What is Included in a “School Zone”?
A DWI committed within a school zone is looked at differently under the laws of New Jersey. As defined by N.J.S.A. 39:1-1, a “school zone” means that portion of a highway which is either contiguous to territory occupied by a school building or is where school crossings are established in the vicinity of a school.
For purposes of charging a DUI within a school zone, a school zone includes any school property used for school purposes, any area within 1,000 feet of such school property and when driving through a school crossing. A “school crossing” is a portion of a highway where school children are required to cross the highway in the vicinity of a school.
Penalties Doubled for DWI in a School Zone
The fines and punishments for a conviction of drunk driving in a school zone are more severe, usually double of what someone faces if found guilty of the equivalent ordinary driving drunk charge in New Jersey. In addition to being required to attend an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) for at least 12 hours, the following are the penalties for a conviction of DWI/DUI in a school zone in New Jersey:
- First Offense School Zone DWI – For the first offense for DWI in a school zone, one can be fined between $500 and $800, be imprisoned for up to 60 days and have his or her driver’s license suspended for one to two years.
- Second Offense School Zone DWI – For a second offense, one convicted of DUI in a school zone will be fined $1,000 to $2,000, ordered to perform community service for 60 days, be imprisoned for between 4 and 180 days and have his or her NJ driver’s license suspended for four years.
- Third Offense School Zone DWI – For a third offense of drunk driving within a school zone, you can be fined $2,000, imprisoned for 180 days in a county jail or workhouse and have your driver’s license suspended for a period of 20 years.
Ignorance Isn’t a Defense to Enhanced Penalties of a School Zone DWI
A drunk driver’s lack of knowledge that he or she was driving within a school zone is not a defense. In other words, a New Jersey court will not lessen the sentence imposed for a DUI within a school zone if the defendant was unaware that they were driving drunk within 1,000 feet of school property or through a school crossing. Additionally, it is irrelevant if there were no juveniles present on the school property or crossing zone at the time of the offense or that the school was not in session.
What if My Prior DWI Offense Was Not Also in a School Zone?
The heightened penalties for a second offense driving while intoxicated (DWI) within 1,000 feet of school property only apply if the first DWI offense also occurred within a school zone. If you are facing your first DWI within a school zone, but have been previously convicted of a DWI not in a school zone, if convicted of DWI within a school zone, you will be sentenced as if it is your second ordinary DWI offense under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a). The sentence will not be heightened to the level of a second DWI within a school zone under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(g), since it is not your second time driving drunk within school property.
Call a NJ DUI Lawyer for Help with Your School Zone DWI Charge
If you are facing a drunk driving charge in New Jersey, it can be a very stressful process. The fines and other penalties vary based on the circumstances, so it is advised that you retain an experienced DWI attorney to help you avoid the harshest punishment for your mistake. The DUI attorneys at Villani & DeLuca have years of experience fighting DWI charges for their clients throughout Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey. Call Villani & DeLuca today for a free consultation about your Toms River, Lakewood, Manasquan, Seaside Heights, Brick or Wall Township DWI charge today.