Bill advancing through New Jersey Senate may lighten penalties for first time drunk drivers
From all the other ideas that were proposed in Trenton to decrease the penalties of driving under the influence offenders, a bill being advanced through the New Jersey Senate to decrease the penalties for first-time drunken drivers by eliminating mandatory license suspensions is the worst as it can pose serious treats to individuals on the roadways.
According to the current state law, first-time drunken drivers are to face a mandatory license suspension for the time period of 3 to 12 months and it depends on how much the BAC level of the driver was more from the legal limit of 0.08 percent when he was driving under the influence.
If the Blood Alcohol Level of an individual is equal to 0.15 percent or more, then he/she is required to lose his license for a minimum of seven months and install an ignition interlock device on his/her vehicle. The ignition interlock stops the engine of the vehicle from starting if the driver can’t give a breath sample showing a BAC below the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Judges may require an interlock device for lower BAC levels but it’s not compulsory under current law.
The bill, which is introduced by Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck (Monmouth), and Democrat Sens. Nicholas Scutari (Union), Jim Whelan (Atlantic), Nellie Pou (Passaic), Brian Stack (Hudson) and Loretta Weinberg (Bergen) needs all first-time drunken drivers to install an ignition interlock regardless of their Blood Alcohol Content. It also decreases the mandatory suspension to just 10 days but if the individual can give proof to the court that he/she already has an interlock installed in his/her vehicle at the time he/she was charged, the 10-day suspension is cancelled and the drunken driver is set free without the license suspension.
According to the supporters, requiring an interlock for all first-time offenders will decrease the subsequent DUI offenses, because drunken drivers will be able to start their vehicles with a higher BAC level.
Drivers driving under the influence cause one death every 51 minutes all over the nation. 82% of deadly accidents are caused by driving under the influence of alcohol. The is so serious as it is estimated that 1 in every 3 individuals will be involved in a driving under the influence accident in their lifetime.
In 2013, 24,313 DWI arrests were reported in New Jersey and 154 individuals died due to accidents in which alcohol was involved. The total number of individuals who died in 2013 was more than the total who died in Atlantic City, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Paterson, Irvington, New Brunswick and Camden which was once ranked the most dangerous city in America.
In U.S, almost 10,000 individuals die every year by drivers driving under the influence, compared with 9,000 Americans killed every year by criminals using firearms. So it is said that drunken driving poses same threat to innocent individuals as armed bad individuals. The New Jersey’s lawmakers who proposed gun control legislation soon after high-profile gun deaths, now appear willing to handle the cases of individuals easily who wield an even more deadly weapon while impaired.
Individuals driving under the influence of any intoxicant are killers and decreasing the penalty can only have the effect of increasing the number of DUIs and deaths. It also means more innocent individuals are killed. One thing that can be done is to increase the penalties for first-time drunken drivers because the fact is that nearly 25,000 DWIs are taken into custody every year showing that the existing deterrent is not strong enough to keep individuals safe on the roads.
As in New York, drunken driving should be a criminal violation in New Jersey and not a mere motor vehicle offense. The state should keep the mandatory driver’s license suspensions, require interlocks for all DUI offenders and first-time offenders should face the mandatory forty eight hours in prison that second-offenders face now.
Driving under the influence of alcohol once is one time too many, just as one time waving a loaded gun in a crowded shopping mall is once too many. It is time for the law to reflect that and it is the time for the Legislature to sober up.
News Source: www.Nj.com