Proposed changes to the DWI laws in New Jersey
Governor Christie is in the process of considering major amendments to New Jersey’s DWI laws with the recent passage of Assembly Bill 1368. The legislation was passed by the Senate on February 5, 2015 and previously passed by the Assembly on June 26, 2014. If the proposed legislation is signed into law by the Governor, the law will take effect on the first day of the fourth month after enactment and shall apply to any offense occurring after that date.
Presently, New Jersey has some of the most punishing DWI laws on the books nationwide. For example, today there is no provision for a first time DWI offender to have any option to get a temporary license to get to work and maintain employment. A first time DWI offender today is facing a license loss of three months for a blood alcohol reading of .08% or .09%. The license loss increases to seven months to one year for a blood alcohol reading of .10% or higher. Under the proposed legislation waiting for the Governor’s signature, there are a variety of options for first time DWI offenders.
For example, under the proposed legislation, a first time DWI offender with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% and .09% (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(1)(i)) will face an initial ten (10) day license suspension. During that ten day suspension period, the offender must have an ignition interlock device installed in one motor vehicle he will principally own or operate. Once proof of the interlock installation is provided to the court, the offender will have his privileges to drive reinstated. The interlock device must remain on the vehicle for a period of three months. If the offender does not have the interlock device installed within the initial ten day suspension period or, does not have a vehicle to have an interlock installed, then the court shall suspend that person’s right to operate a motor vehicle in the State of New Jersey for a period of three months. In addition, and extremely problematic, is the fact that the offender can also be charged as a disorderly person if they fail to have the interlock device installed.
For a first time DWI offender with a BAC of .10% but less than .15% (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(1)(ii)) , the ten day suspension period and requirement to install the interlock is the same. Once proof of installation is shown, however, the privilege to operate is restored and the interlock must remain installed for a period of between seven months and one year. Again, the disorderly person exposure exists if the offender fails to have the interlock device installed. In addition, if the interlock is not installed then the offender is facing a seven month to one year license suspension.
For a first time DWI offender with a BAC of .15% or higher (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(1)(ii)), again the ten day suspension period and requirement to have the interlock installed remain the same. Under this circumstance, due to the high BAC reading of .15% or higher, the offender will be subject to a mandatory ninety (90) day license suspension. Once the ninety day suspension has been satisfied, the offender can petition the Court to restore driving privileges. Once restored, the offender must have the interlock in the vehicle he primarily owns or operated for a period of seven months to one year. That time frame is within the discretion of the Court.
Second offenders are subject to more severe sentencing than what presently exists today. If convicted as a second offender under the proposed legislation (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(2)) , the offender will be subject to the initial ten day suspension period wherein an ignition interlock must be installed and a license loss of between two (2) and four (4) years. If the ignition interlock device is not installed within the initial suspension period then the offender is subject to being charged as a disorderly person. Presently a second offender is facing a two year loss of privileges upon conviction of DWI. Under the proposed legislation, that suspension period is a range of two (2) to four (4) years in the discretion of the Court. In addition, the ignition interlock device must be installed in each motor vehicle owned, leased or principally operated by the offender. This could become incredibly burdensome for an individual who collects cars, for example. Once driving privileges are restored following the two to four year suspension period, the offender must keep the ignition interlock device installed for an additional one to three year period. Conceivably, a second offender could be subject to seven (7) years of interlock obligations if the Court imposes the maximum sentence and maximum interlock obligation.
Third offenders will also be subject to a much more severe sentence than what exists today. If convicted as a third offender under the proposed legislation (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(3)), the community service obligation is increased from thirty (30) days presently to not less than sixty (60) days. The mandatory 180 day jail term remains with the option to have 90 days of that sentence served in an approved inpatient rehabilitation facility. The initial ten day suspension period will again be in effect with the obligation to have an interlock device installed in each motor vehicle owned, leased or principally operated by the offender. If no interlock device is installed during that initial ten day suspension period then the offender will be considered a disorderly person. The suspension term a third offender faces would be ten (10) to twenty (20) years in the discretion of the Court. In addition, the interlock must remain installed in all motor vehicles for a period of one to three years at the Court’s discretion. Conceivably, a third offender could be subject to twenty-three (23) years of interlock obligations on each motor vehicle leased, owned or principally operated, if the Court imposes the maximum sentence and maximum interlock obligation.
It is important to understand that the ramifications of a DWI conviction are extremely serious and lasting. Furthermore, the exposure to jail, community service and loss of license increases following each conviction. The Law Offices of Thomas V. Campo are here to help. Mr. Campo is a former County and Municipal Court Prosecutor who has prosecuted thousands of DWI offenses. As a defense attorney, Mr. Campo has also defended thousands of individuals facing DWI charges. It is of utmost importance that you find an attorney who has a vast amount of experience handling DWI cases. To reach the best possible resolution, do not hesitate to call the Law Office of Thomas V. Campo.