DWI Laws in New Jersey

Here are some important facts about DWI law in New Jersey.

In New Jersey, you can get a DWI (driving while intoxicated), sometimes called a DUI (driving under the influence), if you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher, regardless of whether your driving ability was actually impaired. However, you can also get a DWI for operating a vehicle while “under the influence” of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. Generally, you’re under the influence if the alcohol or drugs you’ve ingested have materially affected your physical or mental faculties.

And you don’t have to be actually driving to get a DWI in New Jersey. You’re “operating” a vehicle for purposes of the DWI law once you “manipulate the machinery of the vehicle for the purpose of putting the car in motion.”

The law in New Jersey says that if you’re operating a vehicle, you’ve given consent to submit to a chemical test for the purpose of determining the amount of alcohol in your blood. Here are some details on the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test in New Jersey and other details about New Jersey DWI law.

In New Jersey, what are the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test (usually a breathalyzer or blood test) when suspected of DWI?

Here are the consequences for not taking a breathalyzer or blood test in New Jersey, broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

7-month license suspension

2-year license suspension with a prior DWI conviction

10-year license suspension with 2 or more prior DWI convictions


It's important to note that the suspension period imposed for refusing a chemical test is in addition to any other suspension that might be imposed if you’re ultimately convicted of a DWI.

In New Jersey, when do police have to measure your BAC?

New Jersey law requires police to measure your BAC “within a reasonable time” of when you were arrested for DWI.  

What is the maximum BAC for drivers under 21 in New Jersey?

New Jersey law prohibits drivers who are under 21 year old from driving with a BAC of .01% or more. Underage drivers who operate a vehicle with a BAC of .01% or more, but less than .08%, face a license suspension of 30 to 90 days and 15 to 30 days of community service.

What are the minimum jail times for a DWI in New Jersey?

Here are the minimum jail times for a DWI in New Jersey, broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

No minimum jail sentence

2 days jail

90 days jail


How long will prior DWI convictions remain relevant for sentencing purposes in New Jersey?

New Jersey DWI law includes a ten-year “step-down” provision. This provision generally requires judges to treat a second DWI as a first offense if more than ten years has elapsed between the first and second offenses. Similarly, a third DWI is treated as a second offense if the third offense occurred more than ten years after the second offense. (See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 39:4-50 (2015).)

However, the step-down provision affects only the jail sentence that the judge can impose. The administrative penalties—including license suspension, imposition of fines, and installation of an ignition interlock device (IID)—are unaffected by the provision.  

Can a DWI be “pleaded down” to a "wet reckless" in New Jersey?

In some states it’s possible for a defendant to negotiate a "wet reckless," or a conviction of reckless driving involving alcohol, as the result of a plea bargain in which a DWI/DUI charge is reduced to reckless driving. In New Jersey, however, plea bargaining is generally prohibited in DUI cases. So reducing a DUI to a reckless driving charge typically isn't possible.  

If you are interested in contacting a lawyer, you can find a DWI lawyer in your area in Nolo's Lawyer Directory.

Are ignition interlock devices (IIDs) required for convicted DWI offenders in New Jersey?

IIDs are required for a first-offense DWI only if the driver’s BAC was .15% or more—drivers in this category are required to have IIDs on their vehicles during the time their licenses are suspended and for an additional six months to one year afterward.

For second and subsequent offenses, IIDs are required during the license suspension period and for an additional one year to three years afterward.  

Where can I get more information about DWI laws in New Jersey?

Nolo's DUI/DWI topic has many helpful articles, including a Drunk Driving, DUI, and DWI FAQ. For more help after a DWI arrest, see Nolo's Lawyer Directory, where you can view in-depth profiles of New Jersey DWI attorneys in your area.

For more information about the legal limit, see the  Blood Alcohol Level Chart

Last updated on 3/15/2016.

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