DWI: What You Need to Know in New Jersey

Have you ever had a few drinks at dinner or been at a bar with your friends and then looked into your rear view mirror to see the flashing lights of a police car? Unfortunately, it’s an all too common occurrence.

Typically, a driver is pulled over for some sort of motor vehicle violation. It can be something as simple as an overdue inspection sticker or a burned out headlight or taillight or for failing to maintain your lane of travel.

It is during the initial request for documents such as your driver’s license, registration and insurance card that an officer may detect the odor of alcohol. At that time, the officer will probably ask you if you have been drinking. Do not lie!

Although the prosecution of these cases is often referred to as drunk driving, New Jersey law only requires that a driver be convicted of operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Thus, the name “DWI.”

The officer will ask you to perform field sobriety tests, which consist of physical, psychological and/or scientific tests. In the event that the officer believes there is probable cause to believe that you were operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, you will be arrested and taken to police headquarters. At that juncture you will be read your Miranda rights. You will also be asked to submit to a breath test. You must understand that YOU MUST SUBMIT TO A BREATH TEST. Failure to submit to a breath test can mean automatic conviction for refusing to submit to a breath test and a loss of your driving privilege in New Jersey for 7 months.   In addition, you can still be convicted of driving under the influence, which could carry additional loss of your driving privilege.

The penalty for a first offender who is convicted of driving while under the influence with a breath test reading of .08 – .09 will be a three month loss of license. If your breath test is a .10 or higher, you face a loss of license for at least seven months and as much as twelve months. In either instance there are additional fines, community service plus a $3,000.00 surcharge payable to the State of New Jersey.

Second time offenders face a two-year loss of license and third offenders face a ten-year loss of license. There are additional fines, community service and jail time associated with each violation.

Finally, there is an additional violation for driving while under the influence within a school zone — loss of driving privilege in New Jersey of one year.

Due to the seriousness of the driving while intoxicated offenses and the potential loss of license, anyone charged with these offenses should consult with an experienced attorney.

Learn more about:  Municipal Court

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