INTERLOCK DEVICE INSTEAD OF LICENSE SUSPENSION; PROPOSED CHANGES IN DUI LAW IN NEW JERSEY

Governor Chris Christie is currently considering a Bill that will dramatically change DUI law in New Jersey. The Bill has already passed through both houses of the New Jersey Congress and proposes a change in the license suspension requirement following a conviction for DUI.

Under current New Jersey law, a person with a BAC of 0.08% or greater, who operates a motor vehicle is considered to be driving under the influence. In addition to other penalties, a first-time offender is subject to mandatory loss of their driver’s license. If that first-time offender’s BAC is 0.15% or greater, it is also required that an ignition interlock device be installed in their car. Such a device prevents an individual from starting the motor vehicle if they have consumed alcoholic beverages.

The newly proposed law would allow for installation of the ignition interlock device if the BAC is 0.08% or greater. However, the license suspension requirement will be significantly lessened. Currently, a first time DUI offense with a BAC of 0.08% (but below 0.10%) carries a 3 month license suspension. A first time DUI offense with a BAC of 0.10 or greater carries a 7 month to 1 year license suspension. Under the newly proposed law, the license suspension requirement is proposed to be reduced to 10 days, in favor of installation of the ignition interlock device.

This amendment would seem to benefit a person charged with DUI, given that the loss of license on a first time DUI offense is often one of the most significant and impactful penalties associated with current New Jersey law. The downside of the proposed law is that the offenders, whom previously would not have been required to have the devices installed, will be charged for the installation and maintenance of the interlock device, which is approximately $100.00 per month (a cost which is in addition to the fines, penalties and surcharges that are assessed against a person convicted of DUI).

The proposed legislation also breaks down the length of time in which an ignition interlock device is to be installed. Under the proposed legislation, offenders caught driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% to .10% would have to install the device for three months. If the device detects that an offender attempted to drive drunk during the third month, he or she would have to keep the device installed for an extra month. Further, a driver with a blood alcohol level of .10% to .15% would have to install the device for seven months to one year.

While current New Jersey law mandates that offenders with a BAC of 0.15% or higher are already required to install the device, both during their suspension time period and for six months to one year after restoration of the driver’s privilege, under the new bill, that person would be able to petition the court to reinstate their license after ninety days, provided they have installed the device and keep it in place for seven months to one year after the restoration.

It should also be noted that the newly proposed Bill would only apply to those individuals who own or lease a primary vehicle. Offenders, who do not fit into this category, will still face long license suspensions. In addition, judges will have discretion to consider mitigating factors, including the driver’s conduct, the driving record, the age and length of time as a licensed driver, the character and attitude of the driver, and any other factor the judge considers relevant.

Dramatically, the new Bill also proposes increased penalties for repeat DUI offenders. Instead of the current two year license suspension, judges could order license suspensions for a time period from two years, up to four years. The newly proposed law also contains a provision for a minimum one year restricted use license requirement for repeat offenders. Restricted use license requirements allow an offender to utilize a car only for critical tasks such as driving to work or school.

The legislation has been promoted extensively by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). MADD has cited a thirty percent fall in fatalities in states that have put similar laws in place, including Oregon, Arizona, Louisiana, and New Mexico.

While the Bill had been supported by a wide margin in New Jersey, there are some who oppose the Bill believing it will add to costs and lengthen court proceedings. In addition, the scientific reliability of ignition interlock devices has not been proven. For more information, read the full article on nj.com:

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/02/major_changes_to_nj_drunk_driving_law_reach_christ.html#incart_m-rpt-1

Michael Mormando of Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former Supervising Assistant County Prosecutor. Mr. Mormando handles defense of clients at the Municipal, County, and State levels. Mr. Mormando has defended clients charged with offenses ranging from traffic tickets up to and including the most serious crimes in the State of New Jersey. If you are in need of legal assistance, and you require aggressive, experienced, and talented legal representation, call Michael Mormando at Attorneys Hartman, Chartered at 856-235-0220. We represent our clients throughout the State of New Jersey in both criminal and civil court.

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