Penalties for drunk driving in New Jersey get more and more severe as you progress from a first, to second, to third offense. Therefore, how long the conviction is on your driving record (called an "abstract") can be very important after you get your first. Here's how you can tell.

Obtain a complete abstract from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Be sure to request a complete one, not the 5 year one you get from your local MVC office. If the date you were ticketed for your first offense (not the date of conviction) was more than ten years before your second, then your second will count as a first offense for sentencing.

How Does the DUI Penalties Step-Down Work?

But, that step-down for a first offense can only happen once. If a third offense occurs more than ten years after the second, then it is treated as a second offense, not a first. However, if a third offense occurs within ten years of the second, it is treated as a third. Check out these two examples:


  • 1987 First Offense
  • 1999 Second Offense (Sentenced as First Offense)
  • 2011 Third Offense (Sentenced as Second Offense)

No Step-Down

  • 1987 First Offense
  • 1999 Second Offense (Sentenced as First Offense)
  • 2003 Third Offense (Sentenced as Third Offense)

The important thing to remember is that the convictions never go away. However, if they are more than ten years apart, that can affect how you are sentenced for one.

History Matters for Your DUI Penalties!

If your last arrest was over ten years ago, that's enough to

  • keep you out of jail,
  • save you $500 or more in fines, and
  • reduce your license suspension by up to 9 years!

It can make the difference between keeping your job and losing it!

So What Do I Do?

Proper legal representation is critical to insuring that the consequences of your DUI aren't any worse than they have to be. If you have been arrested and charged with drunk driving in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem or Cumberland County, know that you are facing serious consequences, and are ready to take action to defend yourself, you need to call my office immediately at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment to discuss your options.

If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's drunk driving law, then download my free book, How Much Trouble Am I In? A Guide to New Jersey Drunk Driving Law.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.