New Jersey DWI Laws Changing Soon
The Penalties for New Jersey DWI convictions are changing. January of 2020 will likely be the effective date. Whether those changes will apply to DWI cases open currently is still in question.
Under existing DWI penalty structure for a first offense conviction, license suspensions are mandatory. With a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 1 year depending on the Alcotest reading. Currently, .08 BAC but below .10 BAC is punishable by 3 months suspension and discretionary ignition interlock. The new law would make this punishable by potential, but possibly not mandatory, 30 day license suspension predicated on the defendant installing the ignition interlock system in his car for a minimum of 3 months.
.10 BAC but below .15 BAC is presently a mandatory 7 month to one year loss of license. The new law would potentially eliminate suspensions for this level of offense as well and mandate the installation of the interlock for a period of 7 to 12 months.
.15 BAC and above is at present a 7 month to 1 year loss of license and mandatory installation of the iterlock for a minimum of 6 months following reinstatement. The changes to the law would change the penalties to a 4 to 6 month suspension and a mandatory interlock of 9 to 15 months.
You will not get your license returned until you install the interlock. You will be suspended for a longer period of time and possibly charged criminally if you do not install the device.
If you blow into the device and you blow over the threshold limit, you may be subject to further interlock requirements and suspensions.
At first glance, this seems better for those arrested and charged with DWI. I Do not necessarily agree with this.
First, this doesn't cure that you have DWI on your record. The conviction stands. You will always have it there. The other penalites are still in place, thousands of dollars in fines and surcharges, plus the insurance ramifications which are disastrous. In addition, the lack of suspension only really applies to a small portion of DWI offenses, as many offensese involve reading of .15 and above.
Also, what happens if you don't have a car that you can install the device in. You are out of luck. Your license gets suspended for the period of time thay you would have the interlock.
Ignition interlocks are expensive. You have to pay to install, monitor and repair the device. Many people may not be able to afford this in addition to the ordinary fines, fees and surcharges that the add up to thousands of dollara. This is not cheap. Second, they tend to be glitchy and frequently don't work properly. Third, they are embarrassing. Anyone who sees the interior of your car will know what it is.
Company vehicles, work trucks....all must have it in there. This could be a big problem. CDL holders...it does not appear that you get the benefit of this law.
There is some upside to this as I see it though. For those who are in that no suspension zone, interlock only, here is the good news. You will have an absolute free shot at going to trial on your case and sufferring basically no downside if you lose. This is much different than before. Of course you may bunch of other ticket issued in connection with the offense. But rarely are you actually found guilty of many of those.
Also if your BAC is in the suspension zone, your lawyer can work the case to get those readings quashed so you can avoid a suspension.
I also think that there is going to be a lot of charges that result from violations of interlock requirements. Blowing over the interlock limit will result in a report being issued to the MVC and the court. You will be called back to deal with it.
I really do not think that the changes are tremendlously helpful for thos facing DWI charges. If you have questions please contact me.