Avoid a DWI in New Jersey (5 Things You Need to Know about DUI)

To avoid a DWI New Jersey, you should know at least these five things. You’ll be glad you discovered them.


I.   DWI in New Jersey
II.  Penalties
III.The Costs
IV. Sobriety Tests
V.  Avoid Arrest

I. DWI in New Jersey

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is illegal. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher is DWI in New Jersey. For commercial drivers, it’s 0.04% or more. And or those under 21, including adults 18 through 20, it’s any detectable amount of alcohol.

Virtually all other states set DWI for drivers under 21 at 0.02% or higher. The reason they don’t set it at “any detectable amount of alcohol” is simple. They want to reduces the chances of convicting innocent young drivers.

The logic is simple and sound. First, “breathalyzers” or alcohol breath tests are not reliable. In fact, they don’t actually measure BAC. (That requires analysis of a sample of actual blood.) They only estimate it.

Another problem is that everyone of every age produces alcohol naturally in their bodies. And they do so 24/7. Obviously, that includes all drivers under 21.

A third problem is that many medications contain a high proportion of alcohol. Also, many foods, such as bread, contain alcohol.

Clearly, setting the limit at 0.02% or more helps protect the innocent.

Also, drivers may be convicted of DWI even when their BAC is below 0.08%. That’s because some people have impairment at lower levels. (On the other hand, some people with BACs over 0.08% are not impaired.)

II. Penalties

The exact penalties imposed for DWI in New Jersey vary. Many factors cause these differences. They include such things as

dwi in new jersey

Please, no! Not her!

  • Driver’s Age.
  • Type of license.
  • Estimated BAC.
  • The impairing substance(s)
  • Any prior DWIs.
  • Consequences of the DWI, if any (property damage, injuries, etc.)
  • Any minors in the vehicle.
  • Skill of driver’s attorney.
  • Characteristics of driver (demeanor in court, race, socio-economic status, etc.)
  • Beliefs and personality of judge hearing the case. That’s just the luck of the draw.

Age 21 or Older

All convictions carry these fees and surcharges.

• $100 Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund surcharge.
• $75 fee for Safe and Secure Community Program.
• $100 license restoration fee.
• $50 fee for Violent Crimes Compensation Fund.
• $100 fee for Intoxicated Driving Program.
• A fee set by judge for Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.

Following are the additional penalties for DWI by drivers 21 and older.

First Offense

BAC of 0.08% up to 0.10%

dwi in new jersey Imprisonment for up to 30 days.
• Fine of $250 to $400.
• License suspension for three months.
• Detainment for at least six hours a day for two consecutive days in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
• Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.

BAC of 0.10% up to 0.15%, or under the influence of an illicit drug.

• Imprisonment for up to 30 days.
• A fine of $300 to $500.
• License suspension for seven months to one year.
• Detainment for least six hours a day for two consecutive days in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
• Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.

BAC of 0.15% or higher
dwi in new jersey

Ignition Interlock Device

The same penalties apply as for a BAC of 0.10% up to 0.15%. In addition, the offender must have an ignition interlock device (IID) on vehicle. It prevents the engine from starting if the driver has alcohol on the breath. The offender pays for its installation, maintenance, and monitoring.

The IID must be on the vehicle during the license suspension. And it must remain on it for six months to one year thereafter. Learn more about ignition interlock devices.

Second Offense

• Imprisonment for two to 90 days.
• Fine of $500 to $1,000.
• License suspension for two years.
• Detainment for 48 consecutive hours in a regional Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
• Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.
• An ignition interlock device on vehicle for one to three years after license restoration.

Third Offense

• Imprisonment of 180 days.
• Fine of $1,000.
• License suspension for ten years.
• Detainment in an in-patient alcoholism treatment program.
• Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,500 a year for three years.
• An ignition interlock device on vehicle for one to three years after license restoration.
• Also, a judge may order the revocation of the vehicle registration.

dwi in new jerseyUnder Age 21

• License suspension for 30 to 90 days.
• Community service for 15 to 30 days.
• Completion of an alcohol and traffic safety education program.

III. The Costs

Legal Defense

Getting charged with a DWI in New Jersey is very expensive. It is everywhere. And this is true even if you’re innocent. Of course, it’s even more expensive if a judge or jury convicts you.

The cost of a legal DWI defense is very hard to estimate. That’s because the complexity of cases varies widely. And more complex cases take more of a lawyer’s time. That means more money.

dwi in new jerseyIt’s wise to select an experienced lawyer who specializes in DWI defense. The knowledge and experience of such a lawyer is invaluable. In fact, such a lawyer may take less time.

Its obvious that simply asking lawyers how much they charge per hour isn’t helpful. It’s like asking a car dealer how much it costs to buy a car.

Other Costs

There are a number of other costs. They may include fines, court costs, property damage, medical expenses, possible loss of employment, increased insurance rates, and other expenses. The total can be high. It can easily be more than lawyer fees and expenses. Therefore, the total cost of an DWI can easily be tens of thousands of dollars.

In addition, there are non-money costs as well. They may include pain and suffering, feelings of guilt, embarrassment, driving license suspension, loss of friendships, and many others.

Knowing the high costs of a DWI is helpful. It’s a great motivation. That can help us try to avoid getting one.

IV. Sobriety Tests

Chemical Tests

dwi in new jerseyAll states require drivers to submit to alcohol breath tests (estimators). That, in spite of their scientifically proven unreliability.

However, all drivers have a Constitutional right to decline taking a chemical BAC test. In spite of that, the state punishes those who use their right. The first time use of the right is met with a license recocation of seven to months to one year. The fine is $300 to $500. A second use causes a revocation of two years and a fine of $500 to $1,000. And a third use of the right leads to a ten year suspension and a $1,000 fine.

Any use of thei Constitutional right requires installation of an ignition interlock device in the driver’s vehicle.

Field Sobriety Tests

However, no state requires drivers to take a field sobriety test. And that’s good. Simply put, field sobriety tests lack validity. That’s why about one-third of completely sober people with a 0.00% BAC fail them. And they do so under ideal conditions.

dwi in new jerseyNaturally, taking a field sobriety test on an uneven highway shoulder after being pulled over by police and being very nervous is far from ideal. So the “real world” failure rate for completely sober people must be much higher.

Understandably, lawyers strongly urge drivers never to submit to any field sobriety test. On the other hand, police want suspects to take them. They often falsely insist the law requires it. It doesn’t. Or they say that passing it proves you’re innocent. It doesn’t.

An officer who pulls over a driver for suspected drinking and driving is conducting a criminal investigation. The officer may legally lie to you. Remember that if you are a suspect in a crime, the police officer is your adversary.

Discover much more about field sobriety tests. You may not like what you learn. But knopwledge is power. Also, learn What to Do If You Are Pulled Over.

V. Avoid Arrest

dwi in new jerseyObviously, one way to avoid a DWI is by abstaining from alcohol. Another choice is to use a Designated Driver or use public transportation.

Most drivers enjoy drinking alcohol, at least on occasion. They may lack a Designated Driver or access to public transportation. And they may be unable to afford Uber or Lynks.

So how can drivers drink before driving, yet avoid arrest? The answer is simple and legal, except for drivers under 21. Maintain a low BAC.

These guidelines can help keep a low BAC.

dwi in new jersey

Standard Drinks

  • Remember that standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits have equivalent amounts of pure alcohol.
  • Have no more than one standard drink each hour. Preferably less.
  • Avoid non-standard drinks. This makes it easier to keep track of alcohol intake.
  • Eat and snack while drinking. This is very important!
  • Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones.
  • Accept an alcoholic drink only when it fits your consumption schedule.
  • Never engage in any drinking game.
  • Don’t try to “keep up” with the drinking of others.

Arrested for DWI in New Jersey?

This website strongly opposes impaired driving. But it also supports the U.S. Constitution and the rights it grants both the innocent and the guilty.

If you’re charged with a DWI in New Jersey, contact a lawyer immediately. The attorney should specialize in drinking and driving cases. Better yet is one whose practice is limited to such cases.

County bar (lawyer) associations in New Jersey provide lawyer referral services. The New Jersey State Bar Association lists contact information for the county associations. Also, Martingale-Hubbell offers a free on-line database with lawyers by specialty and geographic location. In addition, it provides free client and peer evaluations.

Don’t rely on this or any other site for legal information.


Brezina, C. I’ve Gotten a DWI/DUI, Now What? NY: Rosen, 2016.

CDC. Teen Drinking and Driving. Atlanta: 2012. (website)

___. Impaired Driving. Washington: 2018. (website)

Gillespie, L. Police Encounters. Know Your Rights. Gillespie, 2014.

Hudson, T. The Drinker’s Guide to Driving: The Secrets of DUI, From One of America’s Top DUI Lawyers. Cork: BookBaby, 2013.

Keech, C. & Fairchild, C. Dude, What are My Rights? Kansas City, MO: Keechild, 2014.

Lauterjung, L. DUI law for Drivers. How to Avoid DUI Arrests and How to Handle a DUI Stop. Lauterjung, 2012.

Nevels, T. Avoid DWI and Marijuana Charges. Cork: BookBaby, 2015.

NHTSA. Drunk Driving. Washington: 2018. (website)

Sagsletter, R. Rights During a Police Stop / DUI in the United States. What Officers Can and Cannot Do. Denver, CO: Outskirts, 2012.

Note: What New Jersey calls a DWI, many states call a DUI .