Debate Over NJ DUI Penalties Continues

The debate regarding New Jersey’s drunk driving laws and penalties reignited last month following the death of two grandparents at the hands of a drunk driver. Frank Cabezas, 23, was apparently driving drunk on a suspended license when he collided with another car, killing both passengers.

Even though Cabezas had had his license suspended for a prior incident of drunk driving, clearly this did nothing to stop him from still driving, even when clearly intoxicated. Now, the argument over New Jersey DUI laws and penalties has resurfaced in the media and with lawmakers and residents alike, and people are once again wondering, are New Jersey’s drunk driving laws aimed at preventing drunk driving accidents or punishing drunk drivers, and are our laws actually effective in doing either of these things?

Passaic County DUI Lawyers and Traffic Violations

One of the principal arguments regarding NJ DUI/DWI law surrounds the fact that New Jersey, unlike almost every other state in the country, considers drunk driving to be a traffic violation, rather than a criminal offense. Instead of jail time being the primary punishment for repeat DUI offenders, NJ DUI law instead relies heavily upon monetary fines as punishment. While repeat incidents of drunk driving convictions can result in a maximum of 180 days in jail, many times that term will be reduced through guilty pleas, and part of whatever jail time is finally mandated is often served in a rehabilitation facility instead of an actual jail.

The Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization further reports that more than half of the drivers in New Jersey who have their license suspended continue to drive despite this sanction. While license suspensions can be the result of a variety of legal issues beyond drunk driving, including child support enforcement and alimony enforcement, the fact still remains that people who the law deems shouldn’t be driving are continuing to drive regardless.

Additionally, a recent MADD report also ranks New Jersey as one of the worst states in the country when it comes to protecting other drivers from drunk driving accidents, giving NJ a 2 out of 5 star ranking.

So while there is certainly an argument to be made that NJ laws are clearly not harsh enough when it comes to preventing drunk driving accidents and punishing drunk driving offenders, there are also of course arguments to the contrary.

Clifton NJ Drunk Driving Lawyers

One of the main arguments against increasing New Jersey’s DUI penalties is that, as a traffic violation, accused DUI/DWI violators are not given the right to a jury trial. This right, known as due process, is a fundamental part of our country’s constitution, and many lawyers argue that increasing drunk driving penalties would only further violate the constitutional rights of the accused parties. Considering the already extremely steep financial penalties associated with DUI convictions, it is argued that, if people want to further increase those penalties, drunk driving convictions need to instead be considered criminal offenses rather than traffic offenses.

Another argument against the increase in DUI penalties is that first-time offenders are already very harshly prosecuted. It is not uncommon for an individual with no history of drunk driving to consume a single alcoholic beverage and then be arrested for drunk driving. Considering that even a first-time drunk driving conviction can result in thousands of dollars of fines and surcharges, license suspension of 3 months to 1 year, and even 30 days in jail, many argue that raising these penalties even further would unjustly punish relatively innocent offenders.

Woodland Park DUI/DWI Attorneys Defend the Rights and Future of their Clients

Regardless of where you stand personally on this issue, the fact remains that if you are charged with drunk driving, refusal to submit to a breath test, or driving on a suspended license, not only can you face a host of extremely serious consequences and penalties, as traffic violations, you will not be accorded a trial by jury, and will instead by relying on a single judge’s decision. Considering these factors, it is highly recommended that if you are charged with any of these motor vehicle violations, you retain the counsel of an experienced DUI/DWI and traffic violation attorney.

At The Montanari Law Group, our attorneys have extensive experience defending clients arrested for drunk driving and traffic violation charges of all kinds in towns across Passaic County, including Clifton, Wayne, Woodland Park, and West Milford. We understand just how serious these charges can be, and how serious the consequences are that come with any DUI/DWI conviction. Regardless of whether or not those consequences are effective at preventing drunk driving across New Jersey is a matter for debate, what is not for debate is that your legal and financial future are in jeopardy, and we are ready to protect and defend your rights in any DUI/DWI matter.

To speak with our criminal defense team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your drunk driving charges, refusal to submit to a breath test charges, or any other kind of traffic offense charge, please contact us online, or through our Little Falls, NJ office at (973) 233-4396.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.