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What Constitutes a DUI in New Jersey?

A DUI conviction can cost you dearly in New Jersey. Prosecutors crack down hard on drivers and push for maximum penalties, including steep fines, jail time, driver’s license suspensions, and additional punishments. The consequences don’t stop there. A DUI conviction could jeopardize your ability to work, your reputation, and your relationships. With your freedom, finances, and friend and family ties at stake, you need help from an experienced DUI lawyer immediately.  

New Jersey DUI defense lawyer Steven Ellman has successfully represented clients accused of DUI, DWI, and other complex traffic cases in New Jersey for over 35 years. Clients trust Steven Ellman to provide a vigorous defense and fight for the best possible outcomes for their cases — and his track record speaks for itself. Steven Ellman has an 80%-plus success rate in having DUI, DWI, and other traffic offenses charges dismissed in New Jersey. 

Accused of DUI in New Jersey? Contact The Law Offices of Steven Ellman today for a free consultation. 

What is a DUI in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, DUI means driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The term is used interchangeably with DWI, and both charges have the same penalties under the law. However, a DUI is not a criminal offense in New Jersey. It is a traffic offense, but make no mistake — the court won’t treat your case lightly. 

A person can be charged with DUI if driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. A BAC is a measure of the amount of alcohol in the blood. Police typically use a breathalyzer device, known as the Alcotest, to determine a person’s BAC. 

Though 0.08 is the legal limit for drunk driving in New Jersey, a person can be charged with DUI with a BAC of as little as 0.01. The critical factor is whether their driving was impaired. 

Some drivers are subject to lower limits. For commercial drivers like truck drivers, the legal limit is cut in half to 0.04. Minors with trace amounts of alcohol in their systems can be charged with DUI under New Jersey’s zero-tolerance law. 

A DUI charge includes intoxication from alcohol but also other substances such as marijuana, illegal drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, prescription opioids, and any other medications that impede a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. People arrested for DUI may face additional charges based on the circumstances of the arrest, such as drug possession. Drug crimes carry harsh penalties, so it’s crucial to hire a DUI defense lawyer with a history of handling complex cases if you’re accused of drunk or drugged driving. 

NJ Penalties for DUI

New Jersey’s penalties for DUI are severe and escalate for repeat offenders. 

First DUI Offense

Drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher but less than 0.10 could face the following punishments for a first-time offense: 

  • Fines ranging from $250 to $400
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Driver’s license revocation until the installation of an ignition interlock device (required for three months)
  • Participation in a minimum of six hours per day for two consecutive days at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)
  • Auto insurance surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years

A person with a BAC of 0.10 or higher or who is under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug is subject to penalties including: 

  • $300 to $500 fine
  • Jail for up to 30 days
  • 12 to 48 hours in an IDRC
  • Driver’s license suspension for seven to 12 months
  • Insurance surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years
  • Ignition interlock device for six to 12 months (for BAC over 0.15) 

Second DUI Offense 

Expect steeper penalties for a second conviction of driving under the influence, including: 

  • Fees between $500 to $1,000
  • Jail for two to 90 days
  • 30 days of community service
  • Completion of evaluation, referral, and programs of the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)
  • Driver’s license revocation for one to two years upon conviction
  • Ignition interlock device for 24 to 48 months after license restoration

Third DUI Offense or Subsequent DUIs

  • $1,000 fine
  • Jail for 180 days (or the court can allow 90 days of the term to be served in an approved drug and alcohol inpatient rehabilitation program) 
  • 30 days of community service
  • License suspension for eight years
  • Completion of evaluation, program, and referral requirements for IDRC
  • Insurance surcharge of $1,500 per year for three years 
  • Ignition interlock device for the duration of license suspension and two to four years after getting the license back

Any person convicted of DUI must also pay fines to the New Jersey Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund, Motor Vehicle Commission, Intoxicated Driving Program, Violent Crimes Compensation Fund, and Safe and Secure Community Program. 

DUI for Minors in New Jersey

The legal drinking age in New Jersey is 21. Anyone who drives underage with a detectable amount of alcohol in the blood (a BAC of 0.01 or higher) breaks the state’s DUI laws. 

Teens convicted under New Jersey’s underage or “Baby DUI” law can be fined $500 and lose their license for up to 90 days. If the teen does not have a license, the penalty is suspended until they become eligible to receive a driver’s license for 30 to 90 days. They must also perform community service and satisfy program and fee requirements for the IDRC or an approved alcohol and highway safety program.  

However, DUI penalties get harsher based on the teen’s level of intoxication. Minors with a BAC of 0.08 or higher will face charges under the state’s adult DUI statute. 

How Do You Defend Allegations of DUI in New Jersey?

If you’re arrested for driving under the influence, the first thing to do is speak to a DUI defense lawyer. Always cooperate with the police, but don’t answer questions about where you were or what you were doing. Simply say you want to talk to an attorney. 

By invoking your right to silence, you give your lawyer more options for your defense. Potential defenses for a DUI charge in New Jersey include: 

  • Officers did not have legal cause to stop you. 
  • You were not impaired. 
  • The breathalyzer or other toxicology tests produced incorrect or unreliable results.
  • You had a health condition or injury that led to a failed field sobriety test. 
  • The police did not read the Implied Consent Warning. 
  • The officer who administered the breath test was not qualified. 

To secure a conviction, the prosecutor must prove you are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A qualified DUI defense lawyer will identify the most effective strategy and push for your charges to be dropped, reduced, or dismissed entirely. 

Get Help from a Tough DUI Defense Lawyer in New Jersey

If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence in NJ, you need a hard-hitting DUI lawyer to provide a fierce defense for you. Put Attorney Steven Ellman to work for you. Contact the Law Office of Steven Ellman today for a free consultation.  

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What Constitutes a DUI in New Jersey?