What is a DWI?

“DWI stands for Driving while Intoxicated, which is a serious charge in NJ. This page explains what DWI means and important terms for understanding your charges.”

New Jersey prohibits driving while intoxicated under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a). This law makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle or allow someone else to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, or other habit producing drugs. Under the influence is defined as a “substantial deterioration or diminution of the mental faculties or physical capabilities.” You are considered “under the influence” if your ability to drive is impaired, meaning you can’t drive as well as a sober person in the same situation. It is considered a violation of NJ DWI law to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more.

Blood alcohol concentration is defined as the amount of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. So, a BAC of 0.08% means that there is 0.08 grams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood. In New Jersey, you are technically guilty of DWI if you are found driving a car with a BAC at or above 0.08%. There are cases, however, in which people are charged with driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level below that ratio. In order to test a driver’s BAC, officers will typically ask for a breath sample using the approved breathalyzer device in New Jersey: the Alcotest 7110. When you blow into the machine, the Alcotest reading provides a numerical assessment of the amount of alcohol in your blood. With a reading at or above 0.08%, you are considered legally intoxicated and, therefore, too impaired to drive.

The BAC is important for determining intoxication, as well as the level of intoxication. The level of intoxication is important in first offense DWI cases because they are treated differently than second offense DWI and third or subsequent DWI charges. Basically, the penalties become more severe based on the number of prior DWI convictions you have. And for a first DWI, the punishments get worse when your BAC is higher. The cut off for first offense DWI blood alcohol concentration is 0.10%. Thus, the sentence is harsher for those whose first DWI involves a reading at or above 0.10% of alcohol in the bloodstream.

You can learn more about the fundamentals of DWI charges in New Jersey by visiting our Overview of DWI page. You can also watch our videos on “How To Get out of DWI Charges.” Please Click Here to answer any other New Jersey DWI related questions that you might have.

Need a Lawyer for a DWI Charge in New Jersey? Call Us

If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey and you want help developing the best defense, the experienced drunk driving lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm are available immediately to assist you. Call 201-556-1570 for a free consultation or reach out to us online for answers about your specific case.


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With unmatched knowledge and experience in the practice of law, the seasoned attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm are committed to serving their clients and tenaciously confronting the allegations against them.

We will examine every facet of your case in order to defend your constitutional rights and reputation. With a dedicated legal advocate to assist you, our attorneys will ensure that you are never forced to navigate the complex legal process on your own.

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Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

If you've been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.

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