New Jersey DWI Attorney John Menzel

What Are The Penalties For An Interlock Device Violation?


The offense of driving a vehicle without an interlock while your privilege is restricted to those vehicles is a hybrid offense. It’s both a traffic offense and what we call the disorderly person’s offense, what other states might call a misdemeanor. The fine for a disorderly person’s offenses can be up to $1,000. There is an additional period of driving privilege revocation of one year that’s tacked onto the revocation that person is currently serving. It’s a fairly significant penalty, intended to discourage people to not avoid the interlock. The same penalty applies if a person has another person blow into the interlock. The person asking the other party to blow into the interlock is guilty of an offense, and the person blowing into the interlock is also guilty of an offense.

How Can Someone Get An Unrestricted License After An Interlock Device Has Been Imposed?

Once the interlock period is passed, that restriction will expire by itself. When licenses are issued for the interlock, there is an “Interlock required” stamp right across the face of the license. The person doesn’t necessarily have to go and get a new license after the interlock period expires. But I generally advise people to do so, only because they don’t want to have those two words emblazed on the front of their license if a police officer stops them. This can lead to unfounded charges because even though the time has expired, the officer writing the ticket would see the words “Interlock required” and no interlock on the vehicle. If the officer issues a ticket, you’ll have to answer questions in court. You’ll win, but it’s an inconvenience to have to deal with it in court. That’s why you should go to the Motor Vehicle Commission and get a license without those words inscribed across the license.

Can Someone Ever Be Jailed For An Interlock Device Violation?

Whether someone can be jailed for an interlock device violation or not remains to be seen because of its hybrid nature. There are penalties under the Motor Vehicle statute, and there are penalty concepts imported from our criminal statute for the disorderly person’s offense. If a court were to decide that the full disorderly person’s penalties apply, then the person would be exposed to a jail term of up to six months, a fine of up to a $1,000, plus certain mandatory assessments totaling $158. I have never seen that happen, and I don’t expect it to happen, but it could happen.

How Do People Commonly Violate An Imposition Of The Interlock Device?

In New Jersey, we have no follow-up to the interlock device. If you blow into the interlock and it registers above the cut-off point, you don’t face any violation of probation for any additional charges. What you do face, however, is waiting a certain period of time, up to an hour, before you can blow into the device again. If you’re trying to start a car while you’re significantly impaired, you’re not going to be able to start it until your breath alcohol content goes below the cut-off point, usually about 0.05. The new interlocks have cameras attached. In states where they monitor the interlock, the data will get reported to a central repository and reviewed. There are cameras in some of the interlocks that will actually show who is blowing into the device. There are all kinds of enforcement mechanisms that are in place and are practical for enforcing this law.

In New Jersey, none of that applies, because all they are interested in is making sure that the person gets the interlock installed. After that, you are on your own. If you want to pull the interlock out, you can, but you run the risk of getting additional charges if caught driving without the interlock installed. There are some people who welcome the interlock. There are people who recognize the fact that they are alcoholics and have an issue, and actually, keep the interlock because it makes them feel safer. But you have to remember the interlock is not a fool-proof device.

There was a scandal in New York State where many of the interlocks had the cut-off set not at the 0.05 level, but at 0.5, and that’s an enormous difference. A 0.50 is an almost impossibly high breath alcohol level for almost anybody to achieve. Most people would be dead at a 0.50. But if these mistakes are made and you get away with starting the car even though you’re over the legal limit, that’s your problem if you get caught. If there is a conflict in the evidence between what the interlock shows and what the breath test result obtained in the police station shows, that will be an interesting trial and there’ll be an interesting set of facts. If I ever have that situation, I’ll let you know how it comes out, but my feeling is that the test taken in the police station is the one the judge will go by.

Will The Ignition Interlock Device Laws Ever Change In New Jersey?

Ignition interlock laws may change. New Jersey is a bit of an outlier compared to most states. DWI is never classified as a crime. But a violation of our traffic statute, N.J.S. 39:4-50, is an element of many crimes, including vehicular assault and vehicular homicide. It’s not irrelevant to criminal practice, but DUI by itself is never a crime in New Jersey. That puts New Jersey almost in the same class as states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In New Jersey, third or subsequent offenders go to jail for 180 days and a maximum of 6 months if you get convicted of a third or subsequent DUI in New Jersey. In Pennsylvania, they can go to jail for two years, which, of course, means they are entitled to a jury trial. But not in New Jersey. We’re the only state that person charged with just DUI never gets a jury trial on the DWI, even in the criminal context. If the jury is hearing a vehicular assault or vehicular homicide case where DWI is a component of that crime, the jury will assess and return the verdict on the facts concerning the vehicular assault and the vehicular homicide, but the judge presiding over that trial will make the decision on the underlying DWI charge itself. That’s how crazy it is here. It’s not right, and it’s an issue I’ve challenged all the way to the US Supreme Court. They chose not to hear it. The New Jersey Supreme Court seems to be split on the question of whether people charged with a third or subsequent DWI offense here should receive a jury trial. We are going to keep plugging away though. I’ve only been doing it for 30 years, and maybe one day they’ll get it right.

For more information on Penalties For Interlock Device Violations, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (732) 899-1899 today.

John Menzel, J.D.

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