New Jersey DWI Laws

By: Kristy Annely

New Jersey has some of the toughest DWI laws in the United States. DWI is the acronym for Driving While Intoxicated. Sometimes this is referred to as DUI, Driving Under the Influence. These laws come under the heading ‘Traffic Violations.’ The objective is to prevent inebriated drivers from causing injury or damages to themselves or others.

The capacity to hold liquor varies from person to person. But that is immaterial before the law. If a driver has 0.08% or more of alcohol by weight in his blood, he can be booked for DWI. Earlier, the limit was 0.10%. Now if the alcohol reading is 0.10% or more the penalties are more stringent. The punishment is also graded, for first offense, second offense and so on. It includes a combination of imprisonment, fine, suspension of license and counseling sessions. To decide prior offenses, similar charges faced by the accused in other states will also be counted. The time gap between the two offenses would also be relevant. If the offense takes place within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school there would be additional fines and a condition to do community work.

If the owner lends his vehicle to another person and that person is caught for DWI, the owner still faces legal action. Under DWI laws ‘intoxication’ doesn’t only mean the intake of alcohol beyond the permitted level. It could mean drugs and a whole array of intoxicating substances, which include even use of inhalers and certain prescription medicines.

A person who is under the influence of alcohol or any of the substances listed in the statute could be booked even for opening his car. A citizen drinking in a parked vehicle can have the same fate. In such cases the state has to prove intention to drive.

Notice is to be issued within ninety days of the alleged infringement. An appearance in court is mandatory. There is a guideline that the case is to be heard within sixty days, but this may not be always practical. In such situations it may be possible for the accused to assert his right to a speedy trial.

A Municipal Court Judge tries DWI cases. There is no right to trial by jury.

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