Stender, Caputo & Lagana Bill to Toughen Drunken Driving Penalties Advanced by Assembly Panel

Bill Allows for Ignition Locks for Offenders

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Linda Stender, Ralph Caputo and Joseph Lagana to toughen penalties for driving while under the influence of alcohol in New Jersey – including allowing ignition interlock devices – was approved Thursday by an Assembly committee.
“Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. Innocent people are dying because of the irresponsible choices of others,” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “Under this bill, if you get caught drinking and driving, you face having to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, having your driving privileges restricted or losing them all together.”
“Alcohol-impaired driving crashes account for nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the United States,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “This bill helps send a stern message to drivers who fail to see the danger they put themselves and others when they drink and drive.”
“If you choose to be irresponsible by drinking and driving, then you will have your driving privileges limited or have to install the equivalent of a Breathalyzer in your car to do the reasoning for you,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Public safety is paramount, and someone who chooses to risk it through reckless behavior needs to pay a tough price.”
The bill revises the relevant penalty provisions as follows:
For a first offense:
· If that offense involved a person’s blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher but less than 0.10%, or otherwise operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, the court would order the installation of an ignition interlock device in one motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person, whichever the person most often operates, for three months, unless the court was convinced, based on a series of aggravating factors outweighing mitigating ones as set forth in the bill, to instead order a license suspension of three months.
If the offense involved a person’s blood alcohol concentration of 0.10% or higher but less than 0.15%, the court would order the installation of an ignition interlock device in one motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person, whichever the person most often operates, for not less than seven months or more than one year, unless the court was convinced, based on the series of aggravating factors outweighing the mitigating ones, to instead order a license suspension of not less than seven months or more than one year.
If the offense involved a person’s blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% or higher, the court would order a license suspension of not less than seven months or more than one year, and also order the installation of an ignition interlock device in one motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person, whichever the person most often operates, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person would receive an additional period of suspension equal to the period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed. The device would be installed during the period of the license suspension and remain installed afterward for a period of not less than seven months or more than one year. With respect to the license suspension, the person would have the opportunity, beginning 90 days after the start of the suspension, to petition the court to restore the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the initially ordered suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of the ignition interlock device in the person’s motor vehicle both for the remainder of the initially ordered suspension period and afterward for the additional seven-month to one-year period. Additionally, a person whose driving privileges were suspended for an additional period because the person does not own or lease a motor vehicle and there is no motor vehicle the person principally operates, may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or principally operating a motor vehicle, to restore the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the initial and additional suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle. As above, a person with an ignition interlock device installed could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described.
For a second offense:
· The bill increases, for all drunk and drugged drivers, the period of license suspension from the current law’s two years to instead a period of not less than two years or more than four years. The court would also order the installation of an ignition interlock device in each motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person during the period of the license suspension and remain installed afterward for a period of not less than one year or more than three years, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person shall receive an additional period of suspension equal to the period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed. A person who does not own or lease a motor vehicle or have a motor vehicle the person principally operates, may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or principally operating a motor vehicle, to restore the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the additional suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle. As above for any first offender with an ignition interlock device installed, the installation period for a second offender could be extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described for the first offender.
For a third or subsequent offense:
· The bill increases, for all drunk and drugged drivers, the period of license suspension from the current law’s 10 years to instead a period of not less than 10 years or more than 20 years. The court would also order the installation of an ignition interlock device in each motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person for a period of not less than one year or more than three years, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person would receive an additional period of suspension equal to the period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed. A person who does not own or lease a motor vehicle or have a motor vehicle the person principally operates, may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or principally operating a motor vehicle, to restore the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the additional suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle. As above for both first and second offenders with an ignition interlock device installed, the installation period for a third or subsequent offender could be extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described for first and second offenders.
Concerning the offense of refusing to submit to a breath test, the bill revises the relevant penalty provisions as follows:
For a first offense:
· The court would order a license suspension of not less than seven months or more than one year, and also order the installation of an ignition interlock device in one motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person, whichever the person most often operates, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person shall receive an additional period of suspension equal to the period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed. The device would be installed during the period of the license suspension and remain installed afterward for a period of not less than seven months or more than one year. With respect to the license suspension, the person would have the opportunity, beginning 90 days after the start of the suspension, to petition the court to restore the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the initially ordered suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of the ignition interlock device in the person’s motor vehicle both for the remainder of the initially ordered suspension period and afterward for the additional seven-month to one-year period. Additionally, a person whose driving privileges were suspended for an additional period because the person does not own or lease a motor vehicle and there is no motor vehicle the person principally operates, may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or principally operating a motor vehicle, to restore the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the initial and additional suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle. As above with respect to any drunk driving offense, a person with an ignition interlock device installed for refusing to take a breath test could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described for a drunk driving offense.
For a second offense:
· The bill increases the period of license suspension from the current two years to instead a period of not less than two years or more than four years. The court would also order the installation of an ignition interlock device in each motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person for a period of not less than one year or more than three years, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person would receive an additional period of suspension equal to the period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed. A person who does not own or lease a motor vehicle or have a motor vehicle the person principally operates, may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or principally operating a motor vehicle, to restore the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the additional suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle. As above with respect to any drunk driving offense, a person with an ignition interlock device installed for a second offense of refusing to take a breath test could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described for a drunk driving offense.
Lastly, for a third or subsequent offense:
· The bill increases the period of license suspension from the current 10 years to instead a period of not less than 10 years or more than 20 years. The court would also order the installation of an ignition interlock device in each motor vehicle owned, leased, or principally operated by the person for a period of not less than one year or more than three years, unless there was no such vehicle, in which case the person would receive an additional period of suspension equal to the period the person would have had an ignition interlock device installed. A person who does not own or lease a motor vehicle or have a no motor vehicle the person principally operates, may petition the court that established the forfeiture period, upon proof of owning, leasing, or principally operating a motor vehicle, to restore the person’s driving privileges for the duration of the additional suspension period, subject to the person maintaining the installation of an ignition interlock device in that vehicle. As above with respect to any drunk driving offense, a person with an ignition interlock device installed for a third or subsequent offense of refusing to take a breath test could have the installation period extended by an additional period equal to one-third of the originally designated period in the same manner as previously described for a drunk driving offense.
The bill was released by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.