New Jersey DUI Lawyer Takes a First Look at Proposed Senate Bill 404, Considering Diversionary Treatment for Intoxicated Drivers

Although the bill was introduced last year, the New Jersey Senate may soon be considering updates to the State’s Driving While Intoxicated law, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, as submitted by Senator Peter J. Barnes, III of District 18.  The law has not been changed since 2009.  While it has not yet been passed, the newest version would create a Diversionary Program for certain defendants who are charged with driving while intoxicated, providing an alternative to the harsher penalties that currently exist for individuals convicted of drunk driving.

Who Will the Proposed Diversionary Program Affect?

The proposed law is an attempt to give a second chance to defendants charged with a first offense of the state’s Driving While Intoxicated law.  It would affect any driver who pleads guilty or is convicted and found guilty of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, as defined by the statute.  A defendant can take advantage of the new provisions if he or she has never been found guilty of drunk driving before and never participated in the diversionary program before. 

Once these requirements are met, a driver has the opportunity to enter by providing notice to the prosecutor and apply for entry into the program.  The court will consider the application based on several factors, including:

  1. The facts surrounding the commission of the offense;
  2. The motivation, age, character, and attitude of the defendant;
  3. The needs and interests of the community;
  4. The likelihood that the defendant’s offense is related to a condition or situation that would be conducive to change through the defendant’s participation in the intoxicated driver diversionary program; and
  5. Any other factors deemed relevant by the court.

The driver also cannot take advantage of the program if he or she caused an accident resulting in a serious injury or if he or she was driving a passenger under the age of 14 at the time.

A driver can only take advantage of this opportunity once.

How Can the Program Help?

Under current law, first-time drunk driving defendants are fined $250 to $400 if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% to 0.10%.  They are fined $300 to $500 if their BAC is more than 0.10%.  In addition, a first-time defendant’s driver’s license can be suspended for three months if the person’s BAC is 0.08% to 0.10%, and the driver’s license of a defendant whose BAC is more than 0.10% is suspended for seven months to one year.  Finally, certain DUI defendants are required to install an ignition interlock device on his or her vehicle during or after the period of driver’s license suspension.

Under the new law, the diversionary program can last between 60 days and two years.  During the period of enrollment, the DUI/DWI charges against the driver are suspended.  If the driver successfully completes the program, the original charges are dismissed.  Furthermore, the court shall order that the charges be removed from the individual’s driver’s history abstract and it is not considered a conviction for other legal purposes.  Finally, charges dismissed based on the diversionary program are not counted as a first offense when calculating subsequent penalties if the driver is later convicted or found guilty of DWI/DUI again.  

It is important to recognize that there is no guarantee that this proposed bill will ever pass.  Many bills are introduced before the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate every legislative year.  Regardless of whether or not this bill becomes law, a person charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs should always contact an experienced drunk driving attorney, who will be able to provide the best advice or may be able to have the charges dropped completely.

New Jersey DUI/DWI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Knows How to Help if You Are Charged with Drunk Driving

A charge for driving under the influence of alcohol is extremely serious and new laws, rules, and regulations take effect all the time. For that reason, it is important to consult a drunk driving lawyer who makes it his job to know all the changes.  If you or someone you know is charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of any substance in New Jersey, an experienced DWI/DUI attorney will know the best way to help and can make all the difference.  To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.