Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Senate Bill 825 on August 23, 2019. This new bill took effect on December 1, 2019, and it revises penalties for drunk driving and ignition interlock device violations. Punishment for drunk driving convictions shifted focus from driver’s license suspensions to the use of IIDs – ignition interlock devices.
According to this new statute, ignition interlock devices are required for only one motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the defendant, whichever the defendant most often operates.
An IID is essentially a miniature breathalyzer that acts as an ignition interrupter in your vehicle. When installed, it will prohibit that vehicle from starting unless a volume of breath is introduced at or below 0.05% BAC.
If a subject provides a breath sample which, upon analysis, exceeds 0.05% BAC, the IID will prevent the vehicle from starting for 1 hour. The IID will electronically record the subject’s failure to provide a breath sample below the permitted level. Only after the expiration of an hour can a person attempt to introduce another breath sample into the IID and start the car.
An IID will also require “rolling re-tests” on a random basis approximately every 15 to 20 minutes while the vehicle is being driven. The re-tests require the driver to provide breath samples throughout the trip. This assures that a driver is not drinking alcohol while driving. It also discourages a driver who is above 0.05% BAC from recruiting someone below that BAC level to initially start the vehicle.
If a rolling re-test produces a BAC reading above 0.05% or if a re-test breath sample is not provided within a set interval when prompted, the IID will generate a loud, obnoxious noise in the vehicle. The IID will also cause the vehicle to flash its lights and sound its horn. All of this activity will continue until the vehicle is stopped and the engine is shut off. Thereafter, the engine will remain inoperable for 1 hour, after which the driver can introduce a new sample and attempt to restart the vehicle.
The new law allows the defendant to remove an ignition interlock device from the vehicle after the completion of the required installation period, but only if the defendant obtains a certification from the IID vendor that: 1) during the final month of the installation period, there was a maximum of one failure to take a test with a BAC of 0.05% or more, unless a re-test (has to be conducted within 5 minutes after the first test) shows a BAC of less than 0.05%; 2) the defendant complied with all requirements pertaining to the repair, maintenance, monitoring, calibration, and inspection related to the IID.
If two or more test results were showing a BAC level of 0.08% or higher during the last month of the installation period, the IID vendor will not issue a certification to the defendant. Instead, the IID vendor will forward the violation information to the MVC and the court. The municipal judge will decide whether to order the issuance of the certification from the IID vendor allowing removal of the IID or prolong the ignition interlock device installation up to 3 additional months.
The New Penalty Provisions
0.08-0.09%BAC: Driving privileges are suspended until an ignition interlock device is installed. Once the IID is installed, the driver’s license is immediately restored. The IID must remain on the vehicle for 90 days.
0.10-0.14%BAC: Drivers are obligated to install an IID for between 7 and 12 months. The installation period depends on the severity of the offense and their specific case. Until an IID is installed, the driver’s license is suspended immediately upon conviction, and once the ignition interlock device is installed, the driver’s license is restored.
0.15%BAC or higher: Offenders are required to install an IID for nine to fifteen months, following a 4-6 month mandatory driver’s license suspension.
2nd Offenses: Loss of driving privileges for 1 to 2 years, and the required installation of the ignition interlock device during the period of driver’s license loss, and for 2 to 4 years after the driving privileges are restored.
3rd Offenses: Loss of driving privileges for 8 years, and the required IID installation during the period of driver’s license loss, plus 2 to 4 years after the driving privileges are restored.
Drug DWIs: The penalty for the first offense drug DWI includes the loss of driving privileges for 7 to 12 months, and the IID installation is not required. The penalties for second and third offense drug DWIs remain unchanged. However, the new statute is silent on whether IIDs are required for second and third drug DWIs.
Refusals- First Offense: Loss of driving privileges immediately upon conviction, until an IID is installed. After the IID installation, driving privileges are restored. The IID must remain on the vehicle for 9 to 15 months.
Refusals- Second Offense: Loss of driving privileges for 1 to 2 years after an IID installation. The IID must remain on the vehicle during the period of driver’s license suspension and 2 to 4 years after the driving privileges are restored.
Refusals- Third Offense: Loss of driving privileges for 8 years, and the IID must remain on the vehicle during this period, plus additional 2 to 4 years after the driver’s license is restored.
Defendants who do not own, lease, or principally operate ANY vehicle: The new law permits a defendant who does not own, lease, or operate a motor vehicle to be sentenced differently—and more harshly.
If a defendant falls into this category, his or her privilege to drive in New Jersey is suspended for the length of time he or she would have otherwise been required to install the IID. For example, first offenders who fall into this category will face a 90-day loss of driving privileges rather than a 90-day IID requirement.