When Do These New DWI Laws Come Into Effect In New Jersey?
The law was passed in August and it becomes effective on December 1, 2019. The way the law is written, it applies only to offenses occurring on or after December 1, 2019. But one question is whether cases in the pipeline–i.e., where tickets were issued before December 1 but remain open and unresolved after December 1–will be affected by this change. Under the plain language of the statute, the answer seems to be no. But from past events, when there were major changes under the law, defendants often had the option to be sentenced under the old law or the new law if they were convicted after the new law came into effect. How that ultimately plays out remains to be seen.
In my informal poll of municipal court judges, they seem to be split. Some judges believe that if the legislature says that the penalties apply only to those convicted on or after December 1, and they are not going to permit people charged before December 1 to take advantage of the new law. A similar number of judges think it is fundamentally unfair to treat people charged before December 1 any differently than those convicted after December 1, and they will give the defendant the chance to decide under which statute they wish to be sentenced. This issue may resolve itself in practice or it may be necessary for someone to take an appeal and have a higher court decide the question.
Additional Information on New DWI Laws in New Jersey
There are many administrative questions such as the proper forms to be filled out, the appropriate proof demonstrating the installation of the interlock, and how violations of the interlock law will be dealt with that need to be answered in the next few months. One reason the effectiveness of the law was delayed for more than three months was so the various administrative agencies like the NJMVC and Administrative Office of the Courts to hammer out some of the details into how these things will be monitored and enforced. At the moment we probably have more questions than answers. For now, you have a summary of what the effect on sentencing will be.
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