Drivers in New Jersey take a risk when driving under the influence. The chances of causing an accident increase when a person drives intoxicated, and there are legal ramifications associated with driving under the influence in the Garden State. When pulled over, someone may wonder if pending DUI charges reach felony levels. In New Jersey, a DUI is a traffic violation and not a criminal offense. That said, someone could still face related felony charges in New Jersey after causing an accident.

The traffic violation penalties for a DUI/DWI in New Jersey are severe and could lead to a driver’s license suspension, possibly 180 days in jail, a monetary fine and more. The penalties become worse with subsequent offenses.

First-time DWIs offenders are required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. Interlock devices are breathalyzer machines wired into your car that tests your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and will not allow your car to start if you blow above a certain BAC (normally .04).  In addition, first time offenders who blow between a .08% and .10% BAC face a license suspension until they install an interlock device at their own expense for a period of 3 months. If you blow between .10% and .15% BAC, you face license suspension until you have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle for a period ranging from 7 months to 1 year. Lastly, if you blow a .15% or more, you face a reduced license suspension of 4 to 6 months, but must install an interlock device for a period of between 9 months and 15 months. It is also important to note that if you are charged with refusing to submit to a breath test and it is your first offense, a period of license suspension only applies prior to the installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.

A second DWI offense is punishable by license suspension of between 1 year and 2 years and requires installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for between 2 and 4 years. For a third or subsequent DWI offense, the period of license suspension is 8 years and the mandatory installation of an interlock device is for a period ranging from 2 to 4 years.

There are additional penalties for DUI convictions in NJ including mandatory fines and classes with your County Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, and possible sentences to incarceration which become mandatory with third or more offenses. Also, a DWI can result in drastic increases in your insurance rates and years of surcharges.

A person who drives while intoxicated may end up facing criminal charges in addition to the traffic violations. New Jersey has different categories for criminal offenses: Instead of misdemeanors and felonies, New Jersey charges people with disorderly persons offenses and indictable offenses.

Someone who drives a vehicle while intoxicated and goes the wrong way up a one-way street at 30 mph over the speed limit could cause an accident. If someone gets killed due to the drunk driver’s actions, that driver could face homicide or manslaughter-related indictable crimes charges.

While under the influence, someone might not be in control of his or her actions. Violent outbursts become possible. Someone who becomes belligerent with the police or, worse, outright assaults an officer or refuses to pull over for an officer, would likely face significant criminal charges including but not limited to resisting arrest, assault, and/or eluding.

A conviction means a permanent criminal record unless the convicted receives an expungement. Whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony-level conviction, a permanent criminal record may have consequences on an individual’s life. New Jersey’s unique categorizing of offenses does translate to misdemeanors and felonies in other jurisdictions, so a disorderly persons offense would translate as a misdemeanor conviction when reviewed in another state.  Similarly, a DWI conviction in New Jersey could be treated as a prior criminal offense in another state.

DUI-related criminal law may be confusing to an accused defendant. Speaking with an attorney to learn about the charges might prove advisable.