New laws will affect people charged with driving under the influence in New Jersey after December 1, 2019. If you face a DUI after this date, you need to understand whether the old or new laws apply to your case. The lawyers at Villani & DeLuca have extensive training and experience in New Jersey DUI cases and are prepared to help you navigate these new laws.
The new driving while intoxicated reforms were signed into law this year by Governor Murphy and will primarily affect the penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. The goal of the new laws is to deter and prevent drunk driving while allowing people to continue providing for themselves and their families. While the laws reduce the length of license suspensions for first-time DUI offenders, they increase the requirements for ignition interlock devices.
You need to hire a New Jersey DUI lawyer who can tell you whether these reforms will apply in your case and how they might affect your sentence. This information can be critical when deciding whether to accept a plea deal and ensure that you're treated fairly in court. Read on for more information on the major ways that New Jersey's DUI laws are changing.
1. Decreased Driver's License Suspension for a First DUI
The new DUI bill significantly reduces the amount of time that a driver's license will be suspended for a first-time DUI. This is good news for anyone facing their first DUI charge.
Before December 1, 2019, license suspension for a first DUI was based on blood alcohol content and ranged from three months to one year. The new law will continue to base license suspension on BAC, but it significantly reduces the length of suspension for each category.
- A BAC of 0.08 to 0.10 will result in a license suspension from the date of sentence until an interlock device is installed.
- A BAC between 0.10 and 0.15 will result in a license suspension from the date of sentence until an interlock device is installed.
- A BAC higher than 0.15 or refusal to take a breathalyzer test will result in a license suspension of license for a minimum of 4 but no more than 6 months.
This change in the law recognizes that most people depend on their driver's licenses for things like getting to work, taking children to school, attending medical appointments, or doing the grocery shopping. Losing the right to drive can severely impact a person's ability to support their family. The law also recognizes that for many first-time offenders, driving under the influence was a mistake they aren't likely to repeat.
While this may seem like New Jersey is becoming more lenient with regard to DUIs, that is not the case. Members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) endorsed the new bill, and it's intended to protect the public from drunk driving while allowing first-time offenders to continue working. The bill replaces lengthy driver's license suspensions with stricter requirements to use ignition interlock devices.
2. The Requirements for Installing Ignition Interlock Devices Increase
New DUI laws will require ignition interlock devices for all DUI convictions, meaning an IID must be installed on the vehicle principally operated by the offender. Typically, the driver must blow into the device to test their BAC before driving. If the device detects that the driver has an elevated BAC, the vehicle won't start. These devices occasionally require drivers to complete a BAC at other times after a car has been started to check for drivers who may have asked someone else to take the test or who began drinking after starting the vehicle. IIDs also record when a driver has failed a test.
Before December 1, 2019, IIDs were only required by law as part of the penalty for a DUI if a driver's BAC was above 0.15 or if the driver refused a breathalyzer test. Under the new law, IIDs are required for all DUI convictions. The required installation period is based on the driver's BAC:
- BAC of 0.08 to 0.10 requires IID for three months.
- BAC of 0.10 to 0.15 requires IID for seven months to one year.
- BAC over 0.15 or a breathalyzer refusal requires IID for 9 to 15 months.
The new law will also require that repeat DUI offenders install an IID in every vehicle they own or operate. IIDs must be installed in each vehicle owned by the convicted person, even if that person doesn't usually operate the vehicle. Therefore, repeat offenders may be required to install IIDs in cars primarily driven by their spouse or child.
While an IID is preferable to a driver's license suspension, this penalty should not be taken lightly. Under New Jersey's DUI reforms, failure to install an IID as required will result in a driver's license suspension of 18 months regardless of the driver's BAC at the time of their arrest. The installation and use of these devices are not cheap, and the defendant will be responsible for all costs. Once ordered to use an IID, a person will generally be prohibited from operating any vehicle that does not have an IID installed.
Additionally, although these devices are mostly reliable, they aren't perfect. If the device falsely detects that a driver is intoxicated, the driver may face additional penalties. Speaking with a lawyer who understands these devices ensures that you know the full implications of having an IID installed in your vehicle.
3. Decrease in License Suspension Period for First Offense Refusal Charge
- The new law removes the mandatory 7 month to 12 month license suspension on a first offense, and now the right to operate a motor vehicle is suspended from date of sentence until such a time that an ignition interlock device is installed.
- The ignition interlock shall be installed for no less than 9 months and no more than 15 months.
4. New Requirements for Removing an Ignition Interlock Device
The updated DUI laws impose new requirements for removing an IID. Drivers are no longer allowed to simply have the IID removed after the expiration of the required installation period. Instead, they must meet certain requirements and submit certifications to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. For example, if you are ordered to use an IID for six months, you may no longer remove the IID just because six months have elapsed. You must first provide the required certifications or face penalties.
Drivers are required to submit three certifications before removing an IID from their vehicles under the new law. These certifications apply to the use of the IID in the final one-third of the required installation period.
- First, the driver must provide certification from the manufacturer that there were no attempts to start the vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or more unless a re-test conducted within five minutes indicated a BAC of less than 0.08.
- Second, the driver must provide certification that there were no failures to take or pass a BAC test unless a re-test conducted within five minutes of the initial test indicates a BAC of less than 0.08.
- Finally, the driver must provide certification showing that they completed all required maintenance, repairs, calibration, monitoring, and inspection for the ignition interlock device.
The IID may only be uninstalled once the commission is satisfied with these certifications.
Hire a Lawyer Who Can Offer Up-to-Date Advice
If you're facing a DUI, make sure you fight for the best case outcome by understanding the changes to New Jersey's DUI laws and hiring competent legal counsel. A lawyer who isn't familiar with the changes to New Jersey's DUI laws won't be able to give you accurate advice about the penalties you face in your case.
The experienced lawyers at Villani & DeLuca are ready to fight for you. using their thorough experience with New Jersey DUI cases, local courts, and Alcotest® training. Make sure you have a knowledgeable and qualified lawyer defending your rights by contacting Villani & DeLuca online or calling (732) 709-7757.
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