New Jersey Governor Blocks Bill that Would Lessen Some DWI Penalties

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie rejected the Legislature’s effort to reform state law regarding penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in a conditional veto issued in late March 2015. A “conditional veto” allows the Governor to object to a bill as passed, while presenting proposed revisions or a replacement. The Legislature may then decide whether or not to approve the Governor’s changes. The bill, passed by both houses of the Legislature, would substantially reduce mandatory license suspension periods while increasing requirements for ignition interlock devices (IIDs). The Governor’s primary objection was apparently to the repeal of mandatory license-suspension periods.

The bill, A1368, was first introduced in the Assembly in January 2014. The Assembly passed it in June 2014, followed by the Senate in February 2015. A substantial portion of the bill addresses license suspension and IID requirements. The New Jersey DWI statute currently requires, for first-time DWI offenders, a three-month license suspension if a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 percent or higher but less than 0.10 percent, or a license suspension of seven months to one year if their BAC was 0.10 percent or higher. For a second DWI offense, current law mandates a two-year license suspension, followed by required installation of an IID. A third or subsequent offense results in a mandatory 10-year suspension with an IID requirement.

Under the changes made by A1368, the mandatory license suspension period for almost all DWI offenses would be 10 days, during which time they would be required to have an IID installed in their vehicle as a condition of license reinstatement. The period of time a person would be required to continue using the IID roughly corresponds to the length of the mandatory license suspensions under the current statute. The bill generally gives judges discretion to impose different periods of license suspension or IID use, based on factors like risk to the public, the person’s driving record, length of time without traffic violations, and hardship to the person or the person’s dependents.

According to one of A1368’s main sponsors, the purpose of the bill was to give more discretion to judges and to allow people convicted of DWI more opportunities to travel to work. The bill is also an acknowledgment that, under current law, people who have suspended licenses are still driving, but the state has no way of monitoring them. The Governor’s veto statement proposes major changes to the bill’s language, keeping current mandatory license suspension periods while also keeping A1368’s expanded IID requirements.

An IID places a significant burden on a person’s privacy and liberty. From both a practical and a public safety standpoint, though, it would seem better to allow people to drive with an IID than to prohibit them from driving altogether while simply hoping for the best. Our society is built around cars, and many people cannot hold down a job or otherwise function if they cannot drive.

If you have been arrested or charged with alleged DWI, you should consult with a knowledgeable and skilled DWI attorney who can provide the best possible defense for your case. At Levow & Associates, we have dedicated 100% of our law practice to New Jersey DWI defense. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you, contact us online or at (877) 975-3399.

More Blog Posts:

Proposed Legislation Would Bar Alcohol Purchases After DWI Arrests, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, January 23, 2015

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules that “Step-Down” Provision in State’s DWI Law Is Not Limited to One Use, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, January 10, 2015

Ignition Interlock Devices Would Be Required in All New Jersey DWI Convictions Under Proposed State Senate Bill, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, November 28, 2014

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