Your First DWI: What to Expect
You do not want to get convicted of drunk driving in New Jersey. A DWI conviction could result in severe penalties and cause problems for you in both your personal life and your professional life. Moreover, this is true even for a first-time offender with no prior DWI offenses on their driving record.
The legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) in New Jersey is .08 percent. If you have a few drinks too many, it is very easy for you to go over this legal limit. And if you then get behind the wheel of a car, you could be stopped by law enforcement and charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
A charge for a first offense DWI in New Jersey will put you at risk of losing your driver’s license. That’s because N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 stipulates that drunk driving offenders must have their license suspended for a period of at least three months. Moreover, because NJ does not allow for conditional driver’s licenses, you will have to find alternative means of transportation in order to get to, and from, work every day. This could cause serious problems for you, especially if you do not have easy access to public transportation.
The other potential penalties for a first DWI offense include up to 30 days in the county jail, significant monetary fines and financial penalties, mandatory alcohol education classes, and installation of an ignition interlock device on your motor vehicle. Here is a more detailed look at some of the penalties for a first offense DWI in New Jersey:
The reality is that most first-time DWI offenders are not sentenced to jail time. However, the fact that the judge has discretion to impose a jail sentence is scary enough. Moreover, if you were busted with a BAC significantly higher than the legal limit of .08 percent, it’s possible that the judge will not be inclined to give you a lenient sentence.
For a first-time DWI offense, you could be looking at a court-imposed fine that ranges from $250 to $400. The real financial consequences, however, will come later when the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) imposes annual surcharges of $1,000 for three years after your DWI conviction. Additionally, your auto insurance rates could skyrocket as a result of a DWI conviction – if your insurance isn’t canceled altogether.
Alcohol Education Classes
Anyone convicted of a DWI offense in New Jersey must participate in the state’s Intoxicated Driver Program. This means attending alcohol and highway safety education classes at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) in your county. For a first DWI offense, you will be required to attend classes and undergo evaluation at the IDRC facility for a total of 12 hours.
Ignition Interlock Devices
An ignition interlock device is attached to the dashboard of your car and monitors your BAC while you drive. When the device detects alcohol, it prevents you from starting the engine. Most first-time DWI offenders are not required to install an ignition interlock device. However, when the motorist registered a BAC higher than .15 percent, installation is mandatory.
The best way to avoid the most severe penalties for a first offense DWI is to have the assistance of an experienced DWI defense attorney. If you have been charged with drunk driving in Atlantic County, NJ, the experienced, DWI defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty can help you fight your charges and avoid the most severe penalties. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation about your case.