New Jersey DWI Laws

New Jersey DWI Charges

New Jersey's drinking and driving laws are collectively known as "Driving While Intoxicated" (DWI). Drivers who violate the DWI statutes face severe penalties.

Here's how the law works. In New Jersey, there are two ways a driver can be in violation of the DWI laws.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

  1. DWI: You are driving and your chemical test (blood, breath, or urine) result is 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or higher.
  2. DWI "Per Se": You are driving and and officer determines you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Typically, a police officer will pull you over and put you through a series of field sobriety tests (FSTs) to determine if you are actually impaired.

Under the first scenario, the prosecutor will need to show that you drove your car when your capacity to drive was seriously diminished by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two. You don’t have to have a BAC of .08 or higher to be in violation of this law.

Under the second scenario, the prosecutor only needs to prove your BAC was at .08 or more in order to convict you.

Legal Limit

A measurement of your BAC is the most common way a police officer can determine whether you're legally impaired.

  • 21 or older: 0.08 percent
  • Commercial drivers: 0.04 percent
  • Under 21 0.02 percent

Typical DWI Sentence for First Conviction

A typical sentence for a first-time DWI includes a fine ranging from $250 and $400, and a possible jail sentence of up to 30 days. A defendant must also attend a class called "Intoxicated Driver Resource Center " (IDRC) for 12 to 48 hours. A defendant will also lose his driver’s license for seven to 12 months.

Ignition Interlock Device

If you've been convicted of any DWI-related offense, the judge has the option of requiring you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on any vehicle you own or intend to drive. The court might have you install the device if you:

  • Had BAC of at least 0.15%;
  • Had a child in the car;
  • Had prior DWI convictions within ten years; or
  • Refused the chemical test.

Click here to learn more about the IID program and where to get one installed on your car.

Refusing the Chemical Test

If you have refused any chemical testing for a DWI in New Jersey, your license will automatically be suspended, also known as an administrative license suspension. Once you have lost your license in the state of New Jersey you simply can’t drive at all. There are no loopholes or exceptions to this rule. Can you get a hardship driver’s license? No. There are currently no exceptions in New Jersey Law, such as a conditional driver's license for work or otherwise.

Remember, the higher your BAC, the more severe your penalties may be. Multiple convictions will also result in harsher sentences.

Here is a brief overview of New Jersey's DWI laws. For more information see After a DUI, DUI Expungement, and DUI and Insurance .

Code Sections N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 et seq (PDF)
BAC Limit

Over 21: 0.08 percent or higher, Under 21: 0.02 percent Commercial drivers : 0.04 percent or higher

What is Prohibited?

DWI: Operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired by alcohol or drugs or have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more.

Typical DWI Penalties

  • Fines, fees and surcharges
  • License suspension
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Jail time
  • Community service

Common Symptoms of Alcohol/Drug Impairment

  • Flushed face
  • Red, watery, glassy and/or bloodshot eyes
  • Odor of alcohol on breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Fumbling with wallet trying to get license
  • Failure to comprehend the officer’s questions
  • Staggering when exiting vehicle
  • Swaying/instability on feet
  • Leaning on car for support
  • Combative, argumentative, jovial or other “inappropriate” attitude
    Soiled, rumpled, disorderly clothing
  • Stumbling while walking
  • Disorientation as to time and place
  • Inability to follow directions
Enhanced Penalties
  • A child was in the car at the time
  • The driver had a CDL and at the time was driving a commercial vehicle
  • The defendant refused to submit to a breath test
  • There was property damage or injury
  • The defendant was under 21 (“zero tolerance” laws commonly require a much lower blood-alcohol level, and impose longer license suspensions).

It's best to never drink or use drugs and drive. Select a designated driver ahead of time, who will stay sober. If you're impaired and don't have a designated driver, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation. If you do find yourself facing an DWI, you may wish to contact a criminal defense attorney for assistance.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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