September 18, 2012

Proposed New Jersey DUI Law Would Greatly Stiffen DUI Penalties

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Several states have taken active measures to increase the severity of DUI laws in the past few years, but a proposed series of new regulations in New Jersey establish a new precedent for tough DUI enforcement, according to a report from the Newark Star-Ledger.

This week, the New Jersey Legislature will vote on a bill that would require all drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol to install an ignition interlock device that would keep their cars from starting if they have been drinking.

In years past, these tools have only been used for people who have been convicted of multiple DUI offenses, but many states are now turning to ignition interlock systems for first-time DUI offenders, as well.

In New Jersey, for example, current DUI laws only require the installation of the Breathalyzer-like devices for people who have multiple DUI convictions, or for drivers who were arrested with a blood alcohol level at more than twice the legal limit.

While this law has been in place, roughly 2,500 ignition devices were installed, but if the new law is passed, this number could double in just 12 months, according to Frank Harris, a lobbyist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In defense of the proposed law, Harris also said that “[r]equiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers provides multiple benefits to society (by) teaching offenders to drive sober which helps prevent repeat offenses and in turn saves lives.”

Harris also noted that the threat of a fine or license suspension does not deter drivers from driving intoxicated again.

In response, some critics of the bill claim that ignition interlock devices aren’t worth the expense, given that they typically cost drivers several hundred dollars, which can be a significant financial burden for many drivers.

John Bowman, a spokesman for the National Motorists Association, also told reporters that these devices don’t really help to deter first-time offenders because most of these drivers learn their lesson and refrain from driving drunk again.

But despite reservations from groups like the National Motorists Association, the national trend seems to be leaning towards the installation of ignition interlock systems for every convicted drunk driver, regardless of the nature of their offense.

In the last few years, sixteen states have enacted laws requiring these systems for all drunk drivers, and Missouri will soon become the seventeenth, according to sources. So the momentum seems to be swinging in favor of the proposed New Jersey bill.

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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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