New Jersey bills get tough with repeat DUI offenders

| 7/9/2009

A leading lawmaker in New Jersey has had enough of habitual drunken drivers.

Senate President Richard Codey, D-Essex, has introduced a legislative package designed to crack down on motorists repeatedly caught driving under the influence or with a suspended license.

Codey said he was spurred to action after a Morris Township, NJ, crash that was allegedly caused by a man whose license was suspended 78 times.

The first bill – S2939 – calls for mandatory jail time for anyone caught driving under the influence while already suspended for a DUI or refusal to take a breath test. Convicted offenders would face between six months to one year behind bars and up to a $10,000 fine.

New Jersey law now allows for additional suspensions. Repeat offenders face up to five days in jail while third-time offenders face up to 10 days in lockup.

“We need to change our approach to these offenses if we really want to send a wakeup call to repeat offenders,” Codey said in a written statement.

Another bill – S2937 – would require mandatory jail time of at least 180 days for those convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.20 percent or higher if they had been convicted of another DUI within the past five years.

To encourage offenders to participate in inpatient rehabilitation programs, the bill would allow the court to reduce the mandatory term by up to 90 days for taking part in a program.

Currently, state law doesn’t mandate jail time until a third DUI conviction.

The bills are awaiting consideration in the Senate Law and Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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