DUI/DWI Laws in NJ

The State of New Jersey imposes heavy penalties on anyone who drives a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any intoxicating drugs. The law is easy to understand…and just as easy to break after a night on the town. Learn the law and follow it to protect your freedom, your finances, and potentially your life and the lives of those around you.

What is the legal DUI limit?

New Jersey defines DUI as operating a vehicle when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is more than a certain legal limit. This limit is based on your age and occupation:

Drivers Under 21

  • Any detectable alcohol ( >0.01% BAC) is forbidden.
  • Underage drivers will face special penalties.

Drivers 21 and Over

  • A BAC of 0.08% or above is automatically charged as DUI.
  • Penalties increase if BAC is over 0.10%

Commercial Drivers

  • A BAC of 0.04% when driving on a commercial license is charged as DUI.
  • This only applies when operating a vehicle on a CDL license, not to personal driving.

It’s important to understand you can be arrested for DUI at a BAV below 0.08%. Reckless driving while impaired is still DUI even if your blood is below the legal limit. If you took medication or illicit drugs, you can even be arrested at 0.00% BAV. Officers are trained to detect evidence of intoxication, not just evidence of alcohol. If you get behind the wheel impaired by things other than alcohol, it’s just as illegal.

What are the penalties for DUI?

Drunk driving is a serious offense. You will be arrested and lose your license the very first time you are caught drunk driving. You can be thrown in jail the very first time you are stopped for DUI. Driving again while your license is suspended, even sober, carries extra fines and more jail time.

1st Offense Penalties

  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Up to $500 in fines
  • 1 year of license suspension
  • 10 year washout period with DMV

2nd Offense Penalties

  • Up to 90 days in jail
  • $500 to $1000 in fines
  • 2 year license suspension

3rd Offense Penalties

  • Mandatory 180 days in jail
  • $1000 fine.
  • 10 year license suspension

Subsequent Penalties

  • At least 180 days in jail
  • Permanent license suspension.
  • Potential criminal conviction

Hidden DUI Fines

In New Jersey a DUI will cost much more than just the initial court penalty. Here are some other fines that may be assessed:

  • DUI in a school zone can add  $600 to $1000 in fines to a first offense and up to  $2000 on any later offenses.
  • Intoxicated Drivers Resource Center: 12 Hours of mandatory education, $230.
  • Drunk Driving Fund: $100
  • Neighborhood Services Fund: $75
  • Victim of Crimes Compensation Office: $50
  • Safe Neighborhood Service Fund: $75

Without a good lawyer defending you, your wallet is at the mercy of the court system after a DUI charge. If you are facing charges of DUI and want an experienced defense attorney on your side, schedule a consultation with the law offices of Ken Aita.

How many points will I get for a DUI?

Surprisingly, the DUI charge itself carries no license points. That’s because your license is immediately suspended for a year on the first offense.

Will my insurance rates go up for a DUI?

Yes. Your rates will skyrocket after a DUI charge. If you get your license again, New Jersey insurers will treat a DUI offense as if it was 9 points on your license.

Can I go to jail for DUI?

Yes! You can be jailed on your very first DUI offense. Jail for the first offense is at the discretion of the judge, but subsequent offenses will automatically carry minimum jail time.

Is DUI a felony in NJ?

No. In New Jersey, DUI is treated as a traffic violation. The punishments for a first offense line up with misdemeanor charges. However, it’s possible to be charged for a felony connected to the DUI. This could happen if you injured someone while driving drunk or had a child in the vehicle.

What to do if you’re stopped for DUI

Admit to nothing.

If you admit to drinking alcohol when pulled over, you will likely be arrested. Once a traffic stop has been made, the officer is trying to build a case against you. If he smells alcohol, it’s only a matter of how much evidence he can build before the cuffs go on. There’s no reason to make your defense attorney’s job harder. You have the right to remain silent, and if pulled over for DUI it is a good idea to exercise it.

Do you have to take a breath test?

Legally you must take a breath test when requested by the police or face stiff penalties. New Jersey is an “implied consent” state.  That means you gave legal consent to be tested for alcohol when you received your driver’s license. You will lose your license if you refuse, and the police will likely obtain a warrant to draw your blood once you are arrested. Then again, refusing your test might deny the state evidence, and your BAC could go down to below the legal limit by the time you are forced to take a blood test.

What is the difference between DUI and DWI in New Jersey?

There is no difference between driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey law. The penalties and legal definition are found in  NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-50 and the law itself uses both terms interchangeably. DUI is the same thing as DWI.

Can I get a DUI if I wasn’t even driving?

Yes! Being in control of a vehicle doesn’t mean it’s in motion and the law isn’t limited to public highways.  Alcohol and vehicles don’t mix. Let’s look at some ways you can run afoul of the law.

  • Sleeping off a few drinks in your car.

  • Riding a bicycle drunk

  • Riding a horse drunk

  • Driving a golf cart drunk

  • Sailing a boat drunk

Operating any sort of transportation while intoxicated can potentially result in a DUI charge.

Can You Defend Against a DUI/DWI in NJ?

It’s a difficult task and requires a skilled lawyer, but you can definitely beat a DUI charge. If you are facing DUI charges contact the law offices of Ken Aita for a consultation.

8 Ways a Lawyer May Challenge a DUI Accusation

1. The police didn’t have probable cause to stop you

The police need a valid reason to pull you over. Unless you were stopped at a DUI checkpoint, the police must prove probable cause to stop and question you. If they didn’t have a reason to stop you, any evidence collected from the stop cannot be used in court.

2. Faulty and Unreliable Breath Tests

The roadside breathalyzer is notoriously unreliable. Federal evidence standards, outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, legally define alcohol breath tests. Approved roadside tests, formally called “Alcohol Screening Devices,” can have false positive results in 1 out of every 20 tests under laboratory conditions.  This means if you given a roadside breathalyzer, there is at least 5% chance you will be falsely charged with DUI. That’s with perfect operation and lab conditions too, so operator error could make the false-positive rate even higher. If you were charged with DUI over a faulty roadside test, a skilled DUI lawyer may be able to have the evidence suppressed.

3. Mouth Alcohol

Dental work or mouth piercings can trap alcohol behind your gums. If you blew close to the DUI limit and have piercings or recent dental work, this may be used to challenge the DUI charge.

4. Medical Conditions

Acid reflux, GERD, and other stomach-related medical conditions can cause you to regurgitate alcohol and falsely raise the BAC measurement of your breath far beyond what’s in your blood.

5. Diet

Low carbohydrate diets can produce ketones in the body as fat is metabolized. Gluconeogenesis in the liver releases these ketone bodies. Ketones are released into the blood, then are eventually cleansed by the lungs and kidneys. Once exposed to air, these ketones quickly degrade into acetone and isopropyl alcohol. Police breathalyzers are not tuned to detect the difference between toxic isopropyl alcohol and the ethanol of beer, wine, and spirits. Though rare, an extreme low carb diet could raise your BAC for several hours after a meal. This may sound far-fetched, but case studies in respected medical journals support the phenomenon.

6. Blood Samples Must Be Drawn Correctly

The police may obtain a blood sample if there is probable cause to believe you were intoxicated. Blood is often drawn in a hospital if you are involved in a bad car accident. These blood tests can reveal alcohol and illegal drugs in the blood. However, they are only admissible in court if they were drawn and stored under proper laboratory conditions. If improper conditions compromise the blood sample, it may not be admissible in court..

7. Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Accurate

There are three scientifically approved tests used to assess an individual’s impairment at traffic stops. These are the one-leg stand test, the walk and turn test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

Each of these tests have some pretty big flaws. The movement tests are biased against the elderly, handicapped, or even a dehydrated motorist whose balance and gait is already abnormal when they are completely sober.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is quite accurate when performed specifically as described by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines. It uses involuntary eye motion to test impairment. But this requires a complicated process with 10 steps by the testing officer, and while the test is performed, the officer must make a distinction between neural, vestibular, and pathologically-induced eye motions. Only one of these can be triggered by alcohol, but does the officer testing you know which is which?

It’s terrible to imagine being arrested for having a medical disability, but that certainly won’t stop a traffic officer on the hunt for drunk motorists. If your medical disability was used as so-called evidence of your impairment, a DUI lawyer can help protect your rights.

8. You Were Not Driving

To prove you were driving under the influence, the police must first prove you were actually driving. If you are suspected of DUI after an accident, or you are arrested at home for an alleged DUI violation, your attorney may be able to challenge the police to prove you were actually the person driving the car at the time the incident occurred. You shouldn’t lose your license over a stolen car or a friend’s joyride in your car.

If you are facing DUI charges, you need an attorney you can trust. Contact the law office of Ken Aita for a consultation with one of Philadelphia’s best defense attorneys.