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.