When Out-of-State DWI Convictions Lead to New Jersey Driver’s License Suspension

Legal News GavelA conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey results in mandatory driver’s license suspension. The duration of the suspension varies based on the number of prior DWI convictions, including convictions from other states. New Jersey has adopted the Interstate Driver License Compact (IDLC), which provides for “reciprocal recognition” of driver’s licenses, as well as the applicability of other state’s laws when considering prior convictions for certain traffic offenses. In order for a DWI conviction in another state to count as a prior conviction in New Jersey, the other state’s statute must be substantially similar to New Jersey law. A defendant in a license suspension case recently appealed a finding by the state government that counted a conviction under New York law as a prior conviction. The New Jersey Appellate Division’s ruling in Markowiec v. N.J. Motor Vehicle Comm’n reviewed the standards for determining when an out-of-state conviction counts under New Jersey law.

A first DWI offense in New Jersey includes a three-month suspension. If a first-time DWI defendant has blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.10 percent, however, the statute requires suspension for seven months to one year. A second offense includes a two-year license suspension, regardless of BAC. For a third or subsequent offense, the period of license suspension is ten years.

The IDLC states that certain out-of-state convictions, including DWI, may be considered by New Jersey officials for the purpose of license suspension or revocation. The DWI statute includes a similar provision, but it also includes an exception. A defendant can have an out-of-state conviction excluded if they “can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence” that the out-of-state offense arose from “a violation of a proscribed blood alcohol concentration of less than 0.08%.” This exception was the basis for the defendant’s appeal in Markowiec.

The defendant received a ten-year license suspension from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), based on two DWI convictions in New Jersey and one conviction for driving while ability impaired (DWAI) in New York. While New Jersey’s DWI statute defines the offense as either “operat[ing] a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor…[or] with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more,” the New York statute establishes two separate offenses. DWAI is defined as “operat[ing] a motor vehicle while the person’s ability…is impaired by the consumption of alcohol.” DWI per se is defined in New York as driving with BAC of 0.08 percent or more. The defendant alleged that the BAC evidence in his New York case showed BAC of 0.07 percent or less, but he reportedly did not submit any transcripts from that case.

The Appellate Division affirmed the MVC’s findings. It noted the lack of evidence from the defendant about the proceedings in New York. It also cited its own 2011 decision in State v. Zeikel. It held in that case that the New York offense of DWAI and the New Jersey offense of DWI were substantially similar, regardless of BAC levels in individual cases. In order to apply the exception in the New Jersey DWI statute, the court would need a transcript or written order specifically stating that the conviction was based on BAC below 0.08 percent.

If you have been charged with alleged DWI in a New Jersey court, DWI attorney Evan Levow can advocate for your rights and guide you through the court system. Please contact us online or at (877) 593-1717 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our knowledgeable and experienced team.

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey Supreme Court Addresses Stays of Driver’s License Suspensions in DWI Appeals, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 14, 2017

Proposed New Jersey DWI Legislation Addresses License Suspension, Ignition Interlock Requirement, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, February 26, 2017

New Jersey Legislature Passes Bill Affecting Transit Engineers With DWI-Related License Suspensions, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 2, 2016