Is a DUI a Felony in New Jersey?

Understand your legal rights if you've been accussed of a DUI in New Jersey and how a criminal defense lawyer can help.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI), often referred to as DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) in other states, is an act the State of New Jersey takes very seriously. A person must be 21 years of age to buy, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages. Anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher while operating a motor vehicle (including boats) is considered by the law to be driving under the influence. A person can also be accused of DUI if, in addition to or in lieu of alcohol, they are caught driving impaired while under the influence of narcotics, hallucinogenics, or another habit-producing drug.

What Constitutes a DUI in New Jersey?

When asking the question “Is DUI a felony in NJ”, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. The reason being New Jersey law doesn’t classify DUI as an indictable crime (which would be equated with a felony in other states) or a disorderly persons offense (equated with a misdemeanor in other states) like they do other criminal offenses. The State of New Jersey considers DWI charges to be a serious traffic violation. A DUI charge can be escalated to a disorderly persons offense or an indictable crime depending upon the circumstances of the situation.  For instance, if a driver was driving with a suspended license, caught driving under the influence with a child present in the car, or committed assault by auto injuring or killing another person, they could face severe sentences, including potential jail time.

How Does New Jersey Penalize DUI?

New Jersey doesn’t allow for jury trials when it comes to drunk driving. However, state law does not take DUI offenses lightly. Persons found guilty of drunk driving do suffer harsh penalties.

First-Time DUI Offenders

People who are arrested for DUI for the first time with a BAC of 0.08 % to 0.10% can expect to receive a fine of $250-$400, along with a three-month license suspension. They may also be sentenced to up to 30 days jail time and will be required to attend an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center for a minimum of six hours a day for two (consecutive) days. First-time offenders also receive an auto insurance surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years.

If a person is determined to have a BAC of 0.10%, they will also be required to attend the Intoxicated Driver Resource center, pay the auto insurance surcharge for three years, and may be given up to 30 days in jail time. The other penalties are harsher and include a fine of $300-500 and suspension of license between seven months and one year. People caught driving with a BAC of 0.15% or higher will have the additional consequence of a requirement to install an ignition interlock device in their primary vehicle during their license suspension period and for an additional six months to one year after they receive their license back.

Second-Time DUI Offenders

New Jersey law is tougher on offenders who continue to be found driving under the influence. After a second traffic offense for DUI, the state will impose a fine of $500 to $1,000, a two-year license suspension, 48 consecutive hours of jail time and continued imprisonment for up to 90 days, 30 days community service, $1,000 auto insurance surcharge a year for three years, 48 consecutive hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, and required the installation of an interlock device during license suspension and for an additional one to three years after they receive their license back.

Three-Time DUI Offenders

Not surprisingly, New Jersey law further increases penalties if a person is caught a third time driving while under the influence. Penalties include: $1,000 fine, up to 180 days of jail time, 30 days community service, 10-year suspension of license, enter an in-patient alcohol treatment facility, court-ordered fee to Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, auto insurance surcharge of $1,500 a year for three years, and installation of an interlock device for one to three years after they receive their license back.

Underage DUI in New Jersey

Persons under the legal drinking age of 21 will suffer consequences if they are caught with a BAC of .01% while driving a motor vehicle or boat. Penalties include a 30-90 day suspension of license, 15-30 days community service, and participation in highway safety and alcohol education programs. Depending on the situation, the court can impose a possible combination of DUI minimum sentences at their discretion.

It’s important to understand that owners of motor vehicles or boats who allow an intoxicated or person who is under the influence of a controlled substance to operate their vehicles can also be subjected to New Jersey DUI law’s mandatory penalties.

How a DUI Defense Attorney Can Help

If you, or a loved one, are accused of driving while intoxicated, it’s important to have a skilled DUI defense attorney on your side, especially in cases of injury or fatality due to impaired driving. If an injury has occurred, the charge can be escalated to an indictable offense which can result in extended jail time. In the case of a fatality combined with DUI, New Jersey imposes very severe penalties as the charge can be escalated to manslaughter or vehicular homicide in which the penalty is 5-10 years in prison and fines of up to $150,000.

New Jersey is also in the process of updating their DUI laws which can see a transition from license suspensions to ignition interlock devices (which the defendant has to pay for). A good DUI defense attorney will be well-versed in these changing laws.

Founded in 1978, the Breslow Law Offices have an excellent reputation and are well-known for their skilled approach to handling criminal law situations. Attorneys Roy W. Breslow and Casey Breslow bring more than 45 years of experience to their law practice. With both attorneys being former prosecutors, they thoroughly understand both sides of the law.

To learn more about DUI in New Jersey or to receive a free consultation about a legal situation, call 973-239-8000 today or contact us online.


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