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Bill to Toughen Drunken Driving Penalties Advanced by Assembly

Bill Allows for Ignition Locks for Offenders
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Linda Stender, Ralph Caputo, Joseph Lagana and Daniel R. Benson to toughen penalties for driving while under the influence of alcohol in New Jersey – including allowing ignition interlock devices - was approved 46-15-14 Thursday by the Assembly.


“Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. Innocent people are dying because of the irresponsible choices of others,” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “Under this bill, if you get caught drinking and driving, you face having to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, having your driving privileges restricted or losing them all together.”

“Alcohol-impaired driving crashes account for nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the United States,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “This bill helps send a stern message to drivers who fail to see the danger they put themselves and others when they drink and drive.”

“If you choose to be irresponsible by drinking and driving, then you will have your driving privileges limited or have to install the equivalent of a Breathalyzer in your car to do the reasoning for you,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Public safety is paramount, and someone who chooses to risk it through reckless behavior needs to pay a tough price.”

“This is all about public safety,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Those who risk public safety by drunken driving need to know that they will be facing severe punishment.”

The bill revises the penalty provisions for various drunk driving offenses, particularly making changes concerning the use of, and applicable time periods covering, driver’s license suspensions and installations of ignition interlock devices on motor vehicles owned or operated by these drivers.

Concerning the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the bill revises the relevant penalty provisions as follows:

For a first offense, if that offense involved a person’s blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher but less than 0.10%, or otherwise operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, the court would order a 10-day license suspension, during which the person would have to install an ignition interlock device in one motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person, whichever the person most often operates, for three months, unless the court was clearly convinced, based on a series of aggravating factors outweighing mitigating ones as set forth in the bill, to instead order a license suspension of three months (the three month suspension would also apply instead of device installation if the person did not own or lease a motor vehicle and there was no motor vehicle the person principally operated). 

The aggravating and mitigating factors for consideration by the court to order a license suspension instead of device installation would include, but not be limited to: the nature and circumstances of the person’s conduct, including whether such conduct posed a high risk of danger to the public; the person’s driving record; whether the character and attitude of the person indicate that the person would be likely or unlikely to commit another violation; and the need for personal or general deterrence.

If the court did order the installation of the ignition interlock device, the person’s driver’s license would only be reinstated within the 10-day suspension/device installation period by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission upon showing proof of such installation, and the commission would imprint a notation concerning driving with the device on the person’s driver’s license.

Additionally, for a person with an ignition interlock device installed, the three-month installation period would be subject to possible extension for an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period, for attempting to operate the affected motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher during the last one-third of the installation period, or for failing to present the affected vehicle for device servicing at any time during the installation period.  This extension would occur without need of further court order, following notification of the event to the court by the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission, which notification would be supported by a certification from the ignition interlock device manufacturer, installer, or other party set forth in regulation responsible for the servicing or monitoring of the device.

If the first offense involved a person’s blood alcohol concentration of 0.10% or higher but less than 0.15%, the court would order a 10-day license suspension, during which the person would have to install an ignition interlock device in one motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person, whichever the person most often operates, for not less than seven months or more than one year, unless the court was clearly convinced, based on the series of aggravating factors outweighing the mitigating ones as described above, to instead order a license suspension of not less than seven months or more than one year (the seven month to one year suspension would also apply instead of device installation if the person did not own or lease a motor vehicle and there was no motor vehicle the person principally operated).  As above, if the person was ordered to install an ignition interlock device, the person could only reinstate the person’s driver’s license through the Motor Vehicle Commission upon showing proof of such installation, and could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described.

If the first offense involved a person’s blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% or higher, the court would order a 10-day license suspension, during which the person would have to install an ignition interlock device in one motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person, whichever the person most often operates, and maintain installation of the device during a period of license suspension of not less than seven months or more than one year and after license suspension for an additional period of not less than seven months or more than one year, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person would receive an initial period of suspension plus an additional period of suspension equal to the total period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed.

With respect to the license suspension of a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% or higher, the person would have the opportunity, beginning 90 days after the start of the suspension, to petition the court to reinstate the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the initially ordered suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of the ignition interlock device in the person’s motor vehicle both for the remainder of the initially ordered suspension period and afterward for the additional seven-month to one-year period.  Additionally, a person whose driving privileges were suspended for an additional period because the person does not own or lease a motor vehicle and there is no motor vehicle the person principally operates, may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or principally operating a motor vehicle, to reinstate the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the initial and additional suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle.  As above, a person ordered to install an ignition interlock device could only reinstate a driver’s license through the Motor Vehicle Commission upon showing proof of such installation, and could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described.

If the offense involved a “drugged” driver (i.e., operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug), the court would order a license suspension of not less than seven months or more than one year, with no option to instead operate a motor vehicle with an ignition interlock device installed.

For any such first offense of drunk or “drugged” driving occurring on or near a school property or crossing, the bill would eliminate any enhanced penalties currently available under the law and instead treat such an offense the same as all other first offenses.

For a second offense, the bill increases, for all drunk and “drugged” drivers, the period of license suspension from the current law’s two years to instead a period of not less than two years or more than four years.  The court would order a 10-day license suspension, during which the person would have to install an ignition interlock device in each motor vehicle owned, leased, or operated by the person to be maintained during the two to four year suspension period, and to remain installed afterward for a period of not less than one year or more than three years, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person would receive an initial period of suspension plus an additional period of suspension equal to the total period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed.

With respect to a second offender’s license suspension, a person who does not own or lease a motor vehicle or have a motor vehicle the person operates may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or operating a motor vehicle, to reinstate the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the additional one to three year suspension period (not the initial two to four year period), subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle.

As above for any first offender, a person who is a second offender ordered to install an ignition interlock device could only reinstate a driver’s license through the Motor Vehicle Commission upon showing proof of such installation, and could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described for a first offender.    

For a second offense occurring on or near a school property or crossing, the bill would eliminate any enhanced penalties currently available under the law and instead treat such an offense the same as all other second offenses.

For a third or subsequent offense, the bill increases, for all drunk and “drugged” drivers, the period of license suspension from the current law’s 10 years to instead a period of not less than 10 years or more than 20 years.  The court would order a 10-day license suspension, during which the person would have to install an ignition interlock device in each motor vehicle owned, leased, or operated by the person to be maintained during the 10 to 20 year suspension period, and to remain installed afterwards for a period of not less than one year or more than three years, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person would receive an initial period of suspension plus an additional period of suspension equal to the total period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed.

With respect to a third or subsequent offender’s license suspension, a person who does not own or lease a motor vehicle or have a motor vehicle the person operates may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or operating a motor vehicle, to reinstate the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the additional one to three year suspension period (not the initial 10 to 20 year period), subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle. 

As above for both first and second offenders, a person who is a third or subsequent offender ordered to install an ignition interlock device could only reinstate a driver’s license through the Motor Vehicle Commission upon showing proof of such installation, and could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described for first and second offenders.

For a third or subsequent offense occurring on or near a school property or crossing, the bill would eliminate any enhanced penalties currently available under the law and instead treat such an offense the same as all other third or subsequent offenses.

      Refusing a Breath Test

            Concerning the offense of refusing to submit to a breath test, the bill revises the relevant penalty provisions as follows:

For a first offense, the court would order a 10-day license suspension, during which the person would have to install an ignition interlock device in one motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person, whichever the person most often operates, for not less than seven months or more than one year, unless the court was clearly convinced, based on the series of aggravating factors outweighing the mitigating ones as described above for drunk driving offenses, to instead order a license suspension of not less than seven months or more than one year (the seven month to one year suspension would also apply instead of device installation if the person did not own or lease a motor vehicle and there was no motor vehicle the person principally operated). As above with respect to drunk driving offenses, if the person was ordered to install an ignition interlock device, the person could only reinstate the person’s driver’s license through the Motor Vehicle Commission upon showing proof of such installation, and could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described.

For any first offense of refusing a breath test occurring on or near a school property or crossing, the bill would eliminate any enhanced penalties currently available under the law and instead treat such an offense the same as all other first offenses.

For a second offense, the bill increases the period of license suspension from the current two years to instead a period of not less than two years or more than four years.  The court would order a 10-day license suspension, during which the person would have to install an ignition interlock device in each motor vehicle owned, leased, or operated by the person to be maintained during the two to four year suspension period and remain installed afterward for a period of not less than one year or more than three years, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person would receive an initial period of suspension plus an additional period of suspension equal to the total period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed. 

A person who does not own or lease a motor vehicle or have a motor vehicle the person operates may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or principally operating a motor vehicle, to reinstate the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the additional one to three year suspension period (not the initial two to four year period), subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle. 

As above with respect to any drunk driving offense, a person who is a second offender ordered to install an ignition interlock device could only reinstate a driver’s license through the Motor Vehicle Commission upon showing proof of such installation, and could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described for a drunk driving offense.    

For a second offense of refusing a breath test occurring on or near a school property or crossing, the bill would eliminate any enhanced penalties currently available under the law and instead treat such an offense the same as all other second offenses.

For a third or subsequent offense, the bill increases the period of license suspension from the current 10 years to instead a period of not less than 10 years or more than 20 years.  The court would order a 10-day license suspension, during which the person would have to install an ignition interlock device in each motor vehicle owned, leased, or operated by the person to be maintained during the 10 to 20 year suspension period, and to remain installed afterwards for a period of not less than one year or more than three years, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person would receive an initial period of suspension plus an additional period of suspension equal to the total period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed.

A third or subsequent offender who does not own or lease a motor vehicle or have a motor vehicle the person operates may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or operating a motor vehicle, to reinstate the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the additional one to three year suspension period (not the initial 10 to 20 year period), subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle. 

As above with respect to any drunk driving offense, a person who is a third or subsequent offender ordered to install an ignition interlock device could only reinstate a driver’s license through the Motor Vehicle Commission upon showing proof of such installation, and could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described for a drunk driving offense.

For a third or subsequent offense of refusing a breath test occurring on or near a school property or crossing, the bill would eliminate any enhanced penalties currently available under the law and instead treat such an offense the same as all other third or subsequent offenses.

Ignition Interlock Device Installation – License Reinstatement

With respect to all cases for which a person has been ordered to install one or more ignition interlock devices, the court would notify the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission.  The commission would thereafter require that the one or more devices be installed before the reinstatement of the person’s driver’s license, whether after a 10-day suspension period or some longer period as applicable to the specific offense.  The commission would imprint a notation on the reinstated driver’s license stating that the person could not operate a motor vehicle unless it is equipped with an ignition interlock device, and would enter this requirement in the person's driving record.

            Ignition Interlock Device – Failure to Install, Tampering

Lastly, a person who fails to install an ignition interlock device as ordered by a court, or who drives a device-equipped vehicle after being started by means other than the person blowing into the device, or who drives an unequipped vehicle, would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense.  A disorderly persons offense is ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.  Furthermore, the court would suspend the person’s driver’s license for the period of time associated with a drunk driving offense under R.S.39:4-50, except that the applicable period applied by the court would be the period for a second offense (not less than two years or more than four years) if the underlying act was committed by a first offender drunk driver/breath test refusal, and would be the period for a third or subsequent offense (not less than 10 years or more than 20 years) if the underlying act was committed by a second offender drunk driver/breath test refusal; the suspension period for a third or subsequent offender drunk driver/breath test refusal would not be enhanced (remaining not less than 10 years or more than 20 years).

                The bill will now be referred to the Senate.

 

 

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