On August 23, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed a significant new law requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices for all first-time DWI offenders.
The law in New Jersey had previously required that such devices be installed for first-time offenders with blood alcohol readings in excess of .15.
The new law expands the use of these devices which, according to the supporters of the legislation, act as a deterrent to driving while intoxicated without negatively impacting someone’s ability to work and support themselves or their families. The stated purpose of the bill is to deter drunk driving by making it more difficult for offenders to drive again while intoxicated.
The interlock device is installed in the vehicle and integrates blood alcohol testing (“BAC”) with the vehicle ignition system. It includes a mouthpiece and an LED screen that displays BAC readings.
What does that mean?
According to the legislation, a first-time DWI offender with a blood alcohol level between .08 and .10 will be required to install the interlock device in the vehicle principally used by the individual (either owned, leased, or regularly used) for a period of three months. If the offender attempts to operate the vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .05 or higher (as shown on the interlock device) during the final 30 days of the initial installation period, the three-month period can be extended for an additional 30 days.
If aggravating circumstances exist, such as a poor driving record or another risk of danger, the court may order a license forfeiture rather than installation of the interlock device. First-time offenders with a blood alcohol content between .10 and .15 will be required to have an interlock installed for seven to twelve months.
How does it work?
DWI offenders must install the devices at their own cost. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission notifies offenders with instructions on how to obtain an approved ignition interlock device.
The interlock requires that the driver blows into the device. If alcohol is detected above the programmed limit (.05 or higher), the vehicle engine will not start. Once the required interlock time is over, the individual must have the device removed and return it to the interlock provider. The provider will notify the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission that the device was removed.
Failure to have the interlock device installed when ordered by the court is illegal and will result in an additional license suspension. The new law will take effect on January 1, 2020, and will apply to DWI offenses committed after that date.