefore not a factor under New Jersey law. While public safety is one of the central purposes of the DWI statute, the state is not required to prove that a defendant actually posed a direct danger to anyone.

Other areas of law are also concerned with the danger posed by certain activities. New Jersey law defines child abuse or neglect, in part, as “unreasonably inflicting or allowing to be inflicted harm, or substantial risk thereof.” In other words, behavior that poses a substantial risk of harm to a child could legally constitute child abuse or neglect, even if the child in question suffered no actual harm. This definition of child abuse or neglect applies to civil proceedings regarding child welfare, including the removal of a child from the home on a temporary or permanent basis. Unlike DWI proceedings, civil cases only require proof by a preponderance of evidence, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Courts in New Jersey encourage both prosecutors and defendants to explore alternatives to taking a case to trial. Most prosecutions in New Jersey do not go to trial, ending instead in a plea agreement, diversion, or dismissal. Defendants charged with criminal offenses may qualify for pretrial intervention (PTI), which allows them to “avoid ordinary prosecution by receiving early rehabilitative services or supervision.” Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is not a criminal offense under New Jersey law, meaning that PTI is not available for defendants charged with DWI in municipal court. The related offense of driving while license suspended (DWLS), however, can lead to criminal charges in certain situations. Information about PTI may therefore still be useful during a DWI case. A recent decision by the New Jersey Appellate Division, State v. Torres, reviews the criteria for PTI.

New Jersey law establishes PTI as a means of focusing on the “least burdensome form of prosecution possible” for qualifying defendants. Eligibility is generally limited to defendants with no prior convictions in New Jersey, nor in any other federal or state court. The statute does not define additional eligibility requirements, other than a presumption against eligibility for defendants charged with public corruption or domestic violence. Prosecutors may recommend a defendant for PTI based on various factors, including the severity of the alleged offense, the defendant’s age, and circumstances that suggest that ordinary prosecution would not be effective at deterring future illegal activity or serving justice.

The PTI statute can be found in Title 2C of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, also known as the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. The DWI statute, on the other hand, is found in Title 39, Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation. This title deals with motor vehicle offenses like speeding, reckless driving, and DWLS, in addition to DWI. Proceedings involving motor vehicle offenses are similar to criminal proceedings in most ways. Prosecutors are still required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, for example, but defendants charged with DWI are not entitled to a trial by jury. In certain situations, DWLS is covered by a criminal statute, such as when a person allegedly drives during a period of license suspension that resulted from a DWI conviction.

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