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An Overview of New Jersey Drunk Driving Penalties


Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in the United States, with each state having their own laws restricting and penalizing this action. New Jersey’s laws are particularly stringent, carrying a number of different possible penalties ranging from fines to possible jail time, and much more. While a DUI conviction is normally considered a misdemeanor, they are taken extremely seriously and carry some of the heaviest penalties of any non-felony crime.

If you find yourself facing DUI charges, it’s important to know what sort of penalties you could find yourself subjected to if you’re convicted, and thus why it’s so important that you fight back against them. Here is a brief explanation of the penalties you could be subjected to if you’re found guilty of driving under the influence.

Jail Time

Perhaps the first and most obvious penalty for driving under the influence is a jail sentence. Those who are convicted are often required to spend at least a few days in jail, with maximum penalties starting at as much as 30 days for a first offense.

Repeat offenders have a much stronger chance of facing at least some form of a jail sentence, with the maximum penalties for a second offense being 90 days, and a third or subsequent offense being up to 180 days. Judges are often more prone to assigning closer to the maximum penalty for repeat offenders as well, particularly if the defendant shows that they clearly didn’t learn their lesson the first time.

Will you have to go to jail? Not necessarily. First-time offenders who have no aggravating factors in their case may be able to petition the court or work out a plea deal to avoid jail time and instead deal with a probation period. However, it’s difficult to arrange such a deal on your own, so you should consult with a Bergen County DUI attorney as soon as possible.

Fines, Fees & Added Costs

Like many other crimes, a DUI conviction carries a fine, with the amount depending largely on some of the circumstances of the offense and whether or not the conviction is a second or subsequent. First-time offenders face a minimum fine of $250 and up to $500, and repeat offenders start at $500 and can go up to $1,000. For a third-time conviction, the fine is set at $1,000.

However, that’s just the start. You’ll also be required to pay a series of fees in order to process your case, including a $100 surcharge for each of the following:

  • Drunk driving enforcement fund
  • Motor vehicle restoration fee
  • Violent crimes compensation fee
  • Intoxicated driver program fee
  • State and municipality fee

So that’s an extra $500 in fees alone for your arrest. And then to go even a step further, you’ll also have to pay your court costs and other various processing fees, which can total thousands in extra cash out of your pocket. Your auto insurance will also sharply increase, including a $1,000 annual insurance surcharge for the first three years after your conviction.

In total, it’s not uncommon for a DUI conviction in the state of New Jersey to cost drivers as much as $5,000 to even as high as $10,000 or more in fees, fines, and added costs!

License Suspension

A driver’s license suspension is perhaps one of the most inhibitive and obnoxious DUI penalties you can face. For a first offense, your license will be suspended for a minimum of three months and could be so for as long as a year. A second-time offender can be suspended for two years, and a third-time offense can carry an immense ten year license suspension!

What’s worse is that New Jersey is one of just a few states that does not have a restricted license program, meaning you’ll lose your ability to drive yourself and be forced to rely on the grace of others or public transportation to get yourself around.

Ignition Interlock Device

Ignition interlock devices are essentially breathalyzers that are connected to the ignition switch in your car. You must pass the breathalyzer test in order for it to enable your ignition system, which allows you to start the car. Failing a breath test is recorded in the device, which then is reported to the court when you take device in for calibration and tuning each month. A failed test could wind up subjecting you to even further penalties.

New Jersey law may mandate that you install one of these devices in every vehicle you drive for any DUI conviction at a judge’s discretion.

If you need legal assistance after being arrested for DUI, contact the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC today by dialing (201) 574-7919 to request a case evaluation!

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