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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Considering New DWI Law to Require Ignition Interlock Devices

NJ Governor Chris Christie must soon decide whether to sign proposed legislation which would radically alter the punishments for persons convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in the State of New Jersey.

The bill was sent to Christie after the New Jersey State Senate passed it by a wide margin of 29 to 4. The bill had already passed the New Jersey State Assembly in June 2014.

If Christie signs the bill into law, drivers convicted of a first offense DWI in New Jersey will no longer be subject to a mandatory 3-month suspension of their drivers’ licenses. Instead, first-time DWI offenders will face a mandatory license suspension of just 10 days.

However, the bill would call for a significant penalty: the installation of ignition interlock devices on first-time DWI offenders’ primary vehicles. Under current drunk driving law, only first-time offenders who register a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above .15 percent have to install ignition interlock devices.

The law would require individuals convicted of driving with a BAC of between .08 percent and .10 percent to install the breath test device in their primary vehicle for 3 months. Individuals convicted of a first offense DWI with a BAC of between .10 percent and .15 percent would need to install the breath test device for up to 1 year.

Ignition interlock devices are effective at preventing drunk drivers from starting their cars because the driver needs to register a clean breath sample before the vehicle will start.

The proposed law received widespread support from different organizations, including New Jersey Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). According to MADD, 24 states already have laws which require the installation of ignition interlock devices for all DWI offenders.

Beyond that, similar laws in Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon have reportedly led to a 30 percent decline in drunk driving-related fatalities.

Despite the support for the legislation, there are still a number of people who oppose the law. Dan Phillips, the legislative liaison for the Administrative Office of the Courts, testified before the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee and said that the proposed law won’t be effective because it only requires the devices to be installed on the drunk driving offender’s primary vehicle; their secondary vehicles will be unaffected.

Phillips also said that the proposed legislation could potentially result in a court clog because judges in DWI cases would have to “go through a long analysis.”

Other opponents have suggested that the cost of enacting the new drunk driving legislation could be extremely high.

Governor Christie will have 45 days to arrive at a final decision regarding the bill.

For additional information about this proposed law, see the NJ.com article entitled “Major Changes to N.J. Drunk Driving Law Reach Christie’s Desk.”

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