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First Offense DUI Drunk Driving

Learn the penalties for First DWI Offenses in New Jersey, and let us help defend you against First-time drunk driving and driving under the influence charges.

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First DWI Charge Lawyers in Jersey City, NJ

Things have changed when it comes to first offense DWI in New Jersey. Lawmakers recently changed the state’s drunk driving laws so that the penalties are more consistent across the board for violators, and also slightly less punitive for first-time offenders. For example, driver’s license suspension is no longer mandatory for a first driving while intoxicated offense. Instead, the license suspension only lasts until the convicted individual installs an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. In addition to effectively eliminating license suspension as a penalty in the majority of first offense DWI cases, so long as those convicted follow the new rules regarding interlocks, special charges for DWI in a school zone were eliminated completely, so that most DWI charges now carry similar penalties. Despite these changes to the state’s DWI laws, however, you need to understand something when you run into your first DUI charge: the consequences of a conviction are still severe, and you should take the charges very seriously.

For anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of .08 percent, the penalties could include jail time and monetary fines, in addition to other serious consequences. Even license suspension is not entirely out of the question when you have been arrested for your first DUI in NJ. And the removal of license suspension penalties does not apply to those convicted of driving under the influence of drugs.

To find out more about how things have changed when it comes to penalties and consequences for a First Offense DWI in New Jersey, keep reading this page. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having been arrested and charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs for the first time, you should seek knowledgeable legal counsel for a highly qualified DWI defense attorney who can walk you through the process and defend you on the road ahead. We at Proetta & Oliver have advanced training and over a decade each of experience handling DUI defense on behalf of clients throughout New Jersey. Contact our offices in Jersey City if you would like a free consultation today. (201) 793-8018.

Penalties for a First Offense DWI in NJ

The penalties for drunk driving violations in New Jersey may have been altered by the state legislature to reduce the impact on first-time offenders, but the consequences of a conviction are still severe enough to warrant your attention – even if you’ve only been charged with a first offense. Depending on the facts of your case, the judge could impose penalties that will have a long-lasting effect on your life.

The penalties for a first offense DWI in New Jersey may include the following:

  • Jail Time: The state’s DWI statute gives judges the discretion to sentence a first-time offender to as many as 30 days in the county jail. The maximum jail time is the same whether the defendant’s BAC was barely above the legal limit of .08% or the defendant registered an excessive BAC well above .15%. However, the likelihood of a jail sentence being imposed is greater when the offense involved a higher BAC, or when the DWI violation resulted in a traffic accident.
  • Fines: When a person is convicted or pleads guilty to a standard first offense DWI for operating a motor vehicle with a BAC above the legal limit of .08%, the court may impose a monetary fine of $250-$400. If the first-time offender had an extremely high BAC above .10%, the fine can be increased to $300-$500.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Previously, only repeat offenders were required to install an ignition interlock device on their car in order to maintain their driving privileges. However, changes to the NJ drunk driving laws have created a mandatory interlock period across the board for all DWI offenses, including first offenses. This means that if you are convicted of a first offense DWI, you will need to pay to have an ignition interlock device attached to the engine of your car, and you will need to keep it on your car for 3 months so that you can blow into the device and register a clean breath sample each time you start the vehicle. Failure to install the device when required is now a criminal offense, and you could face criminal charges if you attempt to operate a car without it.
  • Alcohol Education Classes: A conviction or guilty plea to a first offense DUI charge will trigger mandatory classes at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). Attendance at these alcohol education classes is mandatory, and you will need to attend 12-48 hours of classes before you satisfy the court-ordered requirements. Failure to show up for these classes could result in you being ordered to appear in court, where the judge may impose additional penalties that include suspension of your driving privileges.
  • Community Service: Most first-time DWI offenders are not required to perform community service because mandatory community service is only imposed in cases involving second offense DUI or third and subsequent DWI offenses. However, if you registered a particularly high BAC reading on your breathalyzer test, you could be subject to community service for a first offense.

Often Unanticipated Consequences of a NJ First DUI Charge

Beyond the court-imposed penalties for a first offense DUI conviction, there could be other unanticipated consequences in your case. Some of the indirect and yet equally impactful effects of a drunk driving conviction or guilty plea include the following:

  • MVC Surcharges: In addition to having to pay monetary fines imposed by the judge at sentencing, a first-time offender is also subject to surcharges that are assessed by the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). For a first offense, an offender must pay surcharges of $1,000 per year for 3 years. Payment of these surcharges is required in order to maintain your driver’s license; failure to pay will lead to your license being suspended.
  • Higher Insurance Premiums: Although changes to NJ DUI laws have limited the likelihood of license suspension as a penalty for first-time drunk driving offenders, you might find it difficult to drive after being convicted of a first offense DWI. That’s because it is very likely that your insurance provider will increase your rates due to the conviction. In fact, your insurance rates could go through the roof. Since all motorists must have insurance coverage, a conviction or guilty plea to first offense DWI charges could have the same effect as a license suspension by making it cost-prohibitive for you to continue driving.
  • Travel limitations: Certain countries, such as Canada, might prohibit you from entry if you have a drunk driving conviction or guilty plea on your record. It won’t matter that this was your first and only offense, or that you were able to minimize your official penalties; you could still be banned from traveling to foreign countries.
  • Job Concerns: When your boss, co-workers, and others you encounter in the workplace learn that you were convicted of drunk driving, it could make your work life miserable as you suffer from the stigma of being “the guy with a DWI conviction.” You may find that your peers look at you differently, and you might wonder whether your DWI factored into you being passed over for a promotion or raise at work. In the worst cases, you could find that your employer no longer wants to employ you at all. And if you need to drive to continue to work at your current job, you could even lose your position and have to find employment elsewhere.
  • Stigma and Reputational Damage: The reputational damage caused by a DWI conviction could go beyond the workplace and impact your personal life, including relationships with your friends and family members, or a vindictive ex with whom you have had a child custody dispute or are undergoing a divorce. The reality is that a lot of people just won’t understand how you could get behind the wheel of a car while drunk and endanger yourself and others, and it won’t matter to them that this was your first offense or that you simply made a one-time mistake that you don’t plan to repeat in the future. You could be branded as a “drunk driver,” a label that will affect your personal interactions going forward.

Will I Go to Jail If This Was My First Time being Charged with a DWI/DUI?

The law allows judges to sentence the defendant in a first offense DWI case to up to 30 days in the county jail. But the probability of a jail sentence in your case will be determined by the particular circumstances of your DWI offense. Unless the offense involved a DWI accident resulting in death, serious injury, or property damage, drunk driving violations are typically classified as traffic offenses, not criminal offenses. This means that they are usually handled in the Municipal Court located in the city or town where the DWI violation occurred, which is the same court that handles lower-level criminal charges in New Jersey. Cases adjudicated at the Municipal Court level may carry the possibility of jail time, but they do not have a presumption of incarceration – which means that defendants are often able to avoid a jail sentence. This is generally true in New Jersey DWI cases, as most first-time offenders are not sentenced to jail time.

Keep in mind that even if you are able to stay out of jail in your first offense DWI case, a conviction or guilty plea will go on your driving record. If you are convicted of a subsequent DWI offense at any point within the next 10 years, you would then be subject to a mandatory jail sentence of 2 days, and the judge would have the ability to sentence you to up to 90 days in jail. That’s one reason why it is so important for you to avoid conviction in your first offense DWI case and avoid getting a first offense on your record in the first place.

Let our First DWI Offense Attorneys Help Defend Your Case

Contact the skilled DWI lawyers at Proetta & Oliver today if you need assistance with a first DUI charge anywhere in New Jersey. With local offices in Hudson County, we frequently appear on behalf of clients in Bayonne, Hoboken, West New York, North Bergen, Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Union City, and across North Jersey areas. Call (201) 793-8018 or contact us online for a free initial consultation anytime you need.