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What is a DUI and a DWI in New Jersey?

New Jersey Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulations do not allow intoxicated drivers to drive, operate, or control a vehicle within New Jersey. A contrary act is a violation of the code, and the offender incurs administrative and criminal penalties ascribed by the New Jersey judiciary and the Motor Vehicles Commission.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in New Jersey?

A DUI (Driving Under Influence) is a colloquial term for a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) in New Jersey. Per N. J. Rev. Stat. § 39:4–50(a), a DWI refers to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug. It also refers to using a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more. Likewise, knowingly permitting another person to DWI shall constitute a violation of the statute and bear the same punishment.

What happens when you get a DUI for the First Time in New Jersey?

A first DWI where the individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is within the 0.08% - 0.10% range, or permitting another person whose BAC is within that range, is a misdemeanor. The offense shall attract fines, detainment, imprisonment, and other penalties like installing an ignition interlock device. The fine shall not be less than $250, but up to $400. The period of detainment shall not be less than 12 hours, but up to 48 hours.

If convicted, the term of imprisonment for first-time offenders is generally about 30 days. The court may also order forfeiture of the right to operate a motor vehicle until the driver installs a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID). An increase in the severity of the penalties depends on the BAC of the driver (N. J. Rev. Stat. § 39:4–50(a)(1)).

Generally, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, who must prove four elements to establish a DWI in New Jersey:

  • The driver was intoxicated;
  • The person was in control;
  • The person was in a motor vehicle; and,
  • The offense happened in a public place, road, or highway;

However, the defendant need not disprove the elements. The individual must establish a defense with material evidence. Some of these include:

  • State of mental and physical capabilities at the time of operating the motor vehicle;
  • The officer’s evidence of impaired reflexes, sight, speech, manner of driving, and judgment;
  • The accuracy of the test and equipment used to measure the BAC;
  • The reliability of the test and expertise of the officer who administered the test.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in New Jersey?

Not likely. Generally, first-time offenders are subject to a period of detainment of up to 48 hours. Depending on aggravating factors such as BAC, an offender faces an imprisonment term of thirty (30) days. However, the defendant may reach a plea bargain and have the sentence suspended. Instead of this, the court will place the defendant on probation, restrict driving privileges, and impose other administrative sanctions. Nevertheless, violating the terms of sentence suspension will invoke the sentence, and the offender will serve the full jail term.

What are the Typical Penalties for a DUI Conviction in New Jersey?

Generally, the punishments for a DUI conviction in New Jersey include:

  • Detainment: This penalty is typically the first that a person indicted with DWI faces. Typically, the period of detainment is 12—48 hours.
  • Imprisonment: The term depends on the severity of the DUI. Generally, persons convicted of the least severe DWI face thirty (30) days in prison. The length of imprisonment increases with repeat offense and gravity.
  • Installation of BAIID: In addition to any penalty, the court may also order installing a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID). The device prevents the driver from starting the vehicle if they fail to pass a breath test. The offender shall cover all associated fees in this program and tampering with the BAIID is a criminal offense.
  • Forfeiture of driving privileges: This penalty applies to all DWI offenders. However, the period of suspension depends on offender status. Serious and habitual offenders risk permanent forfeiture of the license. Less serious offenders face a forfeiture period of days to several months.
  • Community service: The court typically imposes community service for suspended sentencing. The period of service is statutorily thirty (30) days.
  • Probation: The offender gets restricted or limited driving privileges and other fitting penalties. The period of probation is at the discretion of the presiding judge.
  • Drug/alcohol inpatient rehabilitation: This penalty typically applies to repeat offenders and even first-time offenders with a high BAC. Note that the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center must approve the rehabilitation program. The offender shall cover all associated fees in this program.
  • Alcohol and drug education and highway safety program: The imposition of this penalty is at the judge’s discretion. The offender shall cover all associated fees in this program.
  • Counseling: The court may also order the offender to participate in a counseling session if the court adjudges the defendant to have a drinking problem. The session is under the supervision of the Intoxicated Driving Program Unit. The offender shall cover all associated fees in this program.
  • Surcharges: In addition to any fines and court fees, the court shall assess all DWI offenders for surcharges to the tune of $100.00.
  • Fees: In addition to court fees, the DWI offender also incurs a $100.00 MVC restoration fee, an intoxicated driving program fee of $100.00, a violent crimes compensation fund fee of $50, and a safe & secure community program fee of $75.00.
  • Fines: New Jersey courts assess convicted offenders for $250.00 to $500.00 in mulcts depending on the severity.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in New Jersey?

A DWI conviction remains on an offender’s permanent driving record for life. Interested persons may request and get driving records on any person from the Motor Vehicle Commission.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching for records simpler, as geographic locations do not limit their activities. Thus, the search engines on third-party sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or persons involved in the case. These include information such as the city, county, or state of residence or accusation.

Third-party sites are not government-sponsored. Consequently, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Find DWI Checkpoints in New Jersey?

Sobriety checkpoints are legal under New Jersey laws. Interested persons may find information on active checkpoints on several social media communities and via a simple web search.

What is an Aggravated DWI in New Jersey?

Aggravated DWI in New Jersey constitutes several factors. Generally, this includes DWI in a school zone, having a child passenger, refusing a breath test, and habitual status. The offense also extended to a felonious DWI, which resulted in severe and intentional damage of property, bodily injury, and death. The sentence and penalties for aggravated and felonious DWI follow the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice.

What Happens When You Get a DWI in New Jersey?

The DWI brochure that the Department of Law and Public Safety prepared describes the punishments that a DWI offender can expect to receive depending on his/her status. Generally, the arrest, indictment, trial, and sentencing for a DWI follow the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice (NJ Rev Stat § 2C). In addition to the DWI charges, the Motor Vehicle Commission shall also assess penalty points against the driver’s license. At the trial, the state has the burden of proof to establish the offense and other aggravating factors. The defendant, however, must demonstrate mitigating factors with admissible evidence. Furthermore, the defendant may strike a plea bargain with the prosecution with the aid of an attorney.

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