Revised Drunk Driving Penalties in New Jersey

We all received the messages and know the law, not to drink and drive. From the first minute of Drivers Education, the message is hammered home – don’t drive drunk. Of course, there are always those individuals who think they know better, or figure they are only a little bit drunk, and they drive anyway.

Many of these drunk drivers indeed are caught. New Jersey has a booming “Driving While Intoxicated” court calendar. It’s not hard to figure out who is drunk when you see a car swerving all over the place.

In many instances, the penalties for drunk driving in New Jersey consisted of license suspensions.

  • First time offenders were suspended for 7-12 months.
  • Second time offenders were suspended for two years
  • Third time offenders were suspended for ten years.

* Second and third time offenders, (and in some cases, first time offenders) with high blood alcohol readings were also obligated to install an interlock device on their primary vehicle; which cut off the engine if the drivers blood alcohol readings were too high.

Studies have shown that license suspensions were not the most effective tool to prevent repeat offenses. On August 23, 2019, New Jersey completely revamped the penalties for drunk driving anticipated to go in effect by December of this year, with the following suspensions for First time offenders:

  • Reduced to 30 days for a reading between .085 and .15
  • Reduced to 45 days for a reading between .1% and .15%,
  • Reduced to 90 days for a reading over .15%.

However, the law now mandates the installation of an ignition interlock device. The length of time the interlock would need to stay in the car would vary depending on the person’s blood alcohol level, from a minimum of three months for a blood alcohol level between .08% and .1%, to up to 18 months for a blood alcohol level over .15%; counting from when the suspension ends. Offenders would also need to pay a fine, and attend an intoxicated drivers resource center program; and possibly jail time if warranted.

There are still enhanced penalties for second and subsequent offenses, including mandatory installation of an interlock device for longer periods of time, suspensions, fines, jail time, and community service.

The revised penalties are designed to increase deterrence, but the reduced suspensions should help people keep working and going to school, since they will be able to drive more quickly. This law was supported by a broad array of groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The attorneys at SGKLegal would be happy to discuss the changes in the new law, and how it might impact you.

Written by Larry Kroll, Attorney At Law, 8/23/19