Most people know that getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or consuming drugs can lead to increased risk of a crash and that states have criminalized having too much alcohol in your body while driving. That includes New Jersey, where driving with a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08 percent constitutes a DWI offense.
There are many situations where a person who hasn't broken the law could end up failing a field sobriety test or a BAC test. Medical conditions could play a part in this situation, or it could be the result of poorly calibrated testing machines. Whatever the cause, those facing DWI charges in New Jersey need to take them seriously. The penalties could cause a host of lasting issues.
New Jersey penalties increase with additional offenses
First time DWI offenders face lower potential penalties than those accused of repeatedly violating the state's DWI laws. The potential penalties include a fine of between $250 and $400, up to 30 days in jail, loss of your license for three months, mandatory alcohol education and additional insurance fees for the next three years.
Second offenses result in a fine of between $500 and $1,000, between two and 90 days in jail, a two year license suspension, mandatory alcohol education, insurance fees and the installation of an ignition interlock device in their car for another one to three years when they regain their license. Third offenses carry a fine of $1,000, 180 days in jail, mandatory inpatient alcohol treatment, increased insurance surcharges and a 10 year license suspension.
Those with a BAC of over 0.10 face increased penalties, including a longer license suspension and higher fines. Those with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher will end up required to install an ignition interlock device in their primary vehicle, even after a first offense.
Pleading guilty: Is it in your best interests?
Many people accused of DWI offenses just want to end the whole experience. That can lead to people immediately choosing to plead guilty to avoid the embarrassment of going to trial. Doing this without having a complete understanding of one's situation could be major mistake. Pleading guilty can expose you to significant consequences, so it is not a decision to be taken lightly or without a full understanding of its possible ramifications.
If your employer has a criminal conviction policy, you could lose your job. If not, losing your license for months could make you repeated tardy or result in missing work. You could end up losing your job after all. A criminal record can also impact your future job prospects, your ability to rent and even what kind of insurance you can get for your vehicle.
Given the major consequences having a DWI record can have, you should consider all of your options when facing a DWI charge in New Jersey.