New Jersey

New Jersey Penalties for DWI Convictions

The penalties in New Jersey for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs depends on a number of factors, including whether the violation was a first, second or third offense, whether the violation took place in a school zone, and what the state contends the driver’s blood alcohol content was at the time of the stop.

In addition to considering each of those factors, the Court has a range of sentencing options that includes a loss of driving privileges, fines, community service, classes provided by an intoxicated driver resource center, and possible imprisonment. Insurance surcharges are also applied.

In more severe cases, the Prosecutor may seek charges that bring even greater consequences. A man was convicted last week in Superior Court in Morristown of aggravated manslaughter after he struck and killed two teenagers while driving under the influence. He faces 60 years in prison — the maximum possible sentence.

Understanding how the circumstances of a case affects the range of penalties is essential when considering how to defend against a DWI charge.

Police Must Explain DWI Refusal Law in Driver’s Language

The conviction of a Spanish-speaking driver who refused a Breathalyzer test was overturned because police did not advise him of the consequences of his refusal in a language he could understand. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled this week in State v. Marquez that police must provide the warning in a language the driver can understand in order to satisfy the statutory requirement that police inform drivers of the penalties they face for refusal to submit to a test.

As a result of the ruling, the Attorney General’s Office is reportedly preparing translations that police may use to administer the standard statement in various languages. The statement that police are required to give is part of New Jersey’s implied consent law and refusal law. The implied consent law deems all motorists to have consented to providing breath samples. The refusal law authorizes the state to revoke a motorist’s license for refusing to submit to such a test.

Dwight Gooden Charged with DWI, Child Endangerment in Bergen County

Franklin Lakes police arrested former Mets and Yankees pitcher Dwight Gooden for driving under the influence, child endangerment, and other charges on Tuesday after he was involved in an accident while driving his son to school.

Gooden allegedly struck a car in front of him, prompting a call to police. Authorities later stopped Gooden, who was driving a half mile from the scene of the accident. According to police, Gooden’s 5-year-old son was not wearing a seat belt, and had bumped his head on the seat in front of him. Although the story is noteworthy because of Gooden’s celebrity, it is also worth noting that a DWI stop can often result in related charges that could complicate a defendant’s case. In addition to DWI, Gooden was charged with being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, endangering the welfare of a child, DWI with a child passenger, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, and other charges.

Further complicating Gooden’s case is his history of DWI convictions. In 2005 he was sentenced to probation for speeding from police while under the influence of a controlled substance. As a repeat offender, he could be subject to more severe penalties than a first offender would face. Making sense of the range of penalties and understanding the possible defenses to multiple charges may seem daunting, but talking with an attorney can help put the possible consequences into perspective.

Appellate Court Rules Prior Conviction for Refusing Breathalyzer Applies in DWI Sentencing

In an opinion released yesterday, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that a DWI defendant who was previously convicted of refusing a breathalyzer test requires sentencing as a repeat offender.

The case, State v. Ciancaglini, involved a Monmouth County woman who was previously convicted of DWI in 1979, and of failing to submit to a breathalyzer test in 2006. She was again convicted of DWI in 2008.

The municipal court sentenced her as a third-time offender to six months in jail, a $1,006 fine, ten-year loss of license and vehicle registration, 12 hours at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, and other fees.

On appeal, the Law Division held that she should have been sentenced as a first time offender because the 1979 conviction occurred more than ten years ago and the conviction for refusal to take a breathalyzer test did not qualify as a prior conviction for DWI. The Law Division sentenced her as a first time offender to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, 12 months license revocation, and 12 hours at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.

The Appellate Division disagreed and reinstated the original sentence.

Penalties for Refusing a Roadside Breathalyzer Test

There is a lot of misinformation concerning the consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test, but the law in New Jersey is clear: you must take the test or face stiff penalties.

On a first offense, refusing a test can result in license suspension for 7 months to a year, up to a $500 fine and 12 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center Program. To convict someone of refusing the breathalyzer test, the State needs only to show that the arresting officer had probable cause to believe the defendant operated the vehicle while intoxicated. However, it is possible to be found guilty of refusing the test even if a defendant is acquitted of driving while intoxicated.

In fact, just recently a Hoboken police officer was charged with refusing a breathalyzer test, adding to his legal troubles that include a DWI charge.

How Out-of-State Violations Affect the Points on Your License

Whether you have a New Jersey driver’s license and you receive a traffic ticket out of state, or you live elsewhere and get pulled over for a violation while driving through North Jersey, it’s important to understand how out-of-state violations affect the number of points on your license.

Almost all states belong to the Driver License Compact, an agreement among member states to share information on traffic violations. However, each state establishes its own rules that determine whether it will assess points for minor out-of-state traffic violations.

For example, if you hold a New York driver’s license and receive a minor traffic violation in New Jersey, no points will be assessed to your New York license. It’s important to remember that such violations still could result in costly fines, so consider all of the factors before deciding whether to plead guilty to a traffic offense.

On the other hand, a New Jersey driver who is deemed guilty of a minor point violation in New York will typically see two points assessed to his or her New Jersey license. A New Jersey driver who accumulates points could have to pay surcharges, and a New Jersey driver who receives 12 to 15 points in two years could have his or her license suspended for 30 days.

The rules are different for more serious offenses such as DUI charges. An out-of-state driver who is convicted of such charges in New Jersey could be in danger of having his or her home state license suspended. Such rules depend on the state and the type of violation. For example, a New York driver 21 years or older who is convicted in New Jersey of an alcohol related offense could have his or her license suspended for 90 days. If the conviction is for a drug related offense, the suspension is six months.

An out of state driver who receives a summons in New Jersey and wants to plead not guilty may not have to appear in court to address the charges, depending on the circumstances. In some cases, a local attorney may be able to represent a driver at a court hearing without the driver being present.