New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Examines Proposed Law Making Ignition Interlock Devices Mandatory for All DWI Convictions

DWI Convictions

A new bill introduced before the state legislature last year by State Senator Nicholas Scutari may drastically change the way drivers convicted of DUI in the state are convicted.  The proposed changes to the State’s Driving While Intoxicated law, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, seek to lessen some penalties for first time drunk drivers while making others more universal –  such as making Ignition Interlock Devices mandatory for all drivers convicted of DUI/DWI, even first time offenders.

Similar to the other proposed Senate Bill 404, discussed here earlier this year, it is important to recognize that there is no guarantee that this proposed bill will ever pass.  Also like that bill, the goal of Senator Scutari’s introduced legislation is to provide an alternative to drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, showing some added leniency to such drivers while simultaneously making the roads safer.

Which Parts of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 Might Be Affected?

In New Jersey, the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit for drunk driving in the state is .08%.  Under current law, someone convicted of DWI for the first time can have their license suspended for either 3 months (if his or her blood alcohol content is between .08% and .099%) or 7 to 12 months (if his or her blood alcohol content is .10% or greater). A judge has a lot of flexibility in deciding how long to suspend a driver’s license in those circumstances.

At the same time, a first time offender who is convicted with a blood alcohol content of .15% or greater must have an ignition interlock device installed on his or her vehicle during the period of license suspension until between 6 months to 1 year following license restoration.  An ignition interlock device is a device put on a car that requires a driver to provide a clean, alcohol breath sample before he or she can start the car.

How Will These Parts of the Law Change If the Proposed Bill is Passed?

Under Senator Scutari’s introduced legislation, a first time drunk driver who is convicted of driving with a BAC of between .08% and .099% will only have his or her license suspended for 30 days – a significant reduction from 3 months.  Similarly, a driver who is convicted of driving with a BAC of between .10% up to just less than .15% will have his or her license suspended for 45 days, while a driver who is convicted of driving with a BAC of .15% or higher will have his or her license suspended for 90 days.

At the same time, the proposed legislation hopes to make installation of an ignition interlock device mandatory for ALL drivers convicted under the DWI law.  The device must remain on the driver’s vehicle for the period of license suspension as well as an additional period of time between 3 months and 18 months after the driver gets his or her driving privileges reinstated.

What These Changes Would Mean if You Are Convicted

Losing one’s driving privileges is often the most severe penalty that first time drunk drivers face, because the penalty often means that a driver also loses his or her ability to go to work or otherwise provide for his or her family.  Reducing the period of license suspension for first time offenders recognizes this reality and tries to address the way the law punishes more than just the drunk driver.

At the same time, recent reports have estimated that ignition interlock devices have prevented more than 39,000 instances of drunk driving in New Jersey since 2010.  Therefore, requiring drivers to install an ignition interlock device attempts to make the roads safer for everyone.  The proposed law would not prevent a driver from being able to use his or her vehicle – for instance, to drive to work or buy groceries if necessary – but it would guarantee that the car could only be operated after a clean, alcohol-free breath sample is provided. 

The largest downside to the proposed law is that New Jersey requires the driver to pay for his or her own ignition interlock device, including the installation.  In addition to the nearly $1000 in fines that first time drunk drivers must already pay, an ignition interlock device could cost $70-150 to install and about $60-80 per month for additional monitoring and calibration.

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 possibly defend the case and get the charges dismissed completely.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Is Looking Out for You

A charge for driving under the influence of alcohol can carry extremely serious penalties that affect you as well as your family and loved ones.  At the same time, new laws, rules, and regulations take effect all the time. For that reason, it is important to consult a drunk driving lawyer knows what to look for in your specific situation.  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.

New Jersey DWI – DUI Lawyer – Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

Memorial Day is just around the corner, and many people in New Jersey will be celebrating the unofficial kick off to summer by doing some recreational boating or other activities on the water.  New Jersey is becoming increasingly crowded, meaning residents and tourists are flocking to our waterways in record numbers, increasing the chances of boating incidents.

The New Jersey State Police and the United States Coast Guard are the two law enforcement agencies that combat intoxicated boating in New Jersey.  If you are stopped for suspicion of BUI, law enforcement will require the boat captain to take the same sobriety test as someone who has been stopped in their car.  The captain may also have to submit to a Breathalyzer test to see if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit.  When the operator of a vessel is asked to take a Breathalyzer test, they are presumed to have consented to the test by accepting their boating license.  This is known as implied consent.  Refusing to take the Breathalyzer test will result in an additional charge for refusing the test, and you may still be charged with a BUI.

The law that governs intoxicated boating in New Jersey, N.J.S.A. 12:7-46, was enacted in 1995.  Prior to that time, careless, reckless, or intoxicated boaters could be re-licensed by simply paying a fine and servicing a period of license suspension.  Under the new law, offenders must also take a boating safety course as a condition of re-licensure.

The Legislature modeled the intoxicated boating laws on the existing drunk driving statutes.  In order to be convicted of a boating DWI, the prosecutor must prove three elements:

  • The suspect must have been operating a “vessel” (a water vessel that is 12 feet or more);
  • They must have been operating it in New Jersey waters; and
  • They must have been operating it under the influence of an intoxicating liquor, a narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug; this is often proven by establishing that the vessel’s operator had a BAC of .08 percent or greater.

In addition, a person can be convicted of a BUI if they permit another person who is under the influence of drugs or has a BAC of .08 percent or greater to operate a vessel.  If an individual is operating a commercial vessel, the lower BAC of .04 percent is considered the legal limit.

Penalties for BUI

If you are convicted of a BUI, not only will you lose your boating license, but you will also lose your regular driver’s license.  The first time an individual is convicted of boating while intoxicated, their boating license will be revoked for one year, their driver’s license will be suspended for three months, and they will face a fine of between $250 and $400.  Court costs of $33 may be imposed, as well as a $50 assessment for the Victims of Crime Compensation Board (VCCB).  These fines will be even greater if a person had a BAC of .10 percent or higher.  First time offenders must also complete a program of alcohol education at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC), and take a boating safety course

For a second BUI offense, a person will lose their boating license for two years, and their driver’s license for six months.  They will also face two to 90 days in jail, a fine of between $500 and $1000, and costs and fees.  Convicted defendants must also serve 30 days of community service, and complete a rehabilitation program at the IDRC.

For third and subsequent offenses, a person will lose their boating license for ten years and their driver’s license for two full years.  In addition, a third BUI will result in a mandatory 180-day jail term.  Community service may be substituted for part of this term.  Third time offenders must pay a $1000 fine plus costs and fees, complete a boating safety course and a rehabilitation program at the IDRC.

New Jersey Boating While Intoxicated Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Defends Individuals Charged With a BUI

Getting a BUI is a serious matter that can result in crippling fines and potential jail time.  A conviction for BUI will also count as a prior offense if you are subsequently charged with additional DWI offenses.  At the Law Office of Edward M. Janzekovich, our goal is always to help our clients avoid a conviction.  To discuss your case, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today.  We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Ocean County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Union County and Somerset County.

New Jersey DUI Lawyer – Supreme Court Questions Whether Drivers Can Be Forced to Take a Breathalyzer Test Without a Warrant

Last month, the United States Supreme Court addressed whether police can require drivers to take a “deep-lung” breath test without a search warrant. Three cases out of Minnesota and North Dakota were joined and brought before the Court. These states have laws that make it a crime for drivers to refuse to take a breathalyzer, urine, or blood test. Eleven other states have similar laws, including Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. A majority of the justices questioned whether these laws criminalizing refusal are constitutional, in light of an individual’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Generally speaking, the police cannot search a driver or their car after an arrest without first getting a search warrant, unless it is for their own personal safety or to preserve evidence. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that police cannot conduct blood tests for drunken driving without first obtaining a warrant. However, some justices remain hesitant to apply the same rule to the breathalyzer test, because it is less intrusive than drawing blood.

Previously in North Dakota, refusal to submit to a chemical test carried only civil penalties, such as the suspension or revocation of one’s license. However in 2013, North Dakota lawmakers passed legislation to make penalties for drunk driving offenses more severe—in part by punishing a refusal to take a breathalyzer test in the same manner as it punishes the crime of driving under the influence.

The groups backing the states’ laws, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), have argued that when a person applies for a driver’s license, they give their implied consent to be subjected to a chemical test in the event that they are arrested for suspected drunk driving.

However, several groups backing the defendants, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DDLA), have argued that the government cannot criminalize conduct protected by the Fourth Amendment. One cannot truly give “implied consent” to take a breathalyzer test when they get their license if they know that they will face criminal sanctions for refusing to take the test. The DDLA argued that there are better ways to deter drunk driving, including creating an electronic warrant system, setting up sobriety checkpoints, providing alcohol abuse treatment, and requiring the use of ignition interlock devices for convicted drunk drivers.

So how did the justices come down on the issue? Justice Samuel Alito was the only justice who seemed to be strongly in favor of criminalizing refusal, and he emphasized that breathalyzer tests are only a minimal intrusion. He expressed that the only reason people don’t want to submit to a breathalyzer test is because they don’t want their blood alcohol measured, it is not that they object to blowing into a straw. Justice Kagan seemed to agree with this line of reasoning, noting that police have an interest in testing a driver’s breath as quickly as possible, before their blood alcohol content (BAC) goes down.

Ultimately, the states were unable to come up with a persuasive reason why police cannot secure a warrant while transporting suspects to the police station or hospital for testing. Forty states now utilize electronic warrant systems.

Although it is not a crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer test in New Jersey, there are harsh civil penalties, including fines, motor vehicles surcharges, a long suspension of driving privileges and special sentencing enhancements if the refusal occurs within a school zone. A refusal can also be used to draw an inference of guilt in a DUI trial. If you are pulled over in New Jersey for a suspected DUI, the police can detain you and bring you to a hospital where staff may draw blood.

New Jersey DUI/DWI Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Represents Drivers Who Have Refused Chemical Testing

If you were arrested for drunk driving and refused to submit to chemical testing, you are likely facing steep penalties. In addition to a DWI charge, you are probably also facing penalties for refusing to take the breathalyzer test. To speak to an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer and begin building your defense, call the Law Office of Edward M. Janzekovich at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Ocean County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Union County and Somerset County.

New Jersey DUI – DWI Lawyer – Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

It is illegal to drive while high on marijuana (weed, pot, etc.) in New Jersey.  Although New Jersey does not have a specific law that addresses driving under the influence of marijuana, the same law that prohibits drunk driving (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, titled “Driving While Intoxicated”) applies to drugged driving offenses as well.  This law prohibits driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance, including narcotics, hallucinogens or even some over the counter medications.

How Do the Authorities Prove a Person is Under the Influence of Marijuana?

When a person is pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, they are given a breathalyzer test to determine their blood alcohol content.  So how does a police officer know whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana?  Usually, a driver will be asked to take a blood or urine test.  However, a positive drug test only indicates that there is marijuana in a person’s system at the time of the traffic stop—and marijuana can stay in a person’s system weeks after using it.  Therefore, if you are arrested for drugged driving, additional evidence is generally relied upon to prove the DUI in court.

If you go to trial for your DUI charge, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana.  This requires some expert testimony to establish that the drugs found in your system were not just residual, but actually rendered you impaired and unable to safely operate a motor vehicle.

In drugged driving cases, the general rule is that the accused must have been tested at the time of their arrest by a specially trained police officer referred to as a Drug Recognition Expert (“DRE”).  However, for marijuana cases, the prosecutor can establish intoxication through testimony of any police officer who has been trained in field sobriety and who has experience in identifying marijuana intoxication.  In such cases, an officer will testify that there was objective evidence that a driver’s physical or mental capabilities were impaired by the drug.  This testimony can be the State’s Achilles heel.  An experienced DWI lawyer may be able to have your charges either dismissed or downgraded by discrediting this testimony.

No Implied Consent for Blood or Urine Testing

In New Jersey, as a condition of receiving your driver’s license, you have agreed to take a breath test to determine the content of alcohol in your system if you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.  This is known as “implied consent.”  If you refuse to take the test, you are subject to punishment including a loss of driving privileges.  But this law does not extend to drivers who are suspected of being under the influence of marijuana or other substances.  If you are pulled over and the police suspect that you are high on marijuana or some other substance, there are no penalties or sanctions if you refuse to submit to a blood or urine test.  Chemical testing for marijuana or any other substance is only performed on a voluntary basis or if a warrant has been issued by a judge.  First, the investigating officer would ask you for your consent to provide a urine or blood sample.  If you refuse, then the officer can attempt to obtain a warrant from a judge, based upon probable cause.  If a warrant is issued, then you have to comply.  It is amazing just how many people, knowing full well they have a substance in their system, agree to voluntarily submit to a blood or urine test.  Most people just don’t know they can say no.

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Penalty for a conviction will vary depending on whether you have ever been convicted of drugged driving in the past.

  • For a first conviction, drivers face a fine of between $300 and $500, up to 30 days in jail, and between seven months and one-year license suspension.
  • For a second conviction, drivers face a fine of between $500 and $1,000, 30 days community service, 2 to 90 days in jail, and a two-year license suspension.
  • For a third (or subsequent) conviction, drivers face fines up to $1,000, 180 days in jail, and a ten-year license suspension.

If you have been charged with drugged driving, you may also face additional penalties for related charges such as possession of a controlled dangerous substance.

What About Medical Marijuana?

Although New Jersey allows certain individuals to use medical marijuana, just like any other legally prescribed medication, it is still a crime to drive if one’s ability to safely drive a car is impaired by the drug.

Edward M. Janzekovich Defends People Charged with Marijuana DWI/DUI

If you were arrested for driving while impaired by marijuana, we can help.  Trusted New Jersey DWI lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich is available to answer your questions and discuss your best defense.  Call us today at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today.  We serve clients throughout New Jersey, including Ocean County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Union County and Somerset County.