Intoxicated Driver Resource Centers and New Jersey DWI Convictions

A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey carries several different types of penalties. These range from administrative measures, such as driver’s license suspension, to more punitive actions like fines and possible jail time. Many defendants convicted of DWI must report to an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) to undergo an assessment and participate in services, such as educational programs about drug and alcohol addiction. Failure to attend as required results in jail time. The court must include detailed information about the IDRC and the defendant’s obligations in its judgment. The New Jersey Appellate Division recently remanded a DWI case to a lower court, finding that the court failed to include IDRC information as required by the DWI statute.

The penalties for a DWI conviction depend on two main factors:
1. The number of prior convictions in the past ten years; and
2. In the case of a first offense, or first in the past decade, the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at or near the time of their arrest.
Penalties increase for a second conviction within a decade and again for a third or subsequent conviction. A first offense can have greater penalties if a defendant’s BAC was 0.10 percent or higher, rather than merely above the “legal limit” of 0.08 percent. The IDRC provisions of the DWI statute mainly apply to first-time convictions.

Subsection (f) of the DWI statute directs the counties of New Jersey to establish IDRCs in accordance with guidelines from the state government. Their purpose is to serve “as community treatment referral centers and as court monitors of a person’s compliance” with the conditions of their sentence. Each county may operate its own IDRC, or several counties may have a regional center. Camden County has its own program, run by Camden County College. The state’s Intoxicated Driving Program oversees all of the county programs.

For a first DWI offense, the statute requires “a period of detainment” at the local IDRC for twelve to forty-eight hours during a two-day period, for a minimum of six hours each day. Camden County’s IDRC conducts a twelve-hour class, offered over two days in six-hour increments, as part of the program. It conducts screenings of participants during that time to determine their individual needs and may refer them for additional services. Participants must follow the IDRC’s directions regarding further treatment or other services. Under subsection (b) of the DWI statute, failure to do so results in a two-day jail sentence and driver’s license suspension.

A September 2020 decision by the Appellate Division addresses a trial court’s obligation to draft a judgment that states clearly what a defendant must do after they have been found guilty of DWI. The court noted errors by both the Law Division and the municipal court in their written judgments. Both courts found the defendant guilty of a first DWI offense, but both failed to include information about the IDRC requirement. It directed the lower court to revise the judgment.

DWI attorney Evan Levow represents people who are facing alleged DWI charges in the New Jersey municipal court system. He can help you understand your rights, discuss your options, and prepare the best defense for the charges in your case. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can assist you, please contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717.

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