How New Jersey DWI Laws Apply to Out-of-State Drivers

New Jersey’s driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws apply to everyone who drives on this state’s public roadways, regardless of whether they reside in New Jersey or have a driver’s license issued here. A driver from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or any other state is subject to all of New Jersey’s traffic laws and most of the penalties. A recent decision by the New Jersey Appellate Division addressed a defendant’s claim that this state’s requirement of an ignition interlock device (IID) should not apply to him since his driver’s license is not from New Jersey. The court denied this claim. In doing so, it examined how New Jersey’s DWI laws apply to people from outside the state.

The penalties for a DWI conviction in New Jersey vary based on the number of prior convictions someone has had during the preceding decade. For a first-time conviction or the first conviction in more than a decade, the penalties may vary based on a person’s blood alcohol content. New Jersey also makes it a motor vehicle offense to refuse to submit to breath testing when a law enforcement officer suspects DWI. Penalties for a second, third, or subsequent refusal conviction are harsher than those for a first conviction. Under recent amendments to state law, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) is required for all DWI and refusal convictions.

A conviction for DWI or refusal results in a period of driver’s license suspension. Driver’s licenses are a function of state law. The New Jersey Legislature cannot authorize license suspension for someone from another state who is convicted of DWI or refusal in New Jersey if they do not have a license issued by New Jersey. The state can, however, revoke a person’s driving privileges in this state. This state is a member of the Driver License Compact (DLC), which is an agreement among states to exchange information about motor vehicle offenses and to enforce penalties for out-of-state convictions. Under the points system used by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, for example, an out-of-state moving violation results in two points.

The DWI statute uses the word “person” in its definition of the offense. This word can have different meanings in law, depending on the context, but it usually includes all individuals, regardless of their state of residence. The refusal statute uses the term “any person.” The Appellate Division, in the case mentioned above, cites a 2004 decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court that interpreted “any person” to mean “all natural persons,” including those who do not have New Jersey driver’s licenses.

The defendant in the Appellate Division case pleaded guilty to a refusal to submit to breath testing. The municipal court dismissed the other charges, including DWI, as part of the plea agreement. The sentence included a seven-month revocation of the defendant’s New Jersey driving privileges and a requirement of thirteen months of IID installation. The defendant appealed the IID requirement, arguing that it should not apply to him because his driver’s license is from Pennsylvania. The Appellate Division rejected this argument, largely based on the broad definition of “any person.”

Evan Levow is a DWI attorney who represents New Jersey residents and out-of-state drivers charged with alleged DWI in New Jersey municipal court. He can help you understand your rights and options, guide you through the court process, and prepare the best possible defense for your case. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team, please contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717.

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