New Jersey DWI v. DUI: What Is the Difference?

  • Dan T. Matrafajlo
  • Sat Sep 2021
  • DWI,
  • 0
dwi attorney

Motorists are prohibited from operating their vehicles while under the influence of any controlled substances. If you are arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or while under the influence (DUI), you may be wondering what the difference is between these two charges. Although both terms/charges deal with impaired operation of a motor vehicle, the acronyms can mean different things in different states. This article breaks down the differences in the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey DWI v. DUI

There is no distinction between a DWI and DUI under New Jersey law, so the two terms may be used interchangeably. The punishment and prosecution of drivers who are driving while intoxicated, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is dealt with under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 (Driving While Intoxicated). Prosecution and sentencing for both DWI and DUI involves the same consequences.

Penalties & Requirements for a New Jersey DWI/DUI

A drunk driving conviction can carry penalties if:

  • Driver is under the legal drinking age of 21 and has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01%, OR
  • Driver is over 21 years of age and has a BAC of 0.08% or higher

You do not have to submit a BAC test to be found guilty on DUI charges. The consumption of any controlled substance (such as alcohol, prescription drugs, over the counter medication or illegal drugs) while operating a vehicle can be grounds for a DWI arrest. The specific penalties for a DWI conviction vary depending on the different levels outlined under the law.

Drunk Driving Is Not a Crime Under New Jersey Law

New Jersey is one of the few states that has decriminalized drunk driving. As such if you get a DWI/DUI conviction, it does not show up on your record as an indictable offense (felony) or a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor). In fact, you do not get any criminal record at all.

Since a drunk driving conviction is just another traffic infraction, you can got to traffic court (which is part of the municipal court) instead of going to criminal court. Challenging a DWI/DUI is much the same as challenging any other traffic citation:

  • You will need to go before a judge and enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).
  • If your plea is not guilty, you will have the opportunity to present you defense and any evidence to show you were not guilty of drunk driving.

You will have the right to have a New Jersey drunk driving attorney present at the court hearing. A skilled attorney can increase your chances of avoiding a DWI conviction and the loss of your driver’s license. And since traffic court judges have the right to impose jail sentence in DWI cases, you could also avoid jail time with the help of a good attorney.

Call a DWI Attorney in New Jersey

If you or someone you know has been issued a DWI citation or arrested for drunk driving in New Jersey, an experienced attorney can help. Call Beninato & Matrafajlo Attorneys at Law, LLC at 908-248-4404 to schedule a free, complimentary consultation with our legal team today.

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Dan T. Matrafajlo

Dan T. Matrafajlo

NJ State Bar: #031722003

Dan T. Matrafajlo, Esq., is the managing member and lead partner at Beninato and Matrafajlo, Attorneys at Law, LLC. Renowned for groundbreaking contributions to personal injury law, he has set legal precedents with influential Appellate decisions and garnered recognition in the New Jersey Law Journal. A consistent honoree on Super Lawyers' Rising Star list for the past five years, Matrafajlo's litigation prowess is widely acknowledged. He has won various awards like Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters Association 2019, and Nominated into Super Lawyers as a Rising Star from 2012 until the Present.

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