In New Jersey, driving while intoxicated is taken seriously with penalties that include fines, driver’s license suspensions, surcharges and possible jail time. For a person who is arrested and convicted of the traffic offense of DWI, the aftermath can be costly both in time and in the pocket. Certain circumstances that occur during a DWI can make the charges far worse than they are for simply driving under the influence. One of those circumstances is when a person is caught and charged with DWI when they have a child passenger in the vehicle.
Penalties For A DWI In New Jersey
When a driver is charged with DWI in New Jersey, the scenario commonly begins with a law enforcement officer making a traffic stop due to a driver weaving in the road, making dangerous maneuvers or committing a traffic infraction. The officer will then speak to the driver to look for signals that a DWI is in progress. That can include bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and the odor of alcohol. The driver will then be asked to take field sobriety tests such as the One-Leg Stand test and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. If there is still a belief that the driver may be under the influence, the officer will have him or her take a breathalyzer test. If the blood alcohol content registers at 0.08% or above, an arrest will be made.
The penalties for a first offense DWI conviction in New Jersey will include a fine of between $250 and $400. There can be as much as 30 days in jail. The driver will have to pay $230 to the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). There will be $100 fees to each of the drunk driving fund and the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund (AERF). $75 will be paid to the Neighborhood Services Fund. There will be a surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years. The driver’s license will be suspended for three months. With higher BAC and second and third DWI offenses, the penalties are worse. Of course, the penalties will apply and others will be added if there is a child passenger in the vehicle.
DWI With A Child Passenger
A child is defined as someone who is 17-years-old or younger. Depending on the situation, if a person is caught driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle, there can be a disorderly persons offense or a criminal charge. This is worse than a DWI which, as mentioned earlier, is a traffic violation.
In New Jersey, if a parent or guardian has a child in the vehicle and is arrested on DWI charges, the additional penalties can include a disorderly persons offense. It’s not just a parent or guardian who can face these charges. Anyone who is responsible for the child at the time and is caught driving under the influence with the child in the vehicle will face the same charges.
If a person is convicted of a disorderly persons offense, he or she will face a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. These are added to the penalties that the driver will be confronted with for the DWI charge.
A driver who commits a DWI with a minor in the vehicle could also be charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Under these circumstances, a child is defined as someone under the age of 16. Endangerment is considered any act that could put the child in jeopardy making the child neglected or abused. The circumstances will dictate whether this is a second or third degree offense. The penalties for a conviction on endangering the welfare of a child can include up to ten years in jail and fines for as much as $150,000.
DWI charges are bad enough on their own, but they’re not as life-changing as a DWI with a child in the vehicle. The penalties are deliberately harsh because of the dangers that can befall a child who is riding in a vehicle with a drunk driver. Understandably, the state is trying to make the penalties so prohibitive that drivers who do it will serve as examples to other drivers who consider driving drunk with a minor in the vehicle.