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DWI first offenders may not lose their licenses

It is not always easy to determine which states are the strictest when it comes to dealing with drunk drivers. While some states are lowering their legal limit for blood alcohol concentration, others are fighting drunk driving by raising the penalties. In some states, you can expect to spend time in jail even for a first offense, and in others, a repeat offense may result in a felony charge.

If you are facing a drunk driving charge in New Jersey, you may be worried about what you can expect. Fortunately, lawmakers in this state seem to be as concerned about preventing drunk driving tragedies as they are about punishing offenders. You may be interested in recent changes to New Jersey's DWI law.

Ignition interlock alternative

In addition to fines and the potential for jail time or community service, you may be concerned about the suspension of your driver's license. This penalty is an element of drunk driving laws across the country. If a court convicts you of drunk driving, you face months without your license, potentially years if this is not your first offense. However, New Jersey lawmakers recently conceded that many people will drive even with a suspended license, and some will continue to drive after drinking.

This is why New Jersey has enacted a change to Ricci's Law, the DWI law requiring ignition interlock systems on vehicles of those with a BAC of .15 or higher or repeat offenders. The amended law requires an ignition interlock device on everyone convicted of DWI. If this is your first offense and your BAC was lower than .15, the court may order you to install an IID instead of relinquishing your license. Ignition interlock systems work like this:

  • When you get into your vehicle, you must blow into a device that measures your BAC.
  • If the device detects no alcohol in your system, your vehicle will start as normal.
  • At random times while you drive, the system will alert you to provide a breath sample to ensure you are not drinking while you drive.
  • If your BAC is .08 or higher, your vehicle's ignition system will lock, and you will not be able to start it.

If you are convicted of DWI, the ignition interlock device allows you to keep your license – depending on the circumstances of your arrest – which means you can continue to get to work and fulfill other obligations. However, as beneficial as this sounds, you will want to seek legal counsel and obtain a complete evaluation of your case before accepting any plea. A skilled attorney will examine the evidence and guide you in taking the most appropriate steps for your defense.

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