Will I Go to Jail for a DWI in New Jersey?


If you have been arrested for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey, you likely have a burning question on your mind: am I going to jail? Since the penalties associated with a first time, second time, and third time DWI conviction are different, the circumstances of your case go a long way toward determining your jail exposure. Other factors also matter, including if someone is injured in an accident involving your DWI, in which case you may face additional criminal charges for assault by auto, or if your DUI offense happened in a school zone. Below provides detailed information about the potential jail time associated with a specific DWI charge that you might be facing. To get answers pertaining to your specific drunk driving case from an experienced DWI defense attorney, contact our local office in Cranford at (908) 838-0150.

Is There Jail Time for a First DWI in New Jersey?

DWIs in New Jersey are technically defined as traffic offenses, not criminal offenses, but do not let that fool you. The penalties for a first-time DWI in New Jersey can be severe and may include jail time. If you are convicted of a first-time DWI and are found to have had a blood alcohol level of between .08 and .10 at the time of the offense, you may lose you driving privileges for three months and be assessed between $250 and $400 in fines (in addition to several additional fines and fees totaling to more than $500). You may also be required to attend an expensive alcohol or substance abuse treatment class and install an ignition interlock device for six to twelve months. Finally, a judge has discretion to sentence you to between 12 hours and up to thirty days in jail, depending on the facts of your case.

If you are convicted of a first-time DWI and you are found to have had over a .10 blood alcohol concentration at the time of driving, you may lose your driving privileges for between seven months and one year. You will likely face higher fines, ranging from around $300-$500. And the judge may consider your high BAC in determining whether to sentence you at the lower 12-hour jail range all the way up to higher end of the range at thirty days in jail. The higher your BAC, the more likely you are to receive a harsher jail sentence.

If your DWI occurred in a school zone, you may be subject to a fine as high as $800 for a first offense. Your driving privileges may be suspended for years, and you may also be sentenced to sixty days of jail time. The penalties for a DWI in a school zone are heightened for subsequent DWI offenses as well.

Can You Go to Jail for a 2nd Dui in NJ?

Penalties for a second-time DWI in New Jersey are more severe, including a longer potential jail sentence. You may receive fines in the range of $500-$1000, plus additional fees and surcharges. You may be sentenced to thirty days of community service, along with an alcohol or substance abuse assessment and course. You face a minimum of two years’ driver’s license suspension and an extended period where you must drive with an ignition interlock device installed. Finally, you may be sentenced to jail time ranging from two days to sixty days, depending on the facts of your offense. These penalties are again heightened if you were driving while intoxicated in a school zone.

Is Jail Mandatory for a Third DWI Offense in New Jersey?

The consequences of being convicted of DWI for the third time in New Jersey are even harsher. You face a minimum fine of $1,000 (not including additional surcharges and fees), along with up to 90 days of community service. You will have to complete an alcohol or substance abuse assessment and course. You will be required to drive with an ignition interlock device for ten years, and your license will be suspended for ten years as well. The worst part? A 3rd DUI conviction carries mandatory 180 days of jail time. This means that you must be sentenced to jail if convicted of a third drunk driving offense in New Jersey. You are allowed to serve 90 days of the jail time inpatient and serve the other 90 days in actual jail.

Possible Jail Sentence for DUI Assault by Auto in NJ

If you drive recklessly and cause serious bodily injury to another person, and you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the offense, you may be charged with a third or fourth degree indictable offense. Indictable offenses, unlike traffic offenses, are criminal charges that carry prison sentences. A conviction for assault by auto when DWI is involved can result in a state prison sentence, as opposed to a jail sentence, of 18 months for a fourth degree crime involving DWI and bodily injury to the victim. There is a possible prison sentence of three to five years for a third degree crime involving DUI and serious bodily injury to the victim. You may also face a broad range of additional penalties for assault by auto involving DWI,  ranging from license suspension, to thousands of dollars in fines, to installation of an interlock device and substance abuse treatment.

Can I Avoid Jail for DWI Charges?

The short answer: yes. But you need an aggressive and highly skilled New Jersey DWI defense lawyer who knows how to attack the prosecution’s case, deal with illegally obtained evidence, and call into question vital elements of the specific DUI you are accused of committing. You shouldn’t wait to begin crafting your best defense strategy if you are seeking the most desirable outcome. For more information and to speak with an NJ DUI attorney free of charge, call (908) 838-0150 now. We serve all of Union County, including Cranford, Linden, Elizabeth, Roselle, Clark, Westfield, Summit, Scotch Plains, Garwood, and Union Township.

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.