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Can a DUI Be a Criminal Offense?

Posted on: November 7, 2022

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol greatly could impair your ability to drive safely. Many people who drive while under the influence exceed posted speed limits, drift in and out of their rightful lane of travel, and are more likely to run red lights and stop signs.

Because driving under the influence (DUI) is so dangerous, it is a serious offense in New Jersey and most other states. In New Jersey, driving under the influence is not a criminal offense, but it is a serious driving offense.

If you are convicted of a DUI offense in New Jersey, you will be fined and could spend time in jail. The state could suspend your license and require you to perform community service.

You will not have a criminal record for a DUI conviction, but additional factors might elevate an offense to a criminal matter.

What Qualifies as a DUI Offense?

When a DUI rises to the level of a criminal offense, the state never calls it a felony. Instead, New Jersey law classes DUI offenses as first- through fourth-degree offenses. State law also allows for a disorderly person or petty disorderly person offense.

Anyone who is driving while under the influence of intoxicating drugs or has a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08 percent could be charged and convicted of a DUI offense.

A first-time DUI offense will come with a fine of between $250 and $400 and up to 30 days in jail. The state will revoke your license until you install an ignition interlock device that functions as a breathalyzer. You will have to pay for the device and its installation.

You would need to use the ignition interlock device for at least three months and breathe into it before starting your vehicle. If it detects alcohol, the handheld device will not enable your ignition to work.

The state also will require you to complete at least 12 hours at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center location. You must put in at least six hours per day over two consecutive days.

Second and third offenses increase the fines and potential jail times. The state also would suspend your driver’s license for up to eight years and require up to 30 days of community service. The state would require a second or third time DUI offender to use an ignition interlock device for up to four years after restoring your driving privileges.

Factors that Make a DUI a Crime

A DUI becomes a crime when you drive recklessly while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and cause an accident that injures one or more people. The state could charge you with an assault by automobile if that happens.

An assault by automobile is a type of aggravated assault and does not require the victim or victims to be hospitalized. The state considers the accident to be a criminal act when it causes someone to suffer physical pain, impairment, or serious bodily injury.

Experienced Freehold Criminal Lawyers at Ellis Law Uphold the Rights of the Accused

If you are accused of a DUI offense while driving, the experienced Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law, P.C., can help to enforce your rights. You can call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our law office in Freehold, New Jersey. We serve clients in Freehold, Asbury Park, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Long Branch, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York City.