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Is DWI a Criminal Charge in New Jersey?

Is DWI a Criminal Charge in New Jersey?

In many states, drinking and driving is a criminal offense. That’s not true for New Jersey. A DWI counts as a traffic offense in the Garden State. That means it won’t go on your criminal record or appear on a background check. Still, a conviction has serious personal, financial, and legal repercussions. Heavy fines, limited driving privileges, and jail time are only a few consequences of a DWI in New Jersey.

Never underestimate the importance of getting legal help if you have been charged with drunk driving. Reach out to a New Jersey DUI defense lawyer from the Law Office of Steven Ellman for a free consultation.

Understanding NJ DWI Laws

In New Jersey, a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense occurs when someone operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding the legal limit of 0.08 percent. If your BAC is 0.08 or higher, the state considers you too impaired to drive safely.

The blood alcohol content limits are even lower for certain drivers. The allowable BAC for commercial truck drivers is cut in half to 0.04 percent. This lower limit reflects their higher responsibility to other motorists due to the dangerous nature of their larger vehicles and cargo. For drivers under 21, any detectable amount of alcohol in the blood constitutes a DWI offense under New Jersey’s zero-tolerance” policy.

Is DWI a Criminal Offense in New Jersey?

No. In New Jersey, when you get a DWI, it means you’ve violated traffic laws by driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit. However, a DWI conviction does not go on your criminal record.

This distinction is significant. In states where DWI counts as a criminal charge, it goes on your criminal record, which might affect future employment opportunities, housing applications, and more. In New Jersey, while the penalties for DWI are strict and can include fines, license suspension, and possible imprisonment, they do not automatically result in a criminal record.

Penalties for DWI in New Jersey

In New Jersey, DWI convictions carry varying penalties based on BAC level and prior DWI convictions. Below is a breakdown of these penalties:

First DWI Offense

If your BAC for a first-time DWI is over 0.08 but under 0.10, you could face the following penalties:

  • Fines – $250 to $400
  • Jail – Up to 30 days
  • IID installation – License forfeiture until you install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle. You must use the IID for three months after your license is reinstated.

Penalties for a first-time DWI with a BAC over 0.10 but less than 0.15 include:

  • Fines – $300 to $500
  • Jail – Up to 30 days
  • IID installation – License forfeiture until you install an IID on your vehicle, which you must use for seven to 12 months after your license is reinstated.

Penalties for a first DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or above include:

  • Fines – $300 to $500
  • Jail – Up to 30 days
  • License suspension – Four to six months
  • IID Installation – You must have an IID on your primary vehicle throughout the license suspension period and use it for nine to 15 months after license reinstatement.

Penalties for Second DWI Offense

For all second-time DWI convictions, penalties include the following:

  • Fines – $500 to $1,000
  • Community service –30 days
  • Jail – Minimum 48 hours and up to 90 days
  • License Suspension – One to two years
  • IID Installation – IID installation during suspension and for two to four years after reinstatement

Third or Subsequent DWIs

Penalties for third-time and subsequent DWI convictions include:

  • Fines – $1,000
  • Community service – 30 days
  • Jail – 180 days, reducible to 90 days with approved rehabilitation program participation
  • License suspension – Eight years
  • IID Installation – IID installation during suspension and for two to four years after reinstatement

Additional Penalties for All DWI Charges

All DWI convictions in New Jersey also carry the following penalties:

  • Mandatory participation in programs at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)
  • Annual $1,000 to $1,500 auto insurance surcharge for three years after conviction
  • $100 fee for the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund
  • $100 fee for Motor Vehicle Commission restoration
  • $100 fee for the Intoxicated Driving Program
  • $50 fee for the Violent Crimes Compensation Fund
  • $75 fee for the Safe and Secure Community Program

New Jersey DWI attorneys can be your best allies when you face such severe penalties. It’s wise to consult one before tackling the legal system yourself.

Potential Defenses Against DWI Charges

Defense strategies for DWI charges aim to introduce reasonable doubt about the legality of the charge or the accuracy of the evidence. Here are some common examples:

  • Challenging the traffic stop – Your lawyer could argue that police officers had no valid reason to stop your vehicle. If the traffic stop was illegal, any evidence gathered will likely be inadmissible in court.
  • Questioning field sobriety tests – Field sobriety tests are subjective, and factors like the weather or your physical condition can influence their accuracy. Your defense attorney could show the tests were conducted improperly or were unreliable due to external factors.
  • Breathalyzer Test Accuracy – Your attorney could provide evidence that a breathalyzer device was incorrectly calibrated or that the police officer did not administer the test properly. If they can show that the breathalyzer results are unreliable, it could significantly weaken the prosecution’s case.
  • Medical conditions – If you have a health condition that could have affected the results of a breathalyzer test or your performance on field sobriety tests, this could be a valid defense. Certain conditions like diabetes or neurological disorders can sometimes mimic signs of intoxication or affect the breathalyzer results.

Contact a DWI Lawyer in New Jersey Today

Charged with DWI in New Jersey and unsure of what to do next? Reach out to The Law Office of Steven Ellman for help. We offer free, confidential consultations so you can get the answers you need and explore your options at no charge. Contact us today to get started.

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Is DWI a Criminal Charge in New Jersey?