Driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey is a crime because a drunk driver is a major risk liability. An inebriated driver is a danger to themselves, other drivers, their passengers and pedestrians. Anyone convicted of DWI faces a fine of at least $250 and imprisonment for up to 30 days for a first offense.
But what happens if a drunk driver had a young passenger, such as their child, at the time of their violation? Under New Jersey law, that motorist could face additional penalties for endangering their young passenger with reckless driving.
An additional offense
A driver convicted of DWI who had a minor passenger (defined as a person aged 17 years old or younger) at the time of the DWI charge will be additionally charged with a disorderly persons offense, which counts as a misdemeanor.
If the disorderly persons offense charge leads to another conviction, the court may order the driver to pay as much as $1,000 in fines and serve up to six months of jail time. The convicted driver will also forfeit their driving rights for a maximum period of six months and a court could order them to render community service for up to five days.
These punishments are on top of the driver’s other penalties for their DWI conviction.
Two crimes in one
Drivers convicted of DWI and a disorderly persons offense for drunk driving with a minor passenger will have two crimes on record. Even a criminal record with two misdemeanors may severely impact a person’s capability to find a new job or take out a loan.
It’s difficult enough to handle a DWI court hearing, but to be additionally charged with endangering a child can be deflating. Drivers facing two potential convictions might want to review their case with legal counsel to understand their options.