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Frequently Asked Questions about Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey

A DWI or DUI conviction is a serious offense. A conviction in Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties in NJ could cost you thousands of dollars, tarnish your driving record forever – and even lead to imprisonment. After you or a loved one has been arrested, you probably have a whole host of questions about what happens next. Our New Jersey attorneys are here to address all your concerns.

If you or a family member is facing a DWI prosecution in Monmouth, Middlesex or Ocean County, don’t think of defending yourself in court. Turn instead to the DWI lawyers at Rudnick, Addonizio, Pappa & Casazza PC. With more than 80 years of combined legal experience, we aggressively defend your legal rights, ensuring you obtain all the protections that New Jersey law provides. We serve clients throughout the Bayshore Area including Holmdel, Red Bank, Monroe, Rumson, Asbury Park and Monmouth Beach.

What Does DWI/DUI Mean in New Jersey?

If you are driving a vehicle and a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (whether prescription, OTC or illegal) you may be asked to perform field sobriety tests during the traffic stop and/or asked to take a Breathalyzer test. If the breath test shows your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or more, you can be charged with DWI. In New Jersey, there is no difference between DWI and DUI.

What If My BAC Is Less than 0.08 Percent?

Police in Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean counties and throughout NJ can charge you with DWI if you consumed any amount of alcohol that impairs your driving. And, if you are under age 21, you will be charged if you drive with any alcohol in your system at all—even as little as 0.01 percent. New Jersey has a zero tolerance policy for underage drivers regarding DWI.

What If I Was High, but Not Drunk?

You can be charged with DWI for driving under the influence of illegal drugs. You might even be arrested on suspicion of DWI if you were taking a legal drug with a valid prescription. A violation is treated the same as driving with a BAC of 0.10 percent. Even though an Alcotest may show there is no alcohol in your system, the police will likely request a urine or blood sample to test for drugs. You have the right to refuse these tests. If you do refuse, the police must get a warrant to conduct the blood test.

What are the Penalties for a First DWI Conviction in NJ?

If your BAC was 0.08 percent or higher, but less than 0.10 percent, the drunk driving penalties for a first offense are:

  • $250 to $400 fine
  • Imprisonment for up to 30 days
  • Drivers’ license suspension for three months
  • Attendance at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) for at least six hours a day for two consecutive days
  • $1,000 per year automobile insurance surcharge, for three years

If your BAC was 0.10 percent or higher, or if your driving was impaired by drugs, two of the penalties increase:

  • The fine increases to $300 to $500
  • You may lose your driver’s license suspension for between seven and 12 months

If your BAC was 0.15 percent or higher, the judge can also order an ignition interlock device installed on your car for up to three years after your license is restored. The device costs $75 to $100 per month, plus installation fee.

What are the Penalties for a Second New Jersey DWI Conviction?

  • $500 to $1,000 fine
  • Imprisonment for up to 90 days
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for two years
  • Detainment for 48 hours in an IDRC
  • A $1,000 per year automobile insurance surcharge, for three years
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for up to three years after your license is restored

What are the Penalties for a Third DWI Conviction?

  • $1,000 fine
  • Imprisonment for 180 days, up to which 90 days can be spent in an inpatient rehab center
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 10 years
  • Detainment in an in-patient alcoholism treatment program
  • A fee paid to the IDRC, the amount set by the court
  • $1,500 per year automobile insurance surcharge, for three years
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for a period of one to three years after your license is restored

What are the Penalties for Driving with a Suspended License because of a DWI Conviction?

  • $500 fine
  • 10 to 90 days imprisonment
  • Up to two years added license suspension
  • Revocation of motor vehicle registration

In addition, if you are involved in an accident while your license is suspended for DWI, and someone is hurt, a 45-day jail sentence is mandatory.

What are the Other Penalties for Getting Convicted of a DWI in and around Hazlet, Middletown, Keyport, Union Beach or Holmdel, NJ?

Every DWI conviction carries additional penalties, including:

  • $100 contribution to the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund
  • $100 Intoxicated Driving Program fee
  • $50 Violent Crimes Compensation Fund fee
  • $75 Safe and Secure Community Program fee
  • $100 restoration fee to get your license back when the suspension ends

After the suspension period is over, your license remains suspended until you pay the restoration fee. If you haven’t paid it, and you’re stopped for any reason, you’ll be charged with driving with a suspended license.

Fines, prison terms and license suspensions are doubled when offense are committed in a school zone or at a school crossing.

Can I Refuse to Take the Breathalyzer Test?

If you are stopped on suspicion of DWI and refuse a breath test, you will be penalized. New Jersey’s implied consent laws require all drivers to submit to a Breathalyzer test upon arrest. For a first offense, the penalties are:

  • $300-$500 fine
  • Seven to 12 month license suspension
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for a period of six months to one year after license restoration
  • Automobile insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years after license restoration

The penalties increase for additional offenses just as they do for DWI convictions.

Can I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

Yes, you can refuse a field sobriety test in NJ. However, if you choose to refuse the tests, the officers are likely going to arrest you and charge you with suspected DWI.

Can I Get a Conditional License in New Jersey?

In some states, even after you are convicted of DWI, you might be able to obtain a “conditional license,” which typically allows you to return to work. In New Jersey, you cannot obtain a conditional license.

How Will a New Jersey DWI Conviction Impact an Out-of-State Driver?

If you hold an out of state drivers’ license, and you are arrested in New Jersey for drunk driving, your license will only be suspended in NJ. However, New Jersey will report the conviction to your home state and you may face additional penalties there.

What Is New Jersey’s “Open Container Law”?

In New Jersey, it is illegal to possess an open or unsealed container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. The law forbids not only the driver but the passengers to drink while the vehicle is in operation. The law presumes that if an unsealed or empty alcoholic beverage container is found in the passenger compartment, you drank it. It is not a violation to carry open containers in the trunk.

Can I Defend Myself without a Lawyer for a DWI Arrest in New Jersey?

The quick answer is: yes, you are permitted to defend yourself. But, we strongly advise against it. If you are charged with any serious motor vehicle offense, immediately seek help from a qualified lawyer. New Jersey’s DWI laws are complex and the penalties are severe. Contact an experienced DWI defense lawyer at Rudnick, Addonizio, Pappa & Casazza PC. From our two offices in East Brunswick and Hazlet, we will fight your charges in an effort to help you avoid jail time, a criminal record, as well as thousands of dollars in lost income, fines, surcharges and fees.

The DWI lawyers at Rudnick, Addonizio, Pappa & Casazza PC have more than 80 years of combined legal experience. We defend our clients aggressively against criminal charges, to ensure that they receive all the protections New Jersey law provides. Call today at 888-657-8883 to schedule a free consultation, or fill out our contact form online.

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