New Jersey is one of America’s favorite summer vacation spots, largely because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, its cooler temperatures, and the nostalgic shops, restaurants, and boardwalks in each seaside community. The Garden State is an exciting mix of beautiful and disparate environments, offering the quaintness of rustic village life along with big, bustling, oceanside theme parks. And particularly since Hurricane Sandy, the region has experienced a tremendous building boom as communities work to restore tourist attractions like Asbury Park. It’s a wonderful place for summer vacations and family road trips, but the great state of New Jersey is no place for drunk drivers. State troopers enforce some of the country’s toughest DWI laws.
Standard DWI Laws
Every state has adopted the standard blood alcohol content [BAC] level of 0.08 for drivers aged 21 and older. Commercial drivers are considered impaired at the 0.04 BAC level in New Jersey, which differs from some states with a 0.02 standard. New Jersey’s impairment level for underage drinkers who are driving while intoxicated is 0.01, which essentially translates to zero tolerance. In New Jersey, underage drinking laws are rigidly enforced. Subsequent DWI convictions can result in 90 to 180 days in jail, and license suspension is automatic with any conviction. Refusal to submit to a chemical test can also result in license suspension. In the event of such an arrest, you would do well to secure the services of a reputable New Jersey DWI lawyer as soon as possible.
Specific Additional DWI Laws
New Jersey also enforces a strict open container law for all passengers in any kind of vehicle, whether or not the driver is impaired. Impairment is not a prerequisite to charge a motorist with a minimum charge of having an open container in the vehicle. This infraction alone may impose a $200 fine, and mandatory court-ordered community service for the first offense. It is also important to note that an impaired driver who has young passengers in his vehicle may be charged whether or not the car is involved in an accident. An impaired driver with a passenger under 17 will not only receive a DWI charge, but will be further penalized with the additional charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Insurance requirements for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey are not set by the insurance industry, they are codified in law. Anyone convicted of a DWI will be required to carry SR-22 high-risk insurance coverage for a period of up to 3 years and may have to continue the use of an interlock ignition device for a period of up to 3 years after the license is reinstated.
Alcoholic Drivers Education
As in other states, impaired drivers are required to attend courses in a state-certified program to modify their behavior. This is a part of New Jersey’s comprehensive approach to stopping this dangerous behavior and it is not free. The defendant incurs the expense for each course.
Vacationing in New Jersey can be a real adventure, but responsible behavior is a non-negotiable part of the equation. Out-of-state drivers should be aware of the rules of the road in New Jersey and accept the responsibility for abiding by them. Have a safe summer and enjoy the Garden State.
Writer and avid sightseer, LaGeris Underwood Bell offers this article as part of a New Jersey tourist’s survival kit for safe travel throughout the state. Evan M. Levow is a New Jersey DWI lawyer whose firm has developed a strong track record defending their clients and protecting their rights in all circumstances.