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Changes to New Jersey DWI Penalties Proposed

A new bill to change the penalties for DWI convictions passed in the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee. On January 28, the Committee approved the measure which would require the installation of ignition interlock devices on cars rather than the suspension of driver’s licenses.

If passed by the full NJ Senate and General Assembly, the new law would represent large-scale changes to the way DWI convictions are currently punished in New Jersey. As it stands now, everyone, even first-time offenders, has his or her license suspended for a certain amount of time.

The interlock devices basically act as an in-car breathalyzer, requiring the would-be driver to blow into them to check his or her blood-alcohol level (BAC). If the one installed in the dash on the offender’s car detects anything more than a BAC of  .05%, the device will not allow the engine to start.

Under the new law, first offenders with convictions for BACs not more than .10% would have an interlock device required for three to six months, allowing them to retain their license, and therefore their ability to drive. First-time offenders with a BAC greater than .10% or those under the influence of drugs other than alcohol, would have the device for a span of seven months to a year.

Second-time offenders would be required to have the devices installed for a period of two to four years. Their license would also be downgraded to a restricted-use license, with terms like driving only for work-related trips set by the judge, for a minimum of the first year driving with an interlock device.

Offenders who repeat for a third timeor more will be subject to installations of ten to twenty years.

Those without cars owned or leased in their name or without one which they principally operate will face license suspensions similar to the rules imposed under the current system.

Unless the bill is passed by the full NJ Senate and General Assembly the laws requiring license suspension will remain in place.

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