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New Jersey Assembly Seeks to Up Penalties for Drunk Driving Parents

Drunk driving is a serious crime in New Jersey. Getting behind the wheel after having one drink too many can bring heavy fines, jail time and months — or even years — of suspended driving privileges.

The penalties for New Jersey drunk driving offenses may get even stricter soon, if a new bill introduced in the state Assembly moves forward. The bill, which was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety committee in late September, seeks to impose new penalties for drunk driving parents or guardians who cause accidents that injure their minor children.

If the bill is passed, causing such an accident would become a fourth-degree crime. Applicable penalties could include a fine of up to $10,000 and 18 months in prison. If the accident causes serious injury to a minor child, the violation becomes a third-degree crime. Penalties for third-degree crimes include fines of up to $15,000 and three to five years in prison.

Under current New Jersey law, parents or guardians who drive drunk with their child in the car can be charged with disorderly persons offenses. This is true regardless of whether the parent or guardian is involved in a drunk driving accident.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Penalties

If the bill passes, these heightened penalties would be imposed in addition to the penalties for the underlying DUI crime. The consequences of a New Jersey DUI are significant, so it is important for anyone charged with DUI to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney before entering a plea, even on a first offense.

The penalties for a first-offense DUI in New Jersey depend on the driver’s blood alcohol concentration. Drivers whose BAC is between 0.08 and 0.10 face up to 30 days in prison, 12 to 48 hours in the intoxicated driver resource center (IDRC), a fine of up to $400 and a three-month loss of driving privileges. Drivers whose BAC is 0.10 or higher are subject to higher fines and a possible one-year suspension of driving privileges. In addition, judges may elect to require drivers with BACs less than 0.15 to use ignition interlock devices. Interlocks are mandatory for drivers whose BAC was 0.15 or higher.

The penalties for DUI increase with each subsequent offense. In addition, there are some special circumstances that can make the penalties for a New Jersey drunk driving offense higher. For example, a first offense for drunk driving in a school zone or school crossing can result in 60 days imprisonment, a fine of up to $800 and between 12 and 24 months of lost driving privileges. In addition, refusing a chemical test at the time of arrest can result in fines and license suspensions in addition to those imposed for the DUI offense.

Given these strict penalties, every New Jersey DUI arrest should be taken seriously. If you or a loved one has been charged with drunk driving, talk to a New Jersey criminal defense attorney who can help you protect your future.

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