Under New Jersey law, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a motor vehicle offense that can result in driver’s license suspension, a fine, and a jail sentence. A court may also order someone convicted of DWI to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in their vehicle at their own expense. In 2019, the New Jersey Legislature made several changes to the DWI statute. These include modifying the period of driver’s license suspension and making IID use mandatory. The new law took effect at the beginning of December 2019.
Prior DWI Law
Before the new law took effect, New Jersey identified four levels of DWI, based primarily on the number of prior offenses in the ten years preceding the current charge:
1. First DWI offense, with blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.08 but less than 0.10 percent;
2. First DWI offense, with BAC of 0.10 percent or higher;
3. Second DWI offense, regardless of BAC; and
4. Third or subsequent DWI offense.
License suspensions ranged from ninety days for the lowest-level DWI offense, to ten years for the highest. Judges had discretion to order installation of an IID for most first offenses, but it was mandatory for subsequent convictions.
Driver’s License Suspension
The new law adds a fifth offense level, between the second and third offenses listed above, for first offenses in which BAC was 0.15 percent or higher. The law changes the provisions regarding license suspension and IID installation for first offenses, modifying the penalties for each level of first DWI offense. In some cases, a defendant’s license will be suspended for as much or as little time it takes to have an IID installed in their vehicle.
The suspension for a second conviction was reduced from two years to a range of one to two years. Third offense suspension was reduced from ten years to eight years. At the end of the suspension period, the state now has discretion over whether to reinstate the license.
In the case of someone convicted for driving under the influence of something other than alcohol, also known as “drugged driving,” the new law establishes a separate set of penalties. A first-time drugged driving conviction results in driver’s license suspension for seven months to one year.
Ignition Interlock Device
The law amends the section on IID installation to reflect that it is now mandatory for all first offenses:
– BAC below 0.10 percent: The defendant’s license is suspended until they have an IID installed, and they must use the IID for three months.
– BAC of at least 0.10 percent but less than 0.15 percent: The same provision applies, which could be less than the seven- to ten-month suspension required under previous law. The IID must remain for seven months to one year.
– BAC of 0.15 percent or higher: After the defendant has an IID installed, their license will continue to be suspended for four to six months. They must use the IID for nine to fifteen months after the suspension ends.
For second or subsequent offenses, the IID requirement lasts for two to four years after the end of the license suspension.
Evan Levow is a New Jersey DWI lawyer who advocates for the rights of people facing alleged DWI charges. He can help you understand your rights and options, discuss ignition interlock devices and other possible penalties, guide you through the court process, and prepare the best defense for your case. Please contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.