From First Offense to Third: New Jersey DUI Laws Explained

Every state in the U.S. has enhanced its driving under the influence (DUI) laws in the past two decades and many of these laws are similar, such as the .08 blood alcohol level limit to consider a prosecution. Mandatory incarceration times have been included in all new legislation, but states differ on what penalties they impose for multiple offenders. All states have chosen a three-way combination in terms of penalties. Those punishments include incarceration time, fines and suspended driving privileges.


New Jersey only requires 12 hours minimum incarceration time for a first offender, but the judge also has the latitude to adjust this period upwards to 30 days. It is dependent on case circumstances, which can be enhanced to aggravated charges when blood alcohol levels are excessive and minor children are in the vehicle. This can also be applied to charges of fleeing and evading the police.

Naturally, multiple offenders will be required to spend a more significant incarceration period with subsequent driving under the influence arrests. Second offenses mandate a jail sentence of two days, but can also be increased up to 90 days in certain cases. A third driving under the influence conviction requires a minimum of 90 days. Maximum penalty for a third DUI conviction is 180 days. Judges do not have the authority to set incarceration times outside of the sentencing standards.

Fines, Service Fees and Insurance

Fines differ in New Jersey compared to many other states. For charges assessed at the .08 blood alcohol level the minimum fine is $250. For BAC levels above .10 the minimum fine increases to $300 and can range up to $500. Fines for a third driving under the influence offense are set at $1000. Court costs may also be added to these fines.

All states have included service fees as well, most often in association with alcoholic driver’s education. According to our New Jersey DWI attorney, you will have to attend alcohol awareness classes at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours. The cost for the IDRC program is $100. You must also pay a fine of $50 to the Violent Crimes Compensation Board (VCCB), and a $75 fine to the Safe Neighborhood Fund Assessment.

New Jersey also differs from other states in the assessment of an automobile insurance surcharge for a three-year period following the conviction. These surcharges are $1000 per year for the first two offenses and $1500 per year for a third. It is important to note that surcharges can be “stacked” for those offenders with multiple charges in a three-year period.

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Driving Privilege Suspensions

Anyone convicted of a DUI in New Jersey can count on a significant driver’s license suspension. The first offense requires a minimum of three months suspension. For charges assessed at the .10 level the minimum increases to seven months and can be extended to one year.

The suspension period for a second offense is a flat two years and the penalty for a third is very serious. Third offenses carry a suspension time of 10 years, which may be the most significant punishment in the United States. A fourth offense is prosecuted as a felony in addition to this extensive suspension penalty.

In cases where the blood alcohol level is below .08 the court can accept a plea with a reduced charge of “wet reckless” driving. Most states do not designate this distinction in the charge, but in New Jersey the public record will indicate such. It is absolutely necessary to have an experienced and effective legal counsel to convince the court that this punishment could be acceptable. This is not normally offered to the defendant and must be negotiated. This reduced charge can amount to lesser fines, along with no suspended license and jail term, although community service can be applied.

Wherever you live, it is important to understand the DUI or DWI laws in your state. In some cases, jail time, license suspension and other penalties are negotiable and determined by the particulars of each case. Immediately following a DUI arrest in New Jersey or any other state, consulting with an experienced DUI attorney is your best course of action.

Karla M. Somers is a legal researcher and writer. She contributes articles to the New Jersey DWI attorney and law offices of Evan M. Levow. Attorney Levow has been representing DWI cases in the state of New Jersey for more than 20 years. He understands the nuances of the fines, penalties, license suspensions, alcohol education classes and all other aspects of this serious criminal offense.

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