Most states in the union share motor vehicle violations with each other through something called the Interstate Driver License Compact. The only ones that don't are Georgia, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Tennessee. This means that if you get a ticket in another state that is a part of the compact, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission will find out about it.

This can cause a big problem for you if you get charged in New Jersey for drunk driving, but have a prior conviction for same in another state.

A Prior Conviction Enhances a DUI Sentence

New Jersey law enhances the penalties for drunk driving depending upon how many prior convictions you have on your record. In this manner, a second offense carries higher consequences than a first, and a third or subsequent carries more than a second. So although this might be your first DUI in New Jersey, it isn't your first one for sentencing. The only exception to this is where the prior out of state conviction was more than ten years ago.

This will also happen whether the prior offense was committed in a state that is not a member of the Compact. As long as the prior conviction was pursuant to an out of state statute that is "of a substantially similar nature" to New Jersey's DUI statute, it counts as a prior offense.

You Might Be Able to Fight the Enhancement

Even though you had a prior conviction in another state, you might still be able to avoid an enhanced penalty. Remember, that statute has to be "of a substantially similar nature" to ours. Thus, you can exclude it if you can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the other state's statute is significantly different than ours. 

This can also help you when you get that out of state DUI conviction and then come home. Remember, the states talk to each other, so New Jersey will know about it and suspend your New Jersey license administratively. You can still request a hearing and challenge the suspension!

You Need a Lawyer for Your Drunk Driving Charge!

So as you can see, there is just too much at risk not to have an experienced DUI attorney represent you in court; don't handle it yourself! A successful challenge to that prior, out of state conviction could make a big difference in the consequences you face!

If you have been charged with drunk driving in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem or Cumberland County, call me immediately 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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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.