On your way home from dinner celebrating your anniversary, you make a left onto Passaic Avenue from Main. Suddenly your rear view mirror is filled with the flashing lights of the police cruiser you didn’t realize had been following you for several blocks. This would send anyone’s pulse racing but for you this is especially bad news.

Why? Because it being your anniversary and all, you had a glass of wine with dinner. Or was it two? Perhaps even three?

If you have had this experience you are all too aware of how serious a DUI charge is. There are a number of things to know about what can happen to you if you are issued a drunk driving ticket in Passaic County, New Jersey.

It’s no secret that a DUI conviction carries with it significant penalties imposed by the courts, the Motor Vehicle Commission and your auto insurance carrier. As a result, any delay in securing legal representation can have substantial and long-term effects on your liberty, livelihood and your finances as well.

The following information about drunk driving ticket violations may provide you with a better appreciation for why hiring an attorney is essential to protecting your rights and preserving your interests.

What is the difference between a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated)?

With rare exception, they mean essentially the same thing in the state of New Jersey.

A blood alcohol content (BAC) level of less than .08% does not protect you from punishment (.08% has been the legal BAC limit in all 50 states since 2007).

  • If you are under 21, a BAC of .02% may result in a conviction.
  • Drivers of commercial vehicles are considered to be DUI if their BAC is at least .04%.

Consent to Submit to a Chemical Test

If you operate a motor vehicle in New Jersey, you are considered to have given your implied consent to submit to a chemical test (breathalyzer, blood or urine test) if you are suspected of driving under the influence.

The penalty for failure to comply depends on the number of offenses you have had.

Note: If you are issued a drunk driving ticket while operating a boat on New Jersey waters, all boating and driving privileges will be suspended for a period of time dictated by how many offenses you have had.

The penalties for a drunk driving ticket conviction are as follows:

1st Offense

  • Fines/penalties of $250 to $500
  • Jail of up to 30 days
  • License suspension ranging from 3 months to one year
  • Possible mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID).

Mandatory attendance at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)

2nd Offense

  • Up to 90 days in jail
  • Fines/penalties from $500 to $1,000
  • License suspension of 2 years
  • Possible mandatory IID
  • Mandatory attendance at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)

3rd Offense

  • A jail sentence of up to 180 days
  • Fines/penalties of $1,000
  • 10 year suspension of your driving privilege
  • Possible IID installation (likely)
  • Mandatory attendance at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)

All of the above are subject to increased penalties if aggravating conditions exist. The state will impose additional penalties under the following circumstances:

Penalties for DUI in School Zone/School Crossing

1st Offense

  • Suspension of driving privilege for 12-24 months
  • A fine of $500 to $800
  • Imprisonment for up to 60 days
  • Mandatory attendance at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)

2nd Offense

  • Suspension of driving privilege for a minimum of 48 months
  • A fine ranging from $1,000 to $2,000
  • Imprisonment for anywhere from 96 hours to 180 days
  • 60 days of community service
  • Mandatory attendance at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)

3rd Offense

  • A suspension of driving privilege for 20 years
  • A fine of $2,000
  • Incarceration for 180 days
  • Mandatory attendance at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)

Penalties for refusal of chemical sobriety test at time drunk driving ticket is issued:

1st Offense

  • Suspension of driving privilege for a period ranging from 7 months to 1 year
  • A fine ranging from $300 to $500
  • Mandatory participation in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) program.

2nd Offense

  • Suspension of driving privilege for 2 years
  • A fine ranging from $500 to $1,000
  • A minimum of 12 hours IDRC

3rd Offense

  • Suspension of driving privilege for 10 years
  • A fine of $1,000
  • A minimum of 12 hours IDRC

If the drunk driving ticket includes refusal to submit to a chemical sobriety test when violation occurred in a school zone or school crossing.

1st Offense

  • Suspension of driving privilege for 1 to 2 years
  • A fine of $600 to $1,000
  • A minimum of 12 hours of IDRC

2nd Offense

  • Suspension of driving privilege of up to 4 years
  • A fine of $1,000 to $2,000.
  • IDRC minimum participation of 12 hours

3rd Offense and all subsequent offenses

  • Suspension of driving privilege for 20 years
  • Fine of $2,000
  • IDRC minimum participation of 12 hours

The law also provides that the Motor Vehicle Commission can impose the following surcharges for a drunk driving ticket:

For two convictions within a 3 year period, an annual insurance surcharge of $1,000 for 3 consecutive years.

For a third drunk driving ticket conviction in 3 years, an insurance surcharge of $1,500 per year for 3 consecutive years. These surcharges are imposed regardless of whether you are convicted under New Jersey law or in another state.

If you fail to pay any surcharge assessed by the MVC, your driving privileges will be indefinitely suspended and the state will file a judgment which permits it to seize your personal property to satisfy the surcharge you owe.

Receiving a Drunk Driving Ticket that Results in Suspension

A drunk driving ticket that results in suspension of your driving privileges is especially serious in New Jersey because there is no conditional or special work license available.

Simply put, if you have had your license suspended for drunk driving (or any reason, for that matter), you may not drive under any circumstances in New Jersey. Should you violate that prohibition, yet more penalties will be imposed against you.

The Impact of a Drunk Driving Ticket Conviction

The impact of a drunk driving ticket conviction extends beyond the punishment the courts and the Motor Vehicle Commission may impose:

  • You can expect to pay much more for your automobile insurance.
  • If you rely on your vehicle to travel to and from work or if your work involves driving, your continuing employment may be in jeopardy.
  • Tasks as simple as grocery shopping may become problematic, especially if there is no convenient public transportation available to you.
  • Your eligibility for certain professional licenses may be at risk.
  • Under certain circumstances, your parenting rights (custody and visitation) may even be negatively impacted.

Clearly receiving a drunk driving ticket in this state is a very serious matter. The penalties are numerous and they are all burdensome (to say the least). If you find yourself facing a DUI charge, you should seriously consider hiring a drunk driving attorney as soon as possible. You really can’t afford not to.

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