DWI in New Jersey – What You Should Know


What is DWI in NJ? 

If you are charged with driving under the influence, also referred to as DWI (driving while intoxicated), in the state of New Jersey, it is important to understand exactly what that means. New Jersey drunk driving laws are similar to those in other states – penalties range from fines to jail time. In order to avoid serious consequences, you should seek prompt legal assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney, especially one who has specific expertise in DWI cases. Mario Gallucci of The Gallucci Law Firm, based out of Staten Island, is dedicated to providing NJ residents with the highest quality legal advice and representation for DWI charges at all levels. Learn more about DWI charges in NJ and contact us today for a free consultation. 

What is Considered a DWI in NJ? 

In New Jersey, the terms DUI and DWI are used interchangeably without error when referring to drunk driving. New Jersey DUI/DWI arrests can be prosecuted under two different theories – driving while impaired or violation of the state’s “per se” laws. In order to convict a motorist of drunk driving, a prosecutor needs to prove at least one of these two elements. The two main types of DWI in NJ are as follows:

Standard DWI

Driving while impaired, or “under the influence,” focuses on a motorist’s physical and mental ability to operate a vehicle. The prosecutor must argue that the motorist was impaired to such a degree that they were unable to drive a vehicle with the cautionary characteristics of a sober person. This is typically proven through pieces of circumstantial evidence, including field sobriety test results, driving behavior, and overall interaction with the police officer at the time of arrest.

“Per Se” DWI

A “per se” DWI charge concentrates on whether the driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Regardless of how alcohol affects you individually, if your BAC reads 0.08% or higher, you will be arrested for a DWI in New Jersey. The prosecutor can attempt to prove this allegation by introducing the results of a chemical test of the blood, breath, or urine. In some cases, chemical tests can be successfully challenged in a court of law. 

Additional Types of DWI in New Jersey

The law pertaining to drunk and drugged driving has expanded to include multiple violations in the state of New Jersey. Each charge is accompanied by its own unique risk factors which raise the stakes for you, so it is imperative that you seek experienced criminal defense representation from an attorney who will review all aspects of your case. The various types of DWIs you can be arrested for in NJ, aside from a standard DWI, include:

  • Marijuana DWI
  • Commercial DWI
  • Prescription Drugs DWI
  • DWI Under 21
  • Minor in Possession of Alcohol
  • Parked Car DWI
  • Out of State DWI

What is an Ignition Interlock Device?

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are breathalyzing machines that attach to a vehicle’s steering wheel which prevent the car from starting if a person’s BAC is at or above a certain level. The interlock law was passed on January 13, 2010, and applies to all NJ DWI offenses occurring after January 14, 2010. These devices are becoming increasingly common in New Jersey DWI cases, and can even be ordered by the court to be installed for a motorist’s first DWI offense. 

The ignition interlock devices are based on a simple principle – if the driver’s breath sample exceeds the limit programmed into the machine, the vehicle will not run. The limit in New Jersey is typically 0.05% BAC and the devices are designed specifically to prevent a third party from blowing into the collection tube to start the vehicle. Once the vehicle has started, the driver must perform “rolling retests” every 15 minutes to an hour – if not performed on time, the equipment will record a violation. Convicted drivers are also required to cover any costs associated with installing, leasing, and maintaining the device.

What Happens When I am Arrested for DWI in NJ?

A New Jersey police officer will likely pull you over if they observe suspicious driving behavior, whether it be for drunk driving or an unrelated traffic violation. For example, if you are speeding or you hesitate before passing through a green light, you may be pulled over. You should expect to submit to physical sobriety tests and/or a portable breathalyzer test. If you fail any of these tests, you will be arrested and brought to the police station for further evaluation.

Since DUI/DWI is considered a traffic violation in NJ, you will not be held overnight or required to make bail unless there is a related criminal offense. However, the police will keep your vehicle impounded for 12 hours, and after this period, you will be able to retrieve the vehicle. After being released from the police station, tickets will be issued, a court date will be set, and the driver will be arraigned. The sooner you hire an attorney to defend your case, the more likely you are to receive a positive outcome.

What Happens if I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in New Jersey?

When you apply for a driver’s license in NJ, you give your “implied consent” to any chemical testing. This is an implicit agreement between New Jersey drivers and the State to submit to chemical tests in exchange for the privilege of driving. New Jersey’s implied consent law does not include blood or urine tests. A breath test refusal is handled by the magistrate court and can carry the same penalties as a DUI conviction. The first time you refuse a breathalyzer test, you may face the following penalties:

  • Driver’s license suspension for 7 to 12 months
  • Fine of $300 to $500
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for 6 to 12 months


What are the Penalties and Fines for DWI in NJ? How Long Will I Lose My License? 

Punishment for DWIs in New Jersey is handled on a case-by-case basis. The extent of DUI/DWI consequences are highly dependent on blood alcohol content and past offenses. New Jersey has different penalties and fines assigned for each of the following offenses:

First Offense

Charges for a first-time DWI offense are dependent on the BAC of the driver at the time of arrest. The penalties for a BAC above 0.08% but less than 0.10% are:

  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Fines between $250 and $400
  • License suspension for up to 3 months
  • State surcharge of $1,000 per year for 3 years
  • 12 to 48 hours of the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) Program
  • Possible IID installation (up to the judge’s discretion)

Second Offense

Charges for a second DWI offense are more severe, costly, and far reaching than the first. The following penalties apply for a second offense within 10 years:

  • Up to 90 days in jail
  • Fines between $500 and $1,000
  • License suspension for up to 2 years
  • 30 days of community service
  • State surcharge of $1,000 per year for 3 years
  • 12 to 48 hours of the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) Program
  • IID installation for up to 3 years after getting your license back

Third Offense

Just as with a second offense, charges for a third DWI offense increase in severity. Penalties for a third offense within 10 years of a second offense include:

  • Up to 180 days in jail
  • Maximum fine of $1,000
  • License suspension for 10 years
  • Up to 90 days of community service
  • State surcharge of $1,500 per year for 3 years
  • 12 to 48 hours of the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) Program
  • IID installation for up to 3 years after getting your license back

Underage DWI Penalties in NJ

New Jersey prohibits the consumption or possession of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21. In order to be convicted with an “underage DWI,” the state only needs to prove that your BAC was above 0.01% but less than 0.08%. If the reading shows a BAC above 0.08%, you will likely be charged with a standard DWI and underage DWI. Penalties for an underage DWI are as follows:

  • License suspension for 30 to 90 days
  • 15 to 30 days of community service
  • 12 to 48 hours of the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) Program


What Should I Know About DWI Trials in NJ?

New Jersey drunk driving trials are unique from those in other states, as well as trials for other crimes. First and foremost, a DWI is not considered a misdemeanor or felony, but rather a traffic violation. Second, you will not be granted the right to a jury trial for a DWI – your trial will be presided over and decided by a judge. Finally, you will not be able to attempt a plea bargain with the prosecution for your DWI charge in NJ. 

Many accused DWI offenders in NJ prefer to plead guilty to put the matter to rest. However, with the right defense, it is possible to fight and win against a drunk driving charge. The Gallucci Law Firm has the knowledge and experience needed to fight for your rights and keep legal consequences to a minimum. 

Why Should I Fight My DWI Case in NJ?

There are many reasons to fight a DWI charge in NJ rather than submit to a guilty plea. Potential issues with the stop, arrest, sobriety tests, and/or chemical tests may result in the reduction or dismissal of your DWI charge. The prosecutor must prove his or her case beyond a reasonable doubt – the highest standard of proof in the justice system.

Here is the best reason to fight your DWI case in NJ: convicted drivers who work with an experienced attorney and aggressively challenge their charge may completely avoid negative repercussions, but those who immediately plead guilty and accept the situation will undoubtedly be convicted of drunk driving.

How Much Does a DWI Attorney Cost? – DWI Defense in NJ from The Gallucci Law Firm

Every DWI case is different, and deserves individualized attention to reach the best possible outcome. When you set up a consultation with The Gallucci Law Firm, we will review the details of your unique scenario, including the costs associated with your case. Mario Gallucci and the Gallucci Law Firm have handled and won some of the toughest criminal cases in New York, New Jersey, and within the Federal Court System. Mr. Gallucci will conduct a thorough evaluation of your case and create the best plan of action based on your individual circumstances. He is dedicated to reviewing all aspects of a case to help clients avoid jail time and/or the loss of their license. With over 30 years of experience in criminal law, Mario Gallucci and The Gallucci Law Firm are committed to being your trusted source for high-quality legal representation in New York and New Jersey. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation and get the justice you deserve!



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