“Don’t drink and drive”. Wise words to live by, and most folks do. Many people, however, don’t always follow this advice. We may have a glass or two of wine with dinner, pop into a favorite pub for a quick cocktail after work or a few beers while watching the Devils or the Final Four or just hanging around the house on a Saturday afternoon.
All pretty harmless stuff, right? Certainly not enough to make you drunk. Probably never an issue at all. Not, that is, unless you find yourself on the side of the road, rummaging for your license and registration while a law enforcement officer regards you with a very suspicious eye and starts sniffing the air inside your car a little too energetically.
A short conversation, perhaps a brief roadside sobriety check and the next thing you know, you’ve been charged with driving under the influence.
So what happens next? What are you up against and what can you expect to lose? To answer those questions, we provide the following general information about drunk driving in Passaic County, New Jersey and the penalties to which a conviction may subject you.
DUI or DWI: Does it really matter?
In a word: No. New Jersey makes no real distinction between “driving under the influence” and “driving while intoxicated”. There are, however, certain factors that impact how a conviction may be treated and what penalties can be imposed as a result of that conviction. What follows is a summary of DUI charges and penalties in Passaic County.
What does New Jersey consider to be driving under the influence?
As is the case in all states since 2007, a driver in our state is considered to be DUI/DWI when his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or higher. However, it is possible to be convicted under the DUI statute for a BAC of less than .08% in certain situations including the following:
- A driver under the age of 21 with a BAC of .02% or higher faces conviction under the law.
- A driver of a commercial vehicle faces a conviction of driving under the influence if found to have a BAC of .04% or higher.
Refusal to submit to a chemical breath test.
New Jersey is what is called an “implied consent” state. This means that if you drive a car in this state you are legally deemed to have given your implied consent to submit to a chemical test (breathalyzer, urine or blood exam) if you are suspected of driving while intoxicated.
Any driver who refuses to submit to such an exam will be subject to the following:
- License suspension for 7-12 months
- Fine of $300-$500
- Mandatory participation in IDRC (Intoxicated Driver Resource Center) program
- License suspension of 2 years
- Fine ranging from $500-$1000
- Minimum of 12 hours of IDRC participation
- License suspension of 10 years
- $1000 fine
- 12-hour minimum IDRC participation
Penalties for a conviction of driving under the influence.
- Up to 30 days in jail
- License suspension from 3 to 12 months
- Fines from $250 to $500
- Possible court-ordered installation of IID (Ignition Interlock Device)
- Jail term up to 90 days
- A license suspension of 2 years
- Fines from $500 to $1000
- Possible court-ordered IID
- Up to 180 days in jail
- 10 year license suspension
- Fines up to $1000
- Likely court-ordered IID
You will also be required to attend Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). How long you must attend depends upon the offense.
Conviction of DUI in a school zone or school crossing.
It should come as no surprise that the law takes a very dim view of any driving offense that involves or possibly involves children, especially when that offense demonstrates a disregard for the safety of others (such as driving while intoxicated).
- Imprisonment for up to 60 days
- License suspension for 12 to 24 months
- Fines ranging from $500 to $800
- Imprisonment from 96 hours to 180 days
- License suspension for at least 48 months
- Fines of $1000 to $2000
- 60 days of community service
- 180 days in jail
- Suspension of driving privilege for 20 years (yes, you read that correctly)
- Fine of $2000
All of the above offenses carry mandatory IDRC attendance that you must pay for.
A drunk driving conviction carries with it the possibility of penalties in addition to those imposed by the courts.
Motor Vehicle Commission Surcharges
The MVC is authorized/mandated by statute to impose surcharges for DUI offenses.
- You will be assessed $1000 in annual insurance surcharges for 3 consecutive years.
- Anyone convicted of a third DUI within 3 years will be assessed an insurance surcharge of $1500 for 3 consecutive years.
- Note: Surcharges are applicable regardless of state in which you were convicted.
- Failure to pay an MVC surcharge will result in an indefinite suspension of your license and the filing of a lien by the state against your personal property.
- Such a lien permits the state to seize your property to satisfy the amount of the surcharge.
Potential impact on employment
A drunk driving conviction may place your employment in jeopardy. If, for example, the job duties include driving for an employer, a license suspension will make that impossible.
In such cases, some individuals attempt to hide a DUI conviction from their employer. This is incredibly risky as the penalties for driving while under a license suspension are severe and will be added on to those already imposed upon you because of the DUI conviction.
Note: New Jersey does not provide a conditional or special work license for any reason. Suspension means suspension. When under a New Jersey license suspension, a driver is not permitted to drive under any circumstances.
Revocation of Special License or Accreditation
Depending on the severity of the drunk driving conviction, a suspension or revocation of of certain professional licenses may be imposed. A suspension of your driving privilege may also impact your ability to be granted a license or permission to engage in specific activities (such as working with minors, for example).
Visitation and custody rights
A license suspension may have serious consequences for your New Jersey parenting rights. Transportation of the children subject to a court visitation/custody order will probably be disrupted.
Depending on your situation, you may be unable to comply with the visitation schedule altogether, thereby rendering a court order that granted you certain rights useless (at least temporarily).
A DUI conviction may also be used as evidence to determine whether you are a fit parent, especially if you are found guilty of a second or subsequent offense.
It should go without saying that a drunk driving offense is nothing to celebrate. There is simply too much at stake. If you are charged with a DUI, your next step should be to hire an attorney at Fontanella, Benevento, Galluccio & Smith who is experienced in drunk driving offense matters in Passaic County.