When a Drunk Driving Offense Can Turn into a Criminal Prosecution in New Jersey

When a Drunk Driving Offense Can Turn into a Criminal Prosecution in New JerseyAs a general rule, a charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) will not be the basis for a criminal prosecution in the state of New Jersey. In most situations, it will be booked as a motor vehicle offense, with proceedings in municipal court, much like other traffic infractions, such as speeding or reckless driving.

There are, however, circumstances where you can face criminal prosecution as a result of an arrest for drinking and driving. New Jersey law allows prosecutors to file criminal charges against anyone booked for DWI if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop and arrest. The offense may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor-like offense, or may be an indictable offense, such as endangering the welfare of a child (EWC).

There is no language in the EWC statute that expressly indicates that driving under the influence with a minor in the car constitutes child endangerment, but prosecutors in New Jersey have successfully made that connection in the past.

It’s important to understand that, should you be pulled over and taken into custody for drinking and driving, while you have minors in the car, the court will have to find you guilty of drunk driving before it can find you guilty of DWI with a minor, including child endangerment. The two offenses are separate and one is contingent on the other. If you are not convicted of a DWI, you cannot be prosecuted for a DWI with a minor or for endangering the welfare of a child.

Be aware, though, that if you are detained for drunk driving and there are minors in the car, you can be charged with both DWI with a minor and with endangering the welfare of a child.

Contact Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich

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