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Does New Jersey Need More Strict DWI Laws?

Posted by Carmine R. Villani | Sep 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) recently reported that New Jersey is one of the worst states for protecting victims of drunk drivers. More than half of the drivers who have had their license suspended for a DWI violate the suspension according to the organization. MADD believes New Jersey needs more strict DWI laws.


New Jersey considers DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) a motor vehicle offense that is heard in municipal court.  New Jersey drivers charged with DWI are not entitled to a jury trial because drunk driving is not considered a criminal offense.  Instead, New Jersey imposes costly monetary penalties.  This is in contrast to other states that view DWI from a criminal perspective.  Additionally, NJ imposes less jail time for drunk driving. Only when other charges are a part of the case, including injuries and fatalities, does jail time potentially become significant.  In these instances the cases are tried in New Jersey State Superior Court.

How Common is Driving with a Suspended License?

Let's look at two recent widely reported cases that both involved drivers who chose to drive drunk while their licenses were suspended for DWI.  In Hunterdon County, a young driver in his early twenties was charged with drunk driving while driving with a suspended NJ driver's license.  His vehicle crashed with another vehicle, head on, killing an elderly couple. Another Morris County case involved a fatality after a 35-year-old woman with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.133 veered off the road killing a man.  In both cases the drivers had prior DWI offenses. These kinds of vehicle fatalities are too common in New Jersey according to MADD that believes penalties should be more stringent.

Strict DWI Laws and Penalties Under Current New Jersey Law

N.J.S.A. 39:3-40 imposes increasing penalties for driving with a suspended license. First time convicted offenders face a $500 fine. Second time guilty offenders face a $750 fine and imprisonment in a county jail for one to five days. When found guilty a third time, offenders face a $1,000 fine and ten days in a county jail.
N.J.S.A.39:3-40 also states that upon conviction, the court shall impose or extend a period of suspension not to exceed six months; and upon conviction, the court shall impose a period of imprisonment for not less than 45 days or more than 180 days, if while operating a vehicle in violation of this section a person is involved in an accident resulting in bodily injury to another person.
Drivers who are caught driving with a suspended license also face costly insurance surcharges, fees to the Motor Vehicle Commission, fees for education and other mandatory fees and expenses. These fines, fees and surcharges are in addition to any monetary costs resulting from convictions beyond the driving with a suspended license offense.

Speak With A Drunk Driving Attorney

If you have been accused of drunk driving it's important to speak with a DWI defense attorney like those at Villani & DeLuca. Call (732) 709-7757 today for a FREE consultation.

About the Author

Carmine R. Villani

Founding partner, Carmine Villani, Esq. is a former municipal prosecutor with over three decades of experience in Criminal and DWI Defense.


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