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What are DWI and implied consent laws in New Jersey?

Drunk driving in New Jersey is a criminal offense, and if convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI), the penalties are not only severe, but a person can be charged with more than one offence. People often will attempt to prevent a police officer from gathering evidence at the scene or at the station by refusing a portable breathalyzer test (PBT) after arrest.

New Jersey has several categories for driving impaired by alcohol or illegal or prescription drugs, as well as “per se” blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and implied consent categories, each carrying different penalties. Some of these include:

  • “Per Se” BAC limit of 0.08%
  • Zero tolerance (underage) BAC limit of 0.02
  • Enhanced penalty (aggravated) BAC limit of 0.10
  • Implied consent to submit to a BAC test

In addition, an individual can be charged with a disorderly persons offense which carries additional penalties, including forfeiture of their driving privileges for at least six months.

What is implied consent?

Many people are under the impression that by avoiding the breath test, they can keep the officer from making the charges stick. The reasoning is, if the officer doesn’t have the evidence needed in the form of the chemical test, they won’t have the basis for conviction.

Implied consent laws, which exist in all 50 states, operate under the legal theory that when a driver travels on a public street, they are agreeing to abide by the traffic laws, which means that they also accept the measures that law enforcement officers take in order to enforce those laws.

Under these laws, driving is a privilege and not a right, and a driver implicitly consents to a BAC test when they receive their driving privileges.

It is estimated that over 20% of drivers nationwide refuse to take the breathalyzer or other BAC tests. The penalties for refusal vary greatly, but in New Jersey the first conviction means seven months to one year license suspension and fines, plus you will be detained and brought to a hospital where the staff will draw blood.

How can I fight the charges?

For residents of Essex County and throughout New Jersey, the first step to fighting charges is to seek experienced criminal defense representation that will challenge a DWI at every stage of the process and work to build a strong defense to minimize the damage done in the event of a conviction.