How Federal Law Could Affect a New Jersey DWI Case

The United States has a federal system of government, in which state governments have the authority to pass laws with regard to some issues, and the federal government in Washington handles other issues. Criminal law is one of many areas where state and federal governments might overlap, but driving while intoxicated (DWI) is almost always handled at the state level. A DWI may be subject to prosecution under federal law in some situations, and various federal agencies have established penalties for certain people with DWI convictions. Congress has also found ways to influence state laws relating to DWI.

Overview of New Jersey DWI Law

In New Jersey, the state must prove that a driver was either impaired as a result of alcohol or a controlled substance, or had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. Penalties for DWI increase based on the number of prior convictions or the driver’s BAC. A driver who is under 21, the state’s legal drinking age, could be charged with underage DWI if they have a BAC of 0.01 percent or more. New Jersey also makes it an offense to refuse to submit a breath sample for BAC testing when a police officer has probable cause to suspect DWI, which can result in license suspension.

DWI on Federal Property

Federal authorities may be able to prosecute DWI under federal law in certain situations:

– A person who operates a “common carrier”—defined to include most passenger trains, ships, and airplanes, as well as buses that travel across state lines—while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance commits a federal offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
– If an alleged DWI occurs within the “special territorial jurisdiction” of the United States, which includes property owned by the federal government, the Federal Assimilative Crimes Act (FACA) allows federal prosecutors to charge the offense under the law of the state in which the property is located.
– Special regulations apply to alleged DWI on property owned or managed by the National Park Service.
– Alleged DWI by military personnel may result in a court-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, while civilians accused of DWI on a military base may face prosecution under FACA.

Federal Influence on State DWI Laws

Every fiscal year, the federal government apportions federal highway funds among the states. Federal law requires the government to reduce the amount provided to any state that does not enact certain laws related to alcohol, highway safety, and DWI:

– A national minimum drinking age of 21;
– A maximum legal limit of 0.08 percent BAC;
– A maximum legal limit of 0.02 percent BAC for drivers under the age of 21; and
– Laws establishing minimum penalties for repeat DWI offenders.

Federal Regulations Affected by State DWI Convictions

Various federal agencies have enacted rules and regulations restricting the ability of people with DWI convictions to obtain certain licenses, such as a pilot’s license or a commercial driver’s license. Federal aviation regulations also allow the denial of a license for refusal to submit to chemical testing.

A New Jersey DWI case can have a major impact on your life, with possible consequences extending beyond license suspension or jail time. You need to take action to protect your rights by consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced DWI attorney. We have dedicated 100% of our law practice at Levow DWI Law, P.C. to DWI defense. Contact us online or at (877) 975-3399 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Recent Decisions in Several New Jersey DWI Appeals Demonstrate that Actual Driving Is Not Always Required to Sustain a DWI Conviction, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, June 19, 2015

Court Rules on Right Against Self-Incrimination, Right to Jury Trial in New Jersey DWI Case, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, April 27, 2015

Out-of-State DWI Convictions Count as Prior Convictions in New Jersey DWI Cases, Appellate Court Holds, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, April 9, 2015

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