A bill currently making its way through the New Jersey legislature has the potential to change how drivers who are convicted of DUIs are penalized. The bill’s sponsor indicates that the purpose of the bill is to address the problems associated with automatic revocation of first-time DUI offenders’ drivers licenses while also stiffening the penalties for repeated DUI offenders.

Under the bill, first-time DUI offenders would have a rebuttable presumption that ordering they use an ignition interlock device instead of suspending their licenses would be more rehabilitative and lead to better outcomes. The bill’s sponsor said many problems are associated with suspending the licenses of first-time offenders, such as loss of employment and depression leading to more substance abuse, and as a result, additional DUI offenses down the road.

At the same time, the proposed bill would also stiffen the punishments for repeat DUI offenders. The court could still impose license suspensions on first-time offenders if the court wants to do so, but with the rebuttable presumption, more people could retain their licenses with use and installation of an ignition interlock device.

If the bill becomes law, then first-time offenders may be able to retain their driver’s licenses rather than facing a time period of suspension. This would be welcome news to many people who have been convicted of a first-time DUI offense. Those who are accused of drunk driving may want to talk to a criminal defense attorney both about available defenses and about the possibility of an ignition interlock device in lieu of losing a driver’s license. As the bill is not yet a law, the change in penalties will not affect any current cases, and only a lawyer can give someone legal advice about their case.

Source: newjerseynewsroom.com, “Revising Penalties for Drunk Drivers the Focus of a N.J. Bill,” Trish Graber, Feb. 6, 2015