Interviewer: When someone’s pulled over in New Jersey for DWI, what are they facing? Are they facing just the simple criminal charge or traffic offense? What are they facing in total?
Carl: Well, a DWI in the state of New Jersey is a traffic infraction. It’s not a crime. They’re facing a driver’s license suspension. Depending on how the case gets processed it could technically be as low as three months. There’s a minimum of three months suspension but the real minimum is seven months.
License Suspension, Classes and Fines
And I can talk about the subtle difference between the three and the seven months as we go on. The maximum for a first offense is a twelve-month suspension. In New Jersey, the fines start at around $350, but with all the assessments and all the add-ons it can come to between $666 and about $750, once you walk out of that courtroom.
There is a $1,000 motor vehicle assessment for three years; which equals $3,000, which they don’t even tell about you in court necessarily, because it’s not a court fine. You’ll get a letter in the mail, which is a bill for three years for $1,000 each year. There’s also a driving school, it’s called the IDRC, the intoxicated driver resource center, and that’s part of the sentencing.
When a judge must sentence you to a minimum of 12 hours, it is usually divided up into two, six-hour sessions. Very often for working people they do it on the weekend. The maximum is 48 hours but most people get the 12 hours, on a first offense.
Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs)
I’d like to just discuss the possibility of a having to install an ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock device is a device that has to be installed in your vehicle. You have to blow into this device to turn on the engine. It measures whether or not you have any alcohol in your system. In the state of New Jersey, ignition interlock is a requirement for certain convictions.
Interviewer: Is that like a personal Breathalyzer in your car?
Carl: Exactly. However, not everybody has to have one. The rule on a first offense is that the interlock device is mandatory in anyone that has a blood alcohol level a BAC of .15 or more. If they blew a .14, an ignition interlock device is not required on a plea or a sentence after trial.
Will You be Arrested Immediately if You Are Charged with a DWI?
Interviewer: Going back to the traffic stop for a minute. Will people pulled over and cited for DWI, will they be arrested or they’ll just be cited and released?
Carl: They will be removed from the scene, taken to the police station, their car will be impounded, and they’ll be processed at the police station in whatever local municipality they’re in.
Being Processed at the Police Station
At the police station, they’ll be asked if they want to take a Breathalyzer or an alco test, which is what they call it here in New Jersey and they will not have to go in front of a judge. Ordinarily, the person who gets arrested for DWI in New Jersey is allowed after their processing, which takes a couple of hours, to call a family member to pick them up but they will not be able to drive their car away that same day.
Interviewer: So they’d be arrested and processed for a crime at the police station but they won’t be literally charged with a crime?
Carl: That’s correct.
Interviewer: I see. And their car will always be impounded as well?
By Carl Spector