New Jersey could soon be cracking down on repeat DWI offenses

Here in New York, we have some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation. In New Jersey, however, while the penalties for DUI, as it's called in that state, work a bit differently. It's not that the consequences for DWI aren't as harsh as they are here -- it's that DWI is always considered a traffic violation.

There are some important implications of that law. First, the maximum amount of jail time for DUI without injuries is typically 90 days. The second is that, assuming they can make bail, people who are arrested for DUI in New Jersey can continue driving while they await their court dates.

The New Jersey legislature is currently considering changing that, and it could have serious implications for both private and commercial drivers charged with DUI, according to an analysis by Land Line magazine, a business magazine of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

A bill called A3057 currently before the New Jersey Assembly would increase the gravity of repeat DUIs in three ways. First, instead of being charged a mere traffic violation, anyone convicted of DUI two or more times within 60 days would now be guilty of a fourth-degree crime, which is more analogous to the misdemeanor offense most states, including New York, charge in cases of DUIs without injuries.

Second, that change in designation would mean that repeat DUI offenders could now be sentenced to as much as 18 months in jail, as opposed to a maximum of 90 days. And, that can be either replaced by or combined with a $10,000 fine. Finally, bail would be increased from a maximum of $2,500 to $10,000 or more, and license suspensions would become immediate for repeat offenders.

If you're a commercial driver, you already know you're subject to special drunk driving rules. Not only is the allowable blood alcohol content lower for CDL drivers, but your job is also at risk. Under New Jersey's current law, you could continue to drive while you sorted out a potentially false DUI charge, but if A3057 passes, that will change.

All New York drivers should keep in mind that if you're convicted of drunk driving in another state it can affect your New York driver's license. If you're ever arrested for DWI, be sure to call an attorney before you decide on any course of action.

Source: Land Line magazine, "New Jersey repeat DUI offenders on notice," Keith Goble, June 6, 2013

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