New Jersey imposes stringent drunk driving laws, but the rules pertaining to blood alcohol limitations vary in certain circumstances. Similarly, the penalties aren't the same in every situation, so it's important to consult with an experienced DWI lawyer if you are facing a DWI charge in New Jersey to find out which rules apply to your case. The New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. in Point Pleasant Beach will explain the law and the charges you're facing in detail. To understand what is considered driving under the influence in New Jersey we must first learn about Blood Alcohol Concentration.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits In New Jersey
What is the legal limit for alcohol in New Jersey? If you are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in New Jersey, you will be stopped on the road and arrested. In most cases, the arresting officer will first take you through a series of field sobriety tests during your traffic stop before taking you to the police station for a breath test. Those accused of drunk driving will be required to provide a breath test by blowing into a Dräger Alcotest® 7110 which is used to measure BAC. However, there may be exceptions, for example, if you were suspected of DWI during an accident in which medical care is necessary your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will be determined through the administration of a breath test or blood test while at the hospital. While it is still possible to receive a DWI charge with minimal amounts of alcohol in your system, it is important to be aware of the BAC limits under New Jersey law.
DUI For Drivers 21 and Older
The current blood alcohol concentration limit for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey is 0.08% BAC. This translates to 0.08 grams of ethanol alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood in your system. If you are caught driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher in New Jersey, you can be convicted of drunk driving. This standard applies to drivers who are legally allowed to drink alcohol; currently age 21 and older.
Drunk driving charges become more serious and the penalties are increased as the BAC increases. While a first-tier DWI (BAC of 0.08%<.10%) carries first-time penalties which could include up to 30 days in jail, fines of $250-$400, and a license suspension until an interlock in installed and the interlock must be installed for 3 months, the fines increase to $300-$500 for a DWI with a BAC of 0.10% but less than .15% and an interlock for a period of seven (7) to twelve (12) months; if the BAC is over .15% a license suspension is required for a period of four (4) to six (6) months and an interlock during the period of suspension plus a period of nine (9) to fifteen (15) months with an interlock device installed. All first offense convictions require compliance with the IDRC for a period of 12-48 hours.
DWI For Drivers Under the Age of 21
While the 0.08% BAC limit applies to drivers over the legal drinking age, underage motorists are held to a zero tolerance BAC standard. If you are under 21 years old and you are arrested for DWI in New Jersey, a BAC result showing any trace of alcohol consumption in your system will subject you to a charge of underage DWI. The penalties differ for underage drinkers charged with DWI depending on the BAC level detected.
Drivers under the age of 21 caught driving with a BAC of 0.01%-0.07%, will face penalties of 30-90 days license suspension and 15-30 days of mandatory community service, participation in an IDRC class and highway safety program. If the person is under 17 at the time of sentencing, will have their license suspension imposed after their 17th birthday. Those under the age of 21 who have a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more will be subject to the standard DWI penalties for adult drivers as outlined above. In New Jersey, those under the age of 21 who possess alcohol will face the loss of driving privileges for six months upon a conviction or plea of guilty.
Commercial (CDL) Licensed Drivers And Drunk Driving
Commercial drivers licenses (CDL) holders are also subject to a different BAC limit in some circumstances. CDL drivers who have a 0.04% BAC or higher and are driving a commercial vehicle at the time of their stop will be charged with a drinking and driving violation. If a CDL licensed driver is operating a passenger vehicle at the time of the stop they will be subject to the ordinary limits of a BAC of 0.08%. A DWI conviction will result in a suspension of their CDL license in addition to their basic New Jersey driver's license.
BAC Under The Limit Can Still Result In DWI In New Jersey
It is important to address a common misconception. A BAC of less than 0.08% does not mean you will always avoid a DWI charge. Police can decide you are intoxicated based on the totality of the circumstances, including your performance in the field sobriety tests, your speech, other behavior and your driving conduct. If you have any amount of alcohol in your system and it can be shown that the alcohol influenced your driving abilities, you can still be charged with a DWI.