Mostly everyone loves to have a drink with family and friends during the holiday. Sharing an alcoholic beverage with a loved one is seen as entirely natural and celebratory — unless you decide to drive afterward. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense in New Jersey because of how unsafe it is to drive impaired. It will also result in harsh penalties if you’re ever caught. How extreme these punishments are can differ greatly depending on several factors, but many result in heavy fines and/or jail time. If you still want to afford holiday gifts and spend time with your family this season, here’s an overview of New Jersey DUI penalties to persuade you not to drink and drive.
Blood Alcohol Content
A major factor that influences how harshly you’ll be penalized for drunk driving in New Jersey is blood alcohol concentration (BAC). BAC is a measure of how much alcohol is present in your blood, which can affect your ability to drive. As a result, individuals with a higher BAC will generally face harsher punishments than those with a lower BAC level. For example, a BAC of 0.08% — which affects muscle coordination and reasoning skills — will lead to a DUI punishment. However, those who have 0.10% BAC — slowing their thinking and reaction time — will face more serious consequences.
Another factor in determining a New Jersey DUI penalty is whether or not it was a repeat offense. If you were arrested for driving under the influence for the first time, you’ll experience a three-month driver’s license suspension, a fine between $250 to $400, and a possible 30-day jail sentence if the judge orders it. Individuals who face a first-time conviction may also need to use an ignition interlock device for 30 days, which serves as a mini breathalyzer that prevents them from starting their vehicle if they have a high BAC.
However, if you had a BAC of over 0.10%, the punishment for a first offense is even harsher. It can lead to up to a year of license suspension, a $300 to $500 fine, and 30 days in jail — if you’re convicted in early December, you can say goodbye to the holiday season.
Individuals convicted of drunk driving in New Jersey a second time within a decade of their first offense will face even more serious consequences. They’ll have their license suspended for two years, a $500 to $1000 fine, and a jail sentence lasting between 48 hours to 90 days. That interlock device mentioned previously will also have to be put on their vehicle for two to four years. A third drunk driving offense results in the harshest penalties, including a 10-year license suspension, a $1000 fine, and up to 180 days in jail.
It’s worth noting that there are several circumstances that can noticeably worsen or alter New Jersey DUI penalties, including:
Driving in a School Zone
Because children are present in the area, being convicted of driving while intoxicated in a school zone is very serious. It can lead to an additional $500 to $800 fine and 60 or more days in jail. Further, your driving privileges can be suspended for up to two years.
Drunk driving in a commercial vehicle is also different, as the BAC level needed for a conviction is lowered from 0/08% to 0.04%. The New Jersey DUI penalties for driving commercial vehicles are similar to the penalties for regular driving — but now you’ll have to contend with an angry boss or manager.
Drunk Driving Under 21
Any driver under 21 years of age will be arrested even if they have a 0.01 BAC because they aren’t old enough to drink. They can have their license suspended for 30 to 90 days and go through 15 to 30 days of community service. However, the judge may choose to give a young driver harsher penalties depending on the circumstances.
If you seriously injure someone while driving under the influence, you’ll face a felony charge and time in state prison.
Facing New Jersey DUI Penalties? Shugar Law Office Can Help.
If you’re searching for a professional DWI lawyer in Freehold, NJ, and the surrounding area, contact the Shugar Law Office. Our firm handles a variety of cases, meaning you can always trust our criminal attorneys in Hackensack, NJ, to fight on your behalf. For more information on how we can help with a DWI charge or to schedule your consultation, call us today.