Articles Posted in DWI/DUI

Photo of hand-held breathalyzer device used to measure blood alcohol contentNew Jersey lawmakers once again are backing a proposal to revise the State’s drunk driving laws in an effort to increase safety without putting undue pressure on violators. Under the proposal, the new law would require everyone convicted of a DUI/DWI violation to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle and would also reduce the length of time those drivers’ licenses are suspended.

Statistics have shown that ignition interlock devices reduce repeat drunk driving violations by about 70% and, in some states, have reduced the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents related to drunk driving by half. Supporters of this change have stated that license suspensions are less effective than the interlock devices because drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license especially when they need their vehicle to get to work. To learn more about this proposed change, read “DWI penalty overhaul in NJ: Shorter license suspensions, more ignition locks?

dwi-lawsuit-400-07662288dSince a Supreme Court ruling in 2008, breath tests have been admissible in court as proof of a driver’s impairment in a DWI case. However, certain criteria must be met in administering these tests for the results to be considered valid evidence. It is these criteria that are the basis of a federal class action lawsuit that could result in more than 20,000 New Jersey DWI convictions being overturned.

For the results of a breath test to be admissible in court, the device used to measure a suspect’s blood alcohol content (BAC) must be in working order and appropriately inspected at the time of the test; the person administering the test must be a certified operator; and the test must be administered according to procedure.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court in New Jersey last month, claims that a New Jersey State Police sergeant failed to properly recalibrate devices that potentially were used to administer breath tests in more than 20,000 DWI cases in five different counties throughout New Jersey. In addition to unspecified damages and court costs, the suit seeks to have a review of all DWI cases that may have involved the sergeant in order to determine if any of the convictions should be reversed. To learn more, read “20,000 DWI cases called into question in NJ: Is yours one of them?

inattentive-drivers-400-04486155dFor a long time, safe driving campaigns focused on stopping people from drinking and driving. Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over; Don’t Drink and Drive, Arrive Alive; Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk; U Drink, U Drive, U Lose are some of the more memorable slogans used to discourage this behavior.

Although driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol has not been eliminated, it is no longer the number one factor leading to fatal collisions in New Jersey. According to State Police analysis of crash data, driver inattention, or distracted driving, was the leading cause of fatal accidents in the State in 2014. This revelation is not new. In fact, 2014 was the fifth consecutive year in which distracted driving was found to be the top factor leading to accident fatalities. To read more details about this analysis see “This kills more people on N.J. roads than anything else.”

drunk driving: color photo of glass of beer and car keys on brown tableEach year for the past several years the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) has designated December as National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month to reinforce the message that driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol is a risk to everyone on the road. In connection with this campaign, the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association once again will join forces with Uber in efforts to keep impaired drivers off the road this holiday season. See http://herocampaign.org/2015/11/uber-offering-free-rides-from-bars-during-holidays/ for details.

The NHTSA recognizes that strides have been made in reducing the number of alcohol-related accidents over the past several decades, but NHTSA admits more work needs to be done to stop people from driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana and prescription medications.

Penalties for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol vary by state. New Jersey takes these offenses seriously and imposes stiff penalties for those arrested for DUI and DWI violations. For information on these penalties, see http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/Violations/dui.htm.

400-04038056d.jpgParents who drink and drive with children in their car may face tougher penalties than other drivers who drink and drive alone or with other adults in their car. A proposed bill to make the stiffer penalties a law is currently under consideration in New Jersey.

New Jersey Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-Jersey City) has proposed changing the State’s DUI laws making it a fourth degree crime for parents and guardians convicted of driving under the influence if a minor riding in their car suffers injuries as a result of an accident relating to that violation. These crimes would carry penalties of up to 18 months in jail and up to $10,000 in fines. If the DUI resulted in serious bodily injury to a child, the crime would then be considered a third degree offense, punishable by a jail term of between three and five years and up to $15,000 in fines. (1)

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ignition%20interlock.jpgA new bill pending approval by the State Legislature could trade license suspensions for installation of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for New Jersey drivers convicted of driving under the influence. Although the bill was approved by a special panel of the State Assembly last month and an equivalent bill was approved by the full Senate last summer, the change is meeting some resistance.(1)

Current New Jersey law permits courts to order IIDs be installed on the cars of certain drivers who have been convicted of a DUI offense, specifically those convicted of a second or subsequent offense and first-time offenders who registered a blood alcohol content of 0.15% or higher, which is about double the legal limit.(2) These devices operate similarly to a breath test. The driver is required to blow into the device before starting his or her car. If alcohol is detected in the driver’s bloodstream, the car will not start, thus preventing an alcohol-impaired driver from getting on the road. Proponents of the pending bill say federal statistics show a 67% reduction in recurrent DUI offenses as a result of IIDs.(3)

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police%20in%20car.jpgPolice officials throughout the State are making efforts to ensure that holiday revelers stay safe this season by remaining sober when behind the wheel. The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety invested over $600,000 in this year’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, which will be enforced now through January 2, 2014.(1)

The Christmas/New Year holiday season usually sees an increase in driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) incidents. A person with a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above 0.08% is considered intoxicated, however, even people with a lower BAC can exhibit slower reaction times as well as impaired vision, judgment and alertness, which can negatively affect their driving.(1)

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dui-pic.jpgThe U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a ruling that could affect how states across the nation test drivers suspected of DUI, driving under the influence.

In an 8-to-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that, in general, before subjecting a drunk driving suspect to a blood alcohol test, police must obtain a warrant. (1) The decision stems from the case of a Missouri man who refused to submit to a blood alcohol test, citing his Fourth Amendment right “to be secure . . . against unreasonable searches and seizure.” The State of Missouri grants its police discretion in ordering blood alcohol tests without first obtaining a warrant because timing is important to gathering evidence in these cases.(2)

New Jersey takes a similar view when obtaining evidence in a suspected DUI case. According to the State’s Motor Vehicle Commission website, simply by getting your New Jersey driver’s license you give your consent (known as “implied consent”) to submit to a Breathalyzer test if you are charged with suspicion of DUI. Refusal to take a Breathalyzer can lead to your arrest, at which time you can be brought to a hospital for a blood test. (3)

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The Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved a bill that would change the State’s drunk driving laws, particularly for first-time offenders.(1)

The bill would require everyone convicted of a DUI to have an ignition-locking device installed in their cars, even first-time offenders, t. The device requires the driver to take a breath test before starting the car. If alcohol is detected, the car’s ignition will lock. Currently New Jersey only requires installation of these devices for repeat offenders or first-time offenders with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.15 or higher. New Jersey’s legal limit is 0.08. (1)

The theory behind this change is that the objective of the law is not so much to punish drunk drivers as to prevent future DUI-related accidents. Statistics show that in 2010, drivers under the influence of alcohol were involved in 102 fatal accidents in the State. (2)

FRIENDS VIGIL

FRIENDS VIGIL (Photo credit: Drimagez)

Now that the holiday season is upon us, people find many reasons for celebration – office parties, get-togethers with old friends or distant relatives, family gatherings. Whatever the cause for your celebration, failure to heed the warning to not drink and drive could prove costly.

Already news services are full of stories on drunk driving cases: