New legislation that would seriously alter New Jersey’s DUI penalties for first time offenders has reached Governor Christie’s desk. Passed by the Senate on February 5, 2015, the new law proposes to reduce the timeframe that a first time offender’s driving privileges would be suspended. Under the current statute, a first time offender with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) between 0.08 and 0.10 percent would have their driver’s license suspended for a three (3) months, while those first time offenders with a BAC between 0.10 and 0.15 percent could have their licenses suspended anywhere between seven (7) months to one (1) year. The proposed law, however, would require a license suspension of only ten (10) days for first time offenders whose BAC registered between 0.08 and 0.10 percent, as well as the installation of the ignition interlock device for a period between three (3) and six (6) months. For those first time offenders with a BAC that registered between 0.10 and 0.15, the bill requires that an offender’s driving privileges also be suspended for ten (10) days and that the ignition interlock device be installed anywhere between seven (7) months to one (1) year. Offenders would be responsible for the cost of installing the ignition interlock device, which is approximately $100.00 per month, and would only see their license restored upon providing proof that the device is in fact installed.
Offenders with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher are already required to install the device during both their suspension and for six (6) months to one (1) year after reinstatement. Under the bill, however, offenders could petition the court to reinstate their license after ninety (90) days, provided that the device has been installed for seven (7) months to one (1) year after reinstatement. The bill further proposes expanding the punishment for second and third time offenders by permitting the Court to impose license suspensions of two (2) to four (4) years for second offense, and ten (10) to twenty (20) years for a third offense.
This new legislation comes as a response to those who believed that the current penalties are too stringent and fail to allow first time offenders from traveling to and from work or to assist their family members. Critics of the proposed changes, however, note that the ignition interlock device need only be installed in just the principle vehicle of the offender, leaving him or her to freely operate another vehicle without the device to act as a safeguard. Additionally, others have noted that anyone who operates the vehicle in which the ignition interlock device is installed must also blow into the device before the vehicle can be operated. Thus, an offender’s innocent family member or spouse would be punished though he did nothing wrong.
Despite the criticism, the new legislation has been heavily backed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), citing that twenty-four (24) states already require that the ignition interlock device be installed for all offenders, and four (4) states – Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oregon – have seen drunk driving related deaths decrease thirty percent (30%) since implementing similar ignition interlock laws. At this time, there is no official statement indicating if Governor Christie intends on signing the bill.
If you or someone you know is involved with a DUI or related charge, call us at 732-797-1600 for a consultation.