The calls are growing louder for stiffer penalties against drivers with suspended licenses continuing to drive on New Jersey.
MADD Drunk Driving Ranking In New Jersey
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has ranked New Jersey as one of the worst states in terms of drunk driving and assigned it only two out of five stars. The New Jersey chapter of the National Motorists Association representative retorted that the state's penalties against first-time offenders were incredibly severe. However both groups were in agreement that the state's punishment system was not working to keep DWI drivers off the roads despite fines and revocation of licenses. Victim advocates argue that the state needs to take actions that will stop repeat offenders driving on the roads, suggesting the use of ignition interlock devices so that it would be impossible for an inebriated person to start the engine of their vehicle.
Lawyers defending persons arrested for DWI argued that the fines imposed are extreme and violate their constitutional rights. Since the state does not consider DWI to be a criminal offense, defendants have no right to a trial by jury. Attorneys for the state argue that fees associated with DWI are not punitive, and trying DWI cases before juries would overburden the state's court system.
Many advocates for stricter laws point out that New Jersey is one of the only states that does not consider DWI to be a criminal offense, and continues to rely on monetary sanctions as opposed to jail time for repeat offenders. In Pennsylvania DWI is not a crime. However, repeat offenders can be imprisoned for two years even though they are not felons.
DWI is considered a motor vehicle offense and tried in municipal court in New Jersey with first-time offenders facing license suspensions ranging between three months to a year. Penalties can also include imprisonment of up to 30 days and thousands of dollars in fees and surcharges. Those penalties increase steeply for repeat offenders. Drivers convicted of a third DWI face up to 180 days in jail, which is the maximum allowed under New Jersey law.
However, if another person is injured or killed by a drunken driver, other criminal charges including assault by auto, aggravated manslaughter, and vehicular homicide come into play. Those charges are handled in a different venue. For example, repeat DWI offender, was found guilty of DWI days after being acquitted of all charges relating to the death of a man in a 2012 crash in a separate venue.
The New Jersey State Supreme Court recently considered the case of one man convicted of DWI, who was facing a mandatory 180-day jail term and thousands of dollars in surcharges, fees and court costs after being charged with his fourth DWI violation. The man argued that he had the right to a jury trial but the court ruled that punishments for drunken drivers were not sufficiently serious to warrant a jury trial.
MADD's program director stated that the group's top priority was to have a bill passed requiring ignition interlock devices be installed immediately after the first DWI offense but reduce the mandatory license suspension from the currently imposed three months to just ten days. Reducing the suspension time would enable those drivers to continue important daily activities like driving to work and picking children up at school, but would prevent them from driving under the influence. Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill calling it “too sweeping.”
The state was adding piles of penalties onto people accused of drunk driving but at the same time refusing them trial by a jury. He added that the bill was one of the few times his association and MADD were in agreement by allowing first-time offenders to remain on the road with certain restrictions.
Speak With A Drunk Driving Attorney
If you have been charged with DWI in New Jersey, please contact the experienced attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, as a conviction would have extremely serious consequences. It is imperative that you fight your charges with effective legal representation. Please call (732) 965-3999 to schedule your FREE consultation!