DUI Laws in New Jersey

We’ll take a look at what you need to know about DUI laws in New Jersey and the penalties you may face if you’re caught driving under the influence.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Are you currently facing charges and unsure how you’re the future will play out? The purpose of this article is to help you better understand the DUI laws in New Jersey as well as the penalties and legal procedures that come along with it.


DUI vs. DWI in New Jersey

In New Jersey, there is no legal difference between a DUI and a DWI. They are treated the same. A DUI means “driving under the influence” while a DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated”. In other states, some law enforcement use DUI to strictly refer to alcohol-related car incidents and a DWI to drug-related incidents [1].

In the state of New Jersey, there is no difference when it comes to receiving a DUI or DWI. Both can be used for either alcohol or drug-related circumstances when driving. A DUI can be charged when you drive under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or a habit-producing drug. [2]

When it comes to alcohol, law enforcement show evidence of driving under the influence via blood alcohol content, or BAC. It’s a nationwide standard to have no more than 0.08% BAC in your system while operating a motor vehicle. But in NJ, if you consume any amount of alcohol and your driving is negatively impacted, you can be convicted of drunk driving. [3] Further, if you’re under 21 years of age, then you’re not allowed to drive with 0.02% BAC.

What determines whether or not you are driving under the influence of a drug varies on the situation. If your car is clouded with marijuana smoke, there is reasonable suspicion for officers to ask you to submit a blood or urine sample. If you look to be under the influence, but everything in your car appears clean upon immediate inspection, you may be asked to take a sobriety test on the spot.

Sobriety Checkpoints

Are sobriety checkpoints used in New Jersey?

Yes. In New Jersey, checkpoints are seen as preventative measures. They can really help reduce impaired driving ….enough to justify the brief intrusion. In fact, the state’s Highway Traffic and Safety website points to legal precedence. And the position is that if conducted properly, sobriety checkpoints do not constitute illegal search and seizure in most states. [4]

If you live or travel in the Garden States, you’re bound to come across sobriety checkpoints at some time or another. They’re usually set up on nights when people are expected to be consuming alcohol, such as Friday and Saturday, and in areas with a nightlife, like Newark or Jersey City. These checkpoints will be placed in a very visible location where a police officer can stop either all or some of the vehicles passing through.

But in NJ, the point is not an arrest. It’s to prevent drunk driving. So, often local police enforcement make it known publically where and when they set up sobriety checkpoints. Then, officers evaluate drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment at certain points on the roadway. Vehicles are stopped in a specific sequence, such as every other or every fourth, fifth or sixth vehicle, depending on the staff available and traffic conditions.

Getting Pulled Over in NJ for DUI

What happens if you are pulled over for DUI in New Jersey? Upon stopping your vehicle, the officer will give you a breathalyzer test to determine whether or not you’re driving above the BAC limit. If you’re over the limit, you’ll be arrested. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you’ll be arrested.

Standards for operating procedures vary by district. Most likely, you will be detained overnight and your license will be revoked temporarily. From there, the DUI will be sent to the Motor Vehicle Commission, where further actions can be taken against you. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Completion of DUI school
  • Delay in Driver’s License
  • Fines
  • Jail time

Whatever happens in the NJ state court of law will be placed on your record. In turn, the court will be notified if you break the law again in the future. Penalties will worsen the more you either break the law or drive under the influence.

Misdemeanor or Felony?

Whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for DUI in New Jersey will entirely depend on your situation. Upon receiving your first DUI, most people are only be charged with a misdemeanor. The same is true for your second offense. However, by your third DUI in New Jersey, you will be charged a felony with increased penalties. Furthermore, if you were to break certain laws, you can be charged with a felony. These include driving under the influence in a school zone or accidentally killing or injuring someone due to your DUI. [5][6]

1st DUI

Upon receiving your first DUI, you can generally expect a misdemeanor and the following penalties:

  • A $1,000 yearly insurance surcharge for at least 3 years.
  • A fine between $250 and $400.
  • A minimum of six hours a day for two consecutive days in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
  • An alcohol or substance abuse test.
  • Ignition interlock device for 6 to 12 months.
  • Jail time between 12 hours and 30 days.
  • License suspension for 3 months up to 1 year.

It should be noted, if you are under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, or if your BAC is higher than 0.10%, or if you permit another person with a BAC of 0.10% or more to operate a motor vehicle….. you’ll be charged with harsher penalties. People with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher must install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle they principally operate during the license suspension period and for a period of 6 months to 1 year after arrest.

2nd DUI

Upon receiving your second DUI, most people are charged with a misdemeanor and the following penalties:

  • 30 days of community service.
  • 48 consecutive hours detainment in a regional Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
  • A $3,000 yearly insurance surcharge for at least 3 years.
  • A fine between $500 and $1,000.
  • An alcohol or substance abuse test.
  • Ignition interlock device for 1 to 3 years after license restoration.
  • Jail time between 2 and 90 days.
  • License suspension for up to 2 years.

3rd DUI

Upon receiving your third DUI, you’ll be charged with a felony and the following penalties:

  • A $4,500 yearly insurance surcharge for at least 3 years.
  • A fee to be paid to the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center dependent upon court sentence.
  • A minimum fine of $1,000.
  • Detainment in an inpatient alcoholism treatment program
  • Ignition interlock device for 1 to 3 years after license restoration.
  • Jail time of 180 days.
  • License suspension for up to 10 years.

Jail Time

Will you receive jail time for a DUI in the Garden State?

Yes, it is entirely possible to go to jail even upon your first conviction in New Jersey. The amount of jail time you experience entirely depends on your situation. However, jail time is more likely and can increase if your DUI if:

  • Someone else was hurt or killed due to your DUI.
  • You refuse checkpoint testing.
  • You enter a plea bargain.

For example, let’s say you were caught driving under the influence of drugs and happened to be in possession of drugs at the time of your DUI. You will not only be charged with jail time for the DUI, but also risk facing jail time for a possession charge.

Under N.J.S.A. 2C: 11-5 [7], if another person was killed in an accident due to your DUI, you’ll be charged with vehicular manslaughter. This will result in a fine of up to $150,000 and between 5 and 10 years of a prison sentence.

There are a few other factors that can effect jail time. This includes if you:

  • Are under the age of 21.
  • Have a BAC of over 0.10%.
  • Have a BAC over 0.15%.
  • Had a child under the age of 14 in the car.
  • Were driving well over the speed limit.

If you are worried about your jail time risks, you will need to discuss your particular circumstances over with your lawyer. He/she will have a much clearer sense of the law(s) you’ve broken and what you can do to reduce penalties.

Classes and DUI School

In New Jersey, you can attend a private DUI school or you can attend classes subsidized by the state. For those who can afford it, standard DUI classes are available both online and onsite [8]. They’re divided into two sections, Drug & Alcohol Awareness Classes and DUI & DWI Classes. Again, the amount of time you spend in these classes depends on the actions taken against you in a court of law.

The general cost of DUI classes or DUI school in New Jersey is as follows:

  • 8 Hours – $175.00
  • 12 Hours – $195.00
  • 16 Hours – $275.00
  • 20 Hours – $295.00
  • 24 Hours – $325.00
  • 32 Hours – $375.00
  • 36 Hours – $395.00

There are also classes set up for minors in possession of illicit drugs. These classes range from $125.00 to $325.00 depending on how many hours are instructed by a court of law.

State subsidized DUI school is referred to as Intoxicated Driving Programs, or IDPs [5]. These are programs run as a partnership between the Department of Human Services, Administrative Office of Courts, and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. When you attend an IDP, you’ll learn about:

  • The dangers of driving under the influence.
  • The laws enforced in the state of New Jersey.
  • How to be a better, safer driver.

IDPs will also help with license actions such as suspension or restorations and how to manage other issues, such as your documentation. How much time you spend in an IDP depends on the actions taken against you in court.

Statute of Limitations

In New Jersey, the prosecution has up to 90 days to file DUI or DWI charges. This is in accordance with New Jersey’s statute of limitations. This is set in place for the sake of eyewitness memory not weakening over time and evidence not deteriorating.

It should be noted, if you were charged with a felony, the statute of limitations WILL DIFFER depending on your circumstances. You may contact your county’s public record officer where you were convicted to get more information.


Unfortunately, you cannot expunge a DUI or DWI off your record in the state of New Jersey. Instead, you have the opportunity to reopen your conviction under a process known as “Post Conviction Relief”. This is when your conviction is re-opened and addressed in court again.

Most people only follow through with this if they have a lawyer and their circumstances are resulting in serious penalties, such as license suspension for a large amount of time. A Post Conviction Relief is very costly and should be considered with a lot of thought. It should be noted, the only way to get a DUI or DWI charge off your record so employers don’t see it is through this process.

DUI Lawyer Costs

There’s no denying that a lawyer is expensive. In many situations, people are better off facing consequences rather than trying to defend them. For a court case alone, you’re paying upwards of $700 with a $3,000 surcharge and an IDRC fee of $75. [10]

The overall cost of the lawyer depends on their level of experience. The more experience a lawyer has, the more it’s going to cost you. An average lawyer with some experience can cost around $2,500 to $3,500. A good lawyer is between $4,000 and $5,500. Then a quality lawyer with lots of experience is $6,000.

Considering these prices along with the fines and other expenses, you can see it might just be worth it to accept penalties and not get a lawyer.

Is Rehab an Option?

How can you avoid harsh penalties in New Jersey for a DUI? In New Jersey, many people are eligible for a drug court. [11] This is a specialized court of law where traditional forms of punishment for alcohol and drug abuse are substituted for access to drug treatment and rehabilitation.

Your eligibility depends on your situation. For example, first time offenders who seek to change their lives can truly benefit from seeking help in a drug court.

If you’ve committed a felony, you will not qualify for a DUI. You’ll want to talk to a lawyer about your eligibility.

Drug treatment and rehabilitation is always an option when you’re facing a DUI or DWI. Even if you must face penalties, it’s in your best interest to learn how to live drug or alcohol free! Not only does this come with a long list of benefits, but you’ll no longer have to worry about future DUI convictions.

Your Questions

If you have any further questions pertaining to DUI laws in the state of New Jersey, we invite you to ask them below. If you have any further information on New Jersey DUI laws, we’d also love to hear from you. We try to reply to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources: [1] NHTSA: Drunk Driving
[2] Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey, CHAPTER 314:
AN ACT concerning drunk driving
[3] State of New Jersey, Office of the Attorney General: Alcohol Awareness
[4] State of New Jersey, Office of the Attorney General, Highway Traffic and Safety Administration: Sobriety Checkpoints
[5] State of New Jersey: Sentences & Penalties Selected MV Offenses
[6] New Jersey: Driving While Intoxicated
[7] Justicia US Law:2013 New Jersey Revised Statutes: Section 2C:11-5 – Death by auto or vessel.
[8] Alcohol and Drug Classes: New Jersey Alcohol Awareness Classes
[9] State of New Jersey – Department of Human Services: Intoxicated Driving Program (IDP)
[10] Law Offices of Christopher L. Baxter: Cost of DWI Conviction
[11] New Jersey Courts: Drug Courts
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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