DWI/DUI Frequently Asked Questions

DWI/DUI Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between DWI and DUI?

There is no difference. In New Jersey, the drunk driving statute (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50) is actually entitled “Driving While Intoxicated.” Hence, the commonly used acronym “DWI”. Some people, however, like to refer to the violation as “Driving Under the Influence”, which gives rise to the other commonly used acronym “DUI”. In fact, there is no difference between “driving while intoxicated” and “driving under the influence”. Even many municipal court judges in New Jersey vary usage of “DUI” and “DWI” from one day to the next.

Will I go to jail if I am convicted of DWI?

Most drivers will not be sentenced to jail for a first offense DWI offense unless the incident involved an accident resulting in serious personal injuries to another individual. If the driver has a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the judge may impose a longer period of suspension (up to one year), community service, and perhaps a higher fine. On subsequent offenses, the chances of receiving a jail term increase greatly. For a second offense, there is a mandatory jail term of no less than 2 days and not more than 90 days. For a third offense, there is a mandatory 180-day jail term, 90 of which may be served in an in-patient rehabilitation facility.

Is DWI a criminal charge?

While DWI is a criminal charge in most other states, it is only a traffic offense in the State of New Jersey. Unless your arrest was in connection with another criminal violation, you are not finger-printed. The record of your arrest will only show up in the Motor Vehicle Commission records, and not in any criminal data base. If you live in another state and are convicted of DWI in New Jersey, the conviction will transfer to your home state “administratively”, but not criminally. There may be an additional loss of driving privileges in your home state, but you will not be prosecuted again for a criminal offense.

What is the difference between license “suspension” and license “forfeiture”?

There is absolutely no difference. The word “forfeiture” is simply the term that has replaced the word “suspension” under the new law.

What if I am convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, not alcohol? Can I still keep my license?

Unfortunately, no. These new provisions do not affect suspensions for driving under the influence of drugs. A first offender will still have to forfeit his/her license for 7 to 12 months. However, under the revised statute, an ignition interlock device is no longer a requirement.

What is an ignition interlock device?

An ignition interlock device is a breath analysis device that is installed in a motor vehicle. The interlock prevents an alcohol-impaired person from starting the vehicle. Re-tests are randomly required during operation of the vehicle. The interlock system records dates, times, test results, engine runs and engine offs. The data is provided to the authorities and used to determine compliance with the interlock program.

How much does an ignition interlock device cost in New Jersey?

Interlock device companies are privately owned, and fees may vary. However, an interlock device typically costs about $100.00 per month to rent. There is usually no fee for installation or removal.

Can I completely avoid a forfeiture of my license if I go to Court with an ignition interlock device already installed on my car?

No, your license must be forfeited in Court. You will then have to go the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission with documentation that your ignition interlock device is installed on your vehicle. The NJMVC will print a notation on your driver’s license stating that you shall not operate a motor vehicle unless it is equipped with an ignition interlock device.

What if I do not own or lease a vehicle?

If you do not own, lease or have access to vehicle, you will be excused from the ignition interlock device requirement. However, you will be required to sign a form attesting to that fact, and that you will notify the Court if you purchase, lease or have access to a motor vehicle, and will install an ignition interlock device on that vehicle. You will also have to sign an acknowledgment that you understand that a violation of that provision shall constitute the crime of perjury under N.J.S.A. N.J.S.A. 2C:28-1, a crime of the third degree punishable by incarceration for three to five years, and a fine up to $15,000.00.

What if I drive a car that does not have an ignition interlock device installed?

A person who drives a vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock device must forfeit his/her driving privilege for one year.

Where do I go to get an ignition interlock device (IID)?

While ignition interlock installers must comply with all of the regulations of the State of New Jersey, they are independent companies. You can shop them on the internet, but in all likelihood, they will send you flyers and various forms of advertisements soliciting your business shortly after you have been issued a DWI ticket?

Do I have to install an IID in all my cars?

No, only in one vehicle that is owned, registered or principally driven by you.

What is the procedure for having the ignition interlock device removed from my car?

You will become eligible to have the ignition interlock device removed from your car on the date you complete the required installation period. If the installer determines that you have complied with the conditions required by law, you will be provided with the necessary certification to take to the Motor Vehicle Commission.

If my New Jersey license is suspended, can I obtain a license in another state?

Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” Furthermore, in most states before anyone is issued a license, they are asked if their driver’s license is currently suspended or revoked in any other state. A driver will commit fraud by making misrepresentations on application, and subject himself to criminal consequences.

If I am a Pennsylvania driver, will a DWI conviction in New Jersey affect my license?

If you are a Pennsylvania driver, the New Jersey Court does not have the authority to order you to physically surrender your Pennsylvania license if you are convicted of DWI. The judge will suspend your privilege to drive in New Jersey only (and order you to serve any applicable jail sentence), and a record of your conviction will be sent to Pennsylvania. If you have never been convicted of DWI previously, the New Jersey conviction will be entered onto your Driver History, but your Pennsylvania license will probably not be suspended. Please bear in mind, that you will still be subject to insurance company surcharges. In addition, you must also pay the New Jersey surcharges of $1,000 per year for three years. If you are convicted of DWI in New Jersey, and have been previously convicted for DWI Pennsylvania, your Pennsylvania license will be suspended for a minimum of one year. If you work or travel in New Jersey, you will not be able to drive in New Jersey for the period of your New Jersey suspension, even if your home state has not suspended your license. If you are caught driving in New Jersey during your suspension period, the penalties are severe, and include a mandatory jail sentence of 10 – 90 days plus an additional suspension of driving of one-to-two years.

If I was convicted of DWI in another state, does that count as prior conviction in New Jersey for sentencing purposes?

If the out-of-state DWI conviction was based exclusively upon a violation of a proscribed blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater, then it will be used for an enhanced sentence in New Jersey.

What if I am charged with both DWI and Refusal to Take the Breath Test?

A driver can be sentenced for both violations, and your suspensions and potential jail time will be consecutive. In plainer terms, the penalties will be doubled. In many situations, an experienced attorney will be able to have both the DWI and the Refusal conviction to be serviced concurrently (at the same time). However, if the driver forces the Court to have a trial, and the evidence shows that the driver was extremely intoxicated, then a judge will be more inclined to impose the maximum penalties.

If I have a prior conviction that is more than 10 years old, can it be used by the Court for sentencing purposes?

In most cases, DWI convictions which are more than 10 years old cannot be used by the municipal court judge at the sentencing of a DWI driver. If the second offense occurs more than 10 years after the first offense, the Court will treat the second conviction as a first offense, and if a third offense occurs more than 10 years after the second offense, the court will treat the third conviction as a second offense for sentencing purposes. Please note, however, that even if 10 years elapsed between the first and second offense, where less than 10 years elapsed between the second and third DWI offenses, the driver must be sentenced as a third offender. A fourth or greater conviction will always be treated as a third conviction for sentencing purposes, regardless of dates of conviction.

If my driving privileges are already suspended at the time of my DWI, how is the additional period of suspension time calculated?

Any additional suspension imposed in the current DWI matter will begin on the date of termination of the existing revocation or suspension period.

Are there surcharges associated with a DWI conviction?

A driver convicted of DWI must pay a surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years, or a total of $3,000. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission will send you a bill in the amount of $84.00 per month for three years.

Can the IDRC (Intoxicated Driver Resource Center) make me take additional classes or order additional counseling?

A driver is not always automatically finished with their IRDC requirements after he has taken the two day’s worth of classes. An IDRC officer can order a driver to participate in more classes, counseling, or treatment if he feels it is necessary. As part of the sentence, a driver must satisfy the screening, evaluation, referral, program and fee requirements of the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse’s Intoxicated Driving Program Unit, and of the Intoxicated Driver Resource Centers and a program of alcohol and drug education and highway safety, as prescribed by the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles.

If the Court forfeits my driving privilege, can I be issued a temporary or restricted license to be used for work purposes?

Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” There is no such thing as a conditional or restricted license in New Jersey, even if the driver needs one to drive to work. Most judges will issue a convicted DWI driver a one-hour temporary license to drive home.

I know I’m guilty…so what’s the point of hiring a lawyer?

There are many aspects to consider in a DWI case. There may be issues surrounding the legitimacy of the stop, i.e. a police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic offense was committed, or that there was some other unusual circumstance involving the operation of your vehicle. Before requesting that you take a breathalyzer test, the officer must have developed a reasonable belief that you were impaired by alcohol. There may be issues involving the accuracy of the breath test itself, i.e. the State must prove the breath testing instrument was functioning properly on the date of your arrest, and the officer followed the procedures within the prescribed guidelines. There may also be other errors, omissions, or discrepancies. Finally, even if you are guilty an experienced attorney may be able to reduce your suspension time or protect you from going to jail. Please call Elliot at 856-904-2744 for more information.

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