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What you need to know about New Jersey’s newest DUI punishment

Everyone knows that getting convicted of DWI can get your driver’s license suspended and cost you a big fine in New Jersey. In some cases, you might even have to go to jail. What you might not have heard is that state lawmakers changed the sentencing requirements last year to let more offenders keep their driving privileges — though it will cost them a lot of money.

Since December, all DWI convictions in New Jersey carry a mandatory sentence of forcing the defendant to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. Before you can start your engine, you must blow into the device, which scans the level of alcohol in your breath. If the device detects a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 percent or higher, it will not let you start the car. And that’s not the end of it; once you are on the road, the device will require you to do periodic retests, supposedly to prove that you did not have someone blow into it at the start of your trip.

More devices, fewer suspended licenses

The new law also removed the possibility of a driver’s license suspension for those with no prior DWI convictions, as long as their BAC was between .08 and .10 percent. The idea is to shift punishments away from license suspensions and toward forcing those convicted to prove they are sober enough to drive.

Paying for an ignition interlock device

While having an ignition interlock in your car would help you maintain your independence, the device does not come cheap. Depending on which type you get, it can cost from $75 to $100 to lease the device and pay to have it installed. There is also a fee to get it removed at the end of your sentence, and if you ever blow above .05, you will have to pay a penalty. Still, the law mandates a term of ignition interlock use of three to 12 months, depending on the defendant’s prior record and the level of BAC they were allegedly driving with.

When deciding what to do about a DWI charge, it’s essential that you know what your options are and the potential consequences of your choices. An experienced defense attorney will be able to explain the possibilities to you.