Our New Jersey DUI Lawyer Explains DUI as a Traffic Violation Rather Than Criminal Act

New Jersey stands out among many states in its handling of drunk driving offenses. Unlike jurisdictions where DUI is a criminal act, in New Jersey, a DUI is classified as a traffic offense. This classification means that it is not treated as an indictable crime (akin to a felony) or as a disorderly person's offense (similar to a misdemeanor). As a result, a DUI in New Jersey does not lead to the creation of a criminal record. Instead, the conviction is noted on the individual's driving history, known as an abstract.

However, it is considered "quasi-criminal" in that it can come with serious consequences if you are convicted, including suspension of your driver's license and jail time. As an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer, I understand the challenges faced by clients charged with a DUI and can help get penalties reduced. 

When a DUI Can Still Be a Crime (Felony)

A simple drunk driving charge is not a crime. However, it can become a crime under certain circumstances. For example, if you get into an accident and injure someone, you can be charged with Assault by Auto. This is quite serious, and the punishment depends on how badly the person is injured.

  • Injury. This is a fourth-degree crime and can result in up to 18 months in jail, along with a fine of up to $10,000
  • Serious injury. This is a third-degree crime and can put you in jail for three to five years and cost you fines of up to $15,000

This becomes far worse if someone is killed as a result of the accident. Then it becomes Death by Auto. This is a second-degree crime and can result in five to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $150,000. But it can get worse. If the accident, and resulting death, occurred on any school property or within 1,000 feet of a school, or while driving through a school crossing, then it becomes a first-degree crime, which is 10 to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $200,000.

Why You Need a Lawyer to Help With a DUI 

Even though most drunk driving charges are not considered crimes in New Jersey, the consequences are just too great to handle yourself. You should consult with an experienced lawyer to challenge the case and lessen the likelihood that your license will be suspended or you will end up in jail.

If you have been charged with drunk driving in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, or Cumberland County, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule a free consultation. 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.

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