Driving while intoxicated in New Jersey is a serious offense

Getting behind the wheel after more than a drink or two is against the law. New Jersey has clear laws in place that make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle (including a motorcycle or even a boat) when your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher. It's also illegal in cases where your BAC is below the legal limit but it's clear your ability to drive is impacted. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a crime that carries very serious penalties.

Instead of choosing to drive, it's safer and smarter to ride with a sober friend or just call for a taxi. These days, you don't even need to make a call. You can open up an app, like Lyft or Uber, and order a ride from where you are to your home in a matter of seconds. Those who decide to drive could end up facing serious criminal penalties, even if they don't cause an accident or hurt themselves or someone else.

There are different legal limits for different drivers

Some bars have breath test machines inside, so that their patrons can perform a test themselves to determine if they can safely drive a vehicle. Generally speaking, however, if you've had enough to drink to feel like you need a test, it's best to err on the side of caution. Machines make errors, and alcohol does take a little time to enter your blood stream.

That being said, drivers with a BAC well below the legal cutoff of 0.08 percent could still face criminal charges, depending on the circumstances. For those under the age of 21, the legal BAC cutoff is 0.02 percent, while those who operate commercial vehicles have a limit of 0.04 percent.

Even first offenses carry real penalties

In many legal situations, a lack of a previous criminal conviction could mean you only receive a slap on the wrist or probation in response to a conviction or a guilty plea. When it comes to DWI, however, although first offenses have lesser penalties, they are still relatively serious. Planning a defense is important to offset the risk involved.

A first DWI offense will result in up to 30 days in jail, up to $500 in fines and loss of your license for between three months and a year. A second DWI offense in a 10-year period could result in up to 90 days in jail, a fine of as much as $1,000 and loss of your license for two years.

A third offense in a decade carries up to six months in jail, a fine of $1,000 and loss of your license for a full decade. Additionally, a judge could decide to have you install an ignition interlock system in your vehicle to test your BAC every time you start the car as a result of even a first DWI charge.

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