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Second DWI Offenses


People sometimes wonder how a person could be charged with a DWI offense after having been convicted of drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs previously. After all, the thinking goes, why would you ever get behind the wheel in that state when you already know just how serious the consequences can be? Of course, the reality is that these cases are often a lot more complicated than that, because it’s not easy for a person to make the right decisions when they are intoxicated. Beyond that, the low threshold for a DWI charge in New Jersey – 0.08% blood alcohol concentration – means that even a few beers can put a person over the legal limit, making it difficult for them to gauge whether they are actually technically too impaired to operate a car. A host of other factors play into blood alcohol concentration (BAC), from dehydration to how much you had to eat that day and your overall size and alcohol tolerance. With all of this in mind, it’s easy to see how easy it can be to end up arrested and charged with a second DWI in New Jersey.

At this point in your case, you need to speak to a knowledgeable and experienced DWI defense lawyer who can examine the facts, explain your options, and employ their skills to defend and potentially beat the second DUI charge against you. At William Proetta Criminal Law, our team of attorneys has been trained specifically in the standards and procedures used to investigate and prosecute DWI cases, which we use on a regular basis to successfully defend our clients charged with driving under the influence. With a local office in Jersey City, we serve Hoboken, Weehawken, Secaucus, Union City, Kearny, Bayonne, and surrounding communities throughout Hudson County, NJ. For your convenience, we offer free consultations with a member of our dedicated defense team anytime. Please (201) 793-8018 for a free consultation with a DWI lawyer who can advise and assist you today. You can also reach us by contacting us online.


Most first-time DWI offenders in NJ are able to avoid the most significant penalties like jail time and driver’s license suspension, because license suspension is not mandatory for a first offense DWI so long as you install the ignition interlock device for the required period of time, nor is jail time in the majority of cases. However, there are enhanced penalties imposed in DUI cases involving repeat offenders. Moreover, prosecutors and judges are far more likely to aggressively seek these heightened penalties in second and third offense DWI cases because there is a belief among many that a harsh punishment is needed to discourage further violations in the future. The bottom line is that repeated DWI convictions will have a significant effect on the penalties that you face, and the penalties generally get worse with each subsequent conviction or guilty plea.


The possible penalties for a second offense DWI in New Jersey may include heavy fines, Motor Vehicle Commission surcharges, community service, alcohol education classes, and installation of an ignition interlock device on the offender’s vehicle. But the two most serious penalties that can be handed down by the judge in your second offense DWI case are probably the following:


A conviction for a second DWI offense carries a mandatory sentence of at least two (2) days in the county jail. This is in stark contrast to a first DWI offense, which does not require the judge to impose jail time. Additionally, the automatic jail sentence for a second drunk driving conviction is the minimum. The judge can actually sentence you to up to 90 days in jail. This wide sentencing range gives the judge a lot of flexibility, with the particular facts and circumstances of your case probably factoring into the ultimate sentence. For example, was your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) barely over the legal limit, or were you significantly above the legal limit? Are you a truck driver with a commercial driver’s license and, therefore, greater responsibility to be safe on the road? How long has it been since your previous DWI conviction? All of these factors could weigh heavily on the judge’s sentence in your case.


If you are convicted of a second offense DWI, your driver’s license will be suspended. The period of license suspension is 1-2 years, with the judge having discretion to impose a shorter or longer period depending on whether there are aggravating factors in the case such as a high BAC, whether the DWI offense involved an accident that injured another person or caused property damage, and the amount of time that has passed since the defendant’s first DWI conviction. While a first-time offender is able to avoid having their license suspended so long as they install an ignition interlock device on their car, this option is not available for repeat offenders. If you have a prior DWI conviction or guilty plea on your record, license suspension is mandatory. Any attempt to operate a motor vehicle while your license is suspended could lead to additional charges for driving with a suspended license for DWI, which carries penalties that include additional jail time.


When it comes to determining whether an individual should be charged with a second offense DWI, prosecutors and judges must consider the amount of time that has passed since the first offense. This is known as the 10-year step down provision, or the 10-Year Rule. The idea behind this rule is that a person who was convicted of a DWI or DUI more than a decade earlier should not be subject to the same harsh consequences as a person who commits multiple DWI offenses over a shorter period of time, since the latter is more likely to endanger other motorists in the future.

Prosecutors often seek maximum penalties in second offense DUI cases, and judges are typically required to impose automatic punishments such as jail time and driver’s license suspension. This is why the ten-year step-down provision can make all the difference in the world for a defendant: when the provision applies, the court will essentially “forget” that the defendant has a prior DWI conviction on their driving record. So, if at least 10 years have passed since your first DUI conviction, your current DWI charges will be treated as a first offense, meaning that you are less likely to face jail time or suspension of your driver’s license.

The complicated nature of New Jersey DWI laws means that the defendant must formally request that the 10-year step down rule be applied in their case, which is where an experienced DWI attorney can provide invaluable assistance.


Although your DWI case will be adjudicated in New Jersey, it is important to understand that an out-of-state DWI conviction may be used as a prior offense for the purposes of determining whether you should be subject to enhanced charges for a second offense DWI. In other words, your earlier conviction for drunk driving or drugged driving in, say, New York or Pennsylvania can count against you later if you were charged and convicted for DWI in New Jersey.

Additionally, if you reside in another state, any penalties assessed in your NJ DUI case will likely apply when you return to your home state. This is because New Jersey is one of 45 states that are part of the Driver’s License Compact, which allows states to share information with one another about motorists’ traffic violations. Since all of these states have similar DWI laws, your home state may take action and impose penalties for a second offense DWI conviction in New Jersey.


If you have been charged with a second DUI offense or any other type of driving while intoxicated or under the influence offense in Hudson County, do not hesitate to contact us 24/7 at (201)-793-8018 or by e-mail for a free consultation with an experienced DWI defense lawyer.