What It Means to Get Your Third DWI in New Jersey
Jersey City Third DUI Offense Lawyers
New Jersey’s drunk driving laws are tough enough for individuals charged with a first offense DWI. For repeat offenders – especially those accused of a third offense – the consequences of a conviction are extremely harsh. New Jersey law mandates the maximum penalties in these cases in order to discourage anyone from repeatedly violating the state’s DWI laws, while judges are required to impose mandatory jail time when a defendant is convicted or pleads guilty to third offense DWI charges. Each DWI case is unique, however, and a knowledgeable New Jersey DWI lawyer may be able to help you effectively beat third DUI charges and avoid the worst punishments.
The defense attorneys at Proetta & Oliver have spent over a decade skillfully challenging first and repeat DWI charges in courts throughout Hudson County and New Jersey, such as Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Weehawken, Secaucus, Kearny, Union City, and Guttenberg. To discuss your 3rd time DUI case and what options you may have to fight it, contact our local law office in Jersey City at (201) 793-8018 today. The consultation is free and one of our DWI defense lawyers is at the ready to assist you. Keep reading this page to find out what it means to get your third DWI in New Jersey.
Is a Third DWI a Felony in NJ?
In most instances, Driving under the influence is technically classified as a traffic offense, not a criminal offense. As long as your DWI offense did not involve an accident that caused death, serious injuries, or property damage, the case will probably be classified as a traffic violation that is adjudicated in the local municipal court. This means that no matter how many DWI offenses you commit, it’s not possible for you to be charged with felony drunk driving, since there is no such thing in New Jersey. However, it is important to note that the penalties for a third DWI offense in New Jersey do include mandatory jail time, so the consequences of a conviction for a third DWI are similar to the consequences of a criminal conviction. Additionally, while DUI offenses don’t technically go on the offender’s criminal record, they will remain on the offender’s permanent driving record.
Charged with a 3rd DUI Offense, How bad is it?
The bottom line is that a DWI charge is very bad, and anyone charged with a DWI offense for the third time faces significant, enhanced consequences that may include the following:
Penalties Imposed in Third Time DWI Cases
- Jail Time: Even though driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs is not a criminal offense, DWI offenders can still be sentenced to jail. While first-time offenders are not subject to jail time mandatorily, a third DWI offense will result in a mandatory sentence of 180 days in the county jail.
- License Suspension: A conviction or guilty plea on third offense DWI charges will result in automatic suspension of your driver’s license for a period of eight (8) years. Since NJ does not have hardship licenses, this means that you will not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle under any circumstances while your license is suspended. Moreover, if you are caught driving with a suspended license for DWI, you will be subject to new charges and possible jail time.
- Ignition Interlock Device: Anyone convicted of drunk driving in NJ is required to install an ignition interlock device on their car or any other vehicle they may drive after their driving privileges are restored. A third DWI offense requires the device to be installed for a period of 1-3 years. An ignition interlock is a breathalyzer device that is attached to the engine of the car, and the driver must blow into the device before the car will start.
- Fines: The court may impose a fine of up to $1,000 for a third offense DWI conviction. This fine must be paid, with the court having authority to issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to pay the fine before the deadline.
- Community Service: Anyone who is convicted or pleads guilty to a third DWI offense can be sentenced to 90 days of community service. This community service typically involves manual labor in work details, such as roadside cleanup, park maintenance, and other projects on public or government property. Community service requirements must be fulfilled within one (1) year of sentencing, or within one (1) year of release from jail. Failure to perform all required community service within that timeframe may be considered a violation of a court order, and it could result in the offender being sentenced to jail.
- IDRC Classes: A conviction on third offense DWI charges will result in the individual convicted being ordered to attend alcohol education classes at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). This requirement can only be met by attending 12-48 hours of IDRC classes. Attendees must also pay all fees associated with the classes.
Collateral Impacts of Getting Your Third DWI Charge in New Jersey
In addition to court-imposed penalties, there are also other serious consequences for individuals who are convicted of a third DUI offense in New Jersey, which include:
- MVC Surcharges: The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) imposes surcharges on DWI offenders. A person convicted of a third DWI offense must pay $1,500 in surcharges each year for a period of three (3) years. Anyone who fails to pay the surcharges could have their driver’s license suspended indefinitely.
- Insurance Rates: Although there are no points assessed on your license for a DWI, a conviction for a third DWI is still likely to have a severe impact on your insurance rates if and when you are allowed to drive again. That’s because insurance points will go on your record, and insurance companies use these points when determining a driver’s policy. At the very least, if you are classified as a high-risk driver, you can expect your insurance premiums to skyrocket. In the worst case, you may find that you are unable to get insured at all.
- Barred from Foreign Travel: Depending on the laws governing entry into other countries (e.g., Canada), you could be banned from entry into foreign nations if you have a DWI conviction on your record.
- Employment: A third offense DWI conviction will result in automatic suspension of your driver’s license, which could affect your ability to get to and from work each day. If you have a job that requires you to be in the office, and if public transportation is either too expensive or unavailable where you live, this could make it tough for you to maintain your employment. Moreover, when your employer, bosses, and coworkers learn of your DWI conviction, it could have a negative impact on how you are perceived in the workplace. Additionally, the mandatory jail sentence that accompanies a third DWI conviction could make it difficult for you to keep your job while you are incarcerated.
Will I Go to Jail for my Third DUI Offense in New Jersey?
If you face third offense DWI charges in New Jersey, you are probably wondering whether you will go to jail. The short answer is: Yes, if you are convicted. Although a first offense is unlikely to result in jail time, multiple DWI offenses typically result in automatic jail sentences, while a third DWI offense carries a mandatory jail term. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 stipulates that anyone convicted of a third DWI violation must be sentenced to a minimum of 180 days in the jail located in the county where the offense occurred.
While jail is mandatory for a third DUI in NJ, prosecutors and judges do occasionally have some leeway when it comes to sentencing. For example, the state’s drunk driving statute allows for up to 90 days of jail time to be accounted for if the defendant participates for an equivalent amount of time in a court-approved alcohol rehabilitation program. An attorney with a solid understanding of New Jersey DWI laws may be able to get you approved for this kind of program so that you can reduce your compulsory jail time.
How can a Lawyer Help Challenge my 3rd DWI Charges in New Jersey?
The bad news is that the penalties for a conviction on third offense DWI charges are extremely serious. The good news is that it may be possible for you to successfully combat the charges, particularly if you have an experienced DWI lawyer on your side. For example, a lawyer may be able to raise legal challenges with respect to the traffic stop that preceded your DWI arrest. Police can only pull over a motorist after observing a traffic violation; they cannot stop a car simply because of a gut feeling that the driver might be intoxicated. If police in your case did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that a traffic offense had been committed, then they probably did not have a constitutional right to stop your vehicle, and any evidence of intoxication – such as a breath test – that law enforcement subsequently obtained would be deemed inadmissible in court.
Another way to avoid the most severe penalties in your third offense DWI case is through what is known as the “10-year step down rule.” The law allows prosecutors to charge a person with a third offense DWI if they have two prior convictions within the previous 10 years. However, if either of those earlier convictions occurred more than 10 years ago, your attorney may be able to get the court to treat your current charge as a second offense DWI for the purposes of sentencing. This means that you would not be subject to the worst penalties; instead, you would be sentenced as if this was merely your second DWI offense. This would have huge implications for you, reducing the maximum license suspension from eight (8) years to just two (2) years, and reducing the maximum jail sentence from 180 days to just two (2) days.
Talk to a Third DWI Defense Lawyer Handling Cases in Hoboken and other Hudson County areas
Contact the law offices of Proetta & Oliver now at (201) 793-8018 for a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney. We have experience handling third time DUI charges against our clients facing the serious repercussions of these offenses and are committed to doing everything we can to provide your best defense. Talk to a DWI defense lawyer at no cost and get additional answers to your questions by contacting us today.