Unlike many other states, New Jersey has not criminalized drunk driving. For this reason, a DUI is a traffic offense not an indictable crime (felony) or disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor). It also does not create any kind of criminal record, as the conviction is reported on your driver's history (abstract). For this reason, there are also no jury trials for DUI; a judge determines your fate.
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.
DUI Can Still Be a Crime (Felony), Though
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 3 to 5 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 5 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.
A DUI is Still Serious Enough to Get a Lawyer!
Even though most drunk driving charges are not considered crimes in New Jersey, the consequences are just to great to handle it yourself; you need an experienced lawyer on your side 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.
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