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The New Jersey DWI Guide

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Driving while Intoxicated

Refusal | Refused
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I just got arrested for a New Jersey DWI offense.  What happens now?


The Breath Test Refusal.  Under New Jersey law, any person who operates a motor vehicle on any road, street or highway in New Jersey shall be deemed to have given his consent to the taking of samples of his breath for the purpose of making chemical tests to determine the content of alcohol in his or her blood.  This is known as New Jersey's implied consent law. 


Refusing a breath test is a separate offense under New Jersey law.  If you're found by the municipal court to have unlawfully refused a breath test, your New Jersey license (or your right to drive in New Jersey if you're not a New Jersey licensed driver) may be suspended for seven months or more (depending on your DWI history).  This suspension is separate from any suspension that you may receive from a conviction for the DWI charge. 



The NJ DWI charge:  Separate from any breath test refusal proceeding is the motor vehicle offense for driving while intoxicated or DWI:


New Jersey DWI.  Under New Jersey law, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug. 


New Jersey Per Se DWI.  New Jersey law also prohibits operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol.


Will my New Jersey drivers license be revoked / suspended?


Your New Jersey driver license (or your right to drive in New Jersey if you do not have a valid New Jersey license) may be suspended for seven months or more for refusing a chemical (breath) test. 


Additionally, if you're convicted of the DWI offense, you will also lose your license (or your right to drive in New Jersey if you don't have a valid New Jersey license) for three months or more.  Refer to the table below.  Talk to your New Jersey DWI lawyer for possible suspension lengths for your situation.



Also keep in mind that your license can be suspended for a variety of reasons unrelated to a DWI arrest e.g. excessive points on your driving record; reckless driving; failing to appear in court; driving with a suspended license, etc.


I have a commercial driver license (CDL).  How long will my CDL be suspended for a DWI conviction?


For a first DWI conviction in New Jersey your CDL will be suspended for one year (regardless of whether you're driving a commercial vehicle).  For a second DWI your CDL will be revoked for life.


What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended / revoked?


Driving while your license is suspended for a NJ DWI offense should be avoided as it is a new offense.  Penalties include a $500 fine, jail time of 10 to 90 days, and an additional NJ drivers license suspension of one to two years.


I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a hardship / restricted / occupational / conditional / probationary permit?


No.  Unfortunately, hardship type permits are not available to suspended drivers in the State of New Jersey.


Is a DWI offense in New Jersey a misdemeanor or felony charge?


Neither.  In New Jersey, a DWI is a motor vehicle offense.  There is not right to a jury trial on a DWI offense in New Jersey.


What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of an New Jersey DWI charge?


Upon conviction of an New Jersey DWI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including alcohol education.  A range of penalties is set forth below: 



BAC .08 - <.10 %

or UII-alcohol

No prior DWI's within past 10 Years

One prior DWI

within past 10 years

2+ priors DWI's

within past 10 years

Incarceration / Jail

12 - 48 hours
(up to 30 days possible)
at least 48 hours
(up to 90 days possible)
180 days

Community Service

not required 30 days not required


$250 - $400 $500 - $1000 $1000

Loss of License

3 months 2 years 10 years

Education / Tx


BAC .10 or greater

or UII-drugs

No priors DWI's within past 10 years

One prior DWI within past 10 years

2+ Priors DWI's

within past 10 years


12 - 48 hours
(up to 30 days possible)
at least 48 hours
(up to 90 days possible)
180 days

Community Service

not required 30 days not required


$300 - $500 $500 - $1000 $1000

Loss of License

7 -12 months 2 years 10 years

Education / Tx


UII-alcohol means under the influence of intoxicating liquor (alcohol). 


UII-drugs means under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit producing drug.

IDRC refers to the Intoxicated Driving Resource Center (see below).

Convictions also generally require a surcharge of at least $1000 per year for three years for a first or second DWI conviction.  A $2000 surcharge is required each year for three years for a third DWI conviction.  Failure to pay the surcharge will result in the continued indefinite suspension of your driving privileges.  Other fees are required as well.  Talk to your NJ DWI lawyer about the total costs involved.


Penalties are greater for driving through a school crossing or on school property.


Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain / negotiate my New Jersey DWI charge down to another (lesser) offense?

No.  Plea bargaining and charge reduction are generally not permitted in the State of New Jersey.  However, if a prosecutor believes that the charge against you cannot be proven, the charge may be dismissed.  This situation is quite rare however.

What happens if I had a child in the car with me when I was arrested for DWI?

A parent or guardian who is convicted of a DWI and has a child passenger in the vehicle (17 younger), is also guilty of a disorderly persons offense.  The court will impose additional penalties including community service.

What is the Intoxicated Driver Program?

Every person convicted of a New Jersey DWI offense must participate in a program at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC).  During the program, you must attend mandatory Alcohol and Highway Safety Education courses.  IDRC also evaluates you for an alcohol or drug problem and determines the need for substance abuse treatment.  If it is determined that you need treatment, the IDRC refers you to an appropriate 16-week minimum treatment program.  IDRC monitors program compliance and reports noncompliance to the courts and MVC.  Failure to comply with the program will result in an additional license suspension and possible jail time.  There are fees associated with the IDRC.

Will a New Jersey DWI go on "my driving record?"

Yes.  A DWI conviction will go on your New Jersey driving record and will stay on your record essentially forever.  You cannot expunge a New Jersey DWI conviction.

Just how much jail time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DWI in New Jersey?

The amount of incarceration (jail or prison) received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

•  your prior DWI history in the past 10 years (including any DWI / DUI convictions outside of New Jersey);

•  your level of intoxication (a BAC of 0.10 or greater can generate greater penalties);

•  whether there was an collision involved;

•  whether there was bodily injury to another person in the collision;

•  which New Jersey municipal court your case is in;

•  what judge you are sentenced by;

•  whether there was a passenger / child in your car;

•  whether the judge feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.


I am licensed to drive in a state other than New Jersey and I was cited for a DWI in New Jersey.  Will my driver license be suspended?

New Jersey only has the authority to suspend your right to drive in the State of New Jersey.  However, New Jersey and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  New Jersey will report a DWI conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming your home state has also adopted the Compact).  Your home state will then generally take action to suspend / revoke your license.

This also works in reverse.  If you are a New Jersey licensed driver and you are convicted of a DUI charge in another state, New Jersey will suspend your license if it learns of the conviction. 

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?


A ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition system.  In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration.  If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the interlock device (in New Jersey 0.05%), the motor vehicle will not start. 


You will likely have to install an IID in your vehicle for at least six months if you're convicted of a New Jersey DWI offense.  Talk to your DWI lawyer about whether this requirement applies to your situation.

What happens if I was on probation when I got arrested for my NJ DWI offense?

Committing a new offense while you're on probation for a previous crime creates two problems.  First, you face the new DWI charge.  Second, you face a probation violation hearing for failing to obey all laws (a standard condition of probation).  The most serious scenario is when you receive a new New Jersey DWI offense when you're already on probation for a previous DWI.  When this happens, its in your best interest to speak to a New Jersey DWI lawyer as soon as possible.

What is the difference between a DWI, DUI, OWI, DWAI etc.?


These terms are all acronyms that refer to the offense commonly known as "drunk driving."  Different states have different names for this crime.  In Oregon, for example, the offense is known as driving under the influence of an intoxicant or DUII.  Most states use the term DUI or driving under the influence.  New Jersey law uses the term driving while intoxicated or DWI.  The terms DWI and DUI are used interchangeably in this website.

I'm not a United States citizen.  Will a New Jersey DWI conviction result in my removal from this country?

Probably not.  A typical New Jersey DWI offense is not considered a crime of moral turpitude or an aggravated felony resulting in removal.  It is important to consult an experienced immigration lawyer about your situation just as you should consult with an experienced NJ criminal defense lawyer about your pending DWI charge. 


Keep two points in mind.  First, it is very important to answer honestly all questions about prior arrests / convictions on immigration and Visa applications and forms.  Lying on these forms is often considered more serious than any NJ DWI conviction.  Second, non-citizens must take extra care not to drive on a suspended or revoked license.

What will an New Jersey DWI conviction do to my ability to get / maintain insurance?

If your New Jersey insurance company finds out about your DWI one of two things are likely to occur.  Either your  insurer will raise your rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed.  Their response will depend on a variety of factors including your claim history and your driving record.

Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get an New Jersey DUI?


Yes.  The FAA has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including New Jersey DWI convictions.  Learn more here.

I missed my New Jersey court appearance.  What do I do now?

Failing to appear for court is to be avoided.  When you miss a court appearance, bad things happen.  At a minimum, the New Jersey court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (commonly known as a bench warrant) and the MVC suspends your license.  Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.  Often, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled.

Can I represent myself in court on my New Jersey DWI and / or other charge(s)?

Yes.  You have a constitutional right to represent yourself on any motor vehicle offense no matter how serious including an New Jersey DWI charge.  Keep in mind that New Jersey driving while intoxicated laws and defense is complex as shown by the information in this website. 

Copyright 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Websites, including this one, provide general DWI information but do not provide legal advice or create a attorney / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Drunk Driving - DWI lawyers / attorneys for advice about any specific problem or DWI charge that you have.  New Jersey lawyers are governed by the NJ Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way.  This site is purely informational.


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