What are the Penalties for 1st DUI in New Jersey?

Car key on the bar with spilled alcohol

New Jersey recently revised the DUI sentencing laws to implement different penalties for first time DWI offenders. Specifically, New Jersey Legislature bill S824 entitled “Revises penalties for drunk driving and ignition interlock device violations,” was signed into law on August 23, 2019. These significant changes make it possible for first time DWI offenders to have shorter license suspensions by installing interlock ignition devices in their vehicles for a specified period.

This was not always the case in New Jersey, as the previous law required longer license suspensions and discretionary installation of ignition interlock devices. This often meant that people convicted of driving under the influence could not get to work, pay their fines, or restore their licenses due to lack of income. If you are facing DWI charges and this is your first offense, you should be aware of the consequences you are now exposed to if convicted.

To discuss your case with a highly experienced DWI defense lawyer serving all Jersey Shore communities, including Brick, Lacey Township, Seaside Heights, Lavallette, Long Beach Township, Toms River, and Jackson, contact us now at (848) 238-2100 or request a free consultation online. With offices located in Point Pleasant, we have been defending clients charged with drunk driving in local municipal courts for years and we can help.

What is the Sentence for First DWI if You are Convicted in NJ?

The recent revisions to NJ DWI Law allows first time offenders to be sentenced to relatively lesser suspension periods with an interlock ignition device installed. Specifically, the new law reduces the suspension period from 90 days to 30 days for first time offenders with a BAC of .08 to .10 % Additionally, the law reduces the suspension to 45 days if the person’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.10% to less than 0.15 %. The license suspension is reduced to 90 days if the person’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.15% or higher.

While drivers will likly be most excited about the reduction in the license suspension, the most significant change is the mandatory installation of the interlock ignition device. Under the revised law, the interlock ignition device is no longer discretionary but instead, mandatory. The court is now required to impose the suspension, together with the installation of an interlock ignition device, which must be paid for by the defendant. The device must be installed for a minimum of 3 months to up to 6 months in the case of a BAC of .08% to .10%; and 6 months to 1 year with a BAC .10% to .15%. If the BAC is .15% or higher, the device must be installed for 12 to 18 months. Lastly, if the person fails to install the device in accordance with the court order, the persons license will be suspended for an additional 18 months.

How Did NJ Law for 1st DUI Charges Change?

Prior to the enactment, anyone convicted of drunk driving for a first offense in New Jersey was required to forfeit their license for a longer period of time without any concession for an installation of interlock ignition. In fact, anyone convicted of their first DUI offense prior to December 1, 2019 faces the following previous penalties:

  • First DWI offense, blood alcohol content (BAC) between 0.08% and 0.10%: a loss of license of 3 months, 12 hours minimum IDRC program, imprisonment of up to 30 days, and various mandatory fines and penalties
  • First time DWI, Blood alcohol content (BAC) .10% or more or under the influence of drugs: a loss of license of 7 months to 1 year, 12-48 hours IDRC, and mandatory fines and penalties.

Additionally, under the old law, the court could order an interlock Ignition Device to be installed in the driver’s motor vehicle for 6 to 12 months after restoration of their license. However, this applied in cases with higher blood alcohol levels, specifically .15% or more.

Why did New Jersey Change the Penalties for First DWI Offenses?

The aforementioned changes in the law have been enacted for several reasons. First, the legislature believes that the interlock ignition device is a better means of protecting the public from the harm of drunk driving than a lengthier period of suspension. Lawmakers also understand the financial impact of losing your license for a longer period of time, as many people cannot drive to work or continue at their jobs after a DWI conviction.

The changes were welcomed and approved by Governor Murphy. Specifically, Governor Murphy stated that “deterring drunk driving without negatively impacting individuals’ ability to take care of themselves or their families” is the goal. Explaining the recent changes to DWI law in New Jersey, he further said “license suspensions are an imperfect tool for accomplishing both aims, as they do not stop drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and they can prevent ex-offenders from supporting their livelihoods.  In contrast, ignition interlock devices prevent drunk driving while allowing ex-offenders to support themselves and their families.”

Get Help With a First Time DWI at the Jersey Shore

If you currently have a first-time DUI charge against you, it is important to understand how the new law in New Jersey impacts your case and what defenses may be used to avoid a conviction altogether. Contact our Point Pleasant office today to discuss your DWI charges and our approach to providing the best representation. We can be reached anytime at (848) 238-2100 or simply reach out to us online now for a free consultation with a skilled Jersey Shore DUI attorney.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.