New Jersey ranks among the most severe in penalizing convicted DWI offenders. If you drove within 1,000 feet of the furthest edge of school property, you could feel double the wrath of the system, with double fines, suspension and incarceration.
But that’s just the start. In addition to being charged with DWI in a school zone, you will also be charged with DWI. In effect, you’ll face two separate violations for the same incident.
How Does New Jersey Define “School Zone”?
New Jersey’s DWI statute takes a liberal view on the meaning of “school zone.”
Drivers charged with operating while intoxicated within 1,000 feet of any property owned or leased by an elementary or secondary school face “enhanced” penalties. This increased severity extends to crosswalks that municipalities have designated school “crossing zones,” even though they may seem to be outside of a school’s property. In fact, crosswalks that have not been formally defined as school zones may still be considered as such in a DWI case, if the driver knew that “juveniles” were present.
The statute also makes it irrelevant whether or not you were aware that you were driving in a school zone. In this case, ignorance is no defense. Nor does it matter whether or not any juveniles were present at the time of the offense, or that school was not in session.
School Zone DWI Penalties
As in all cases, the specific nature of the consequences will depend on whether you have previously been convicted of DWI, and specifically whether you were previously convicted of a school zone offense. To be subject to school zone sentencing, all of your prior convictions had to have been charged and convicted as school zone offenses. For example, a person who was convicted previously of DWI within the past 10 years, but not a school zone offense, would be treated as a second offender for the DWI, and a first offender in school zone. According to State v. Reiner, the sentences run concurrently: 2 year suspension, fines and assessments on the DWI, and 1 year suspension and fines on the School Zone DWI, for an aggregate suspension of 2 years
First School Zone Offense
- License suspended for one to two years
- Fine between $500 and $800
- Jail sentence up to 60 days
Second School Zone Offense
- License suspended for four years
- Fine between $1,000 and $2,000
- 60 days of community service
- Jail sentence between 4 and 180 days, 90 of which may be served by performing additional community service
Third Offense or Greater
- License suspended for 20 years
- Fine of $2,000
- Mandatory jail time of 180 days, no parole
Contact a School Zone DWI Attorney
It’s worth repeating that you actually face two distinct violations after being charged with DWI in a school zone. In addition to the penalties mentioned above, you face those associated with a normal DWI as well.
The stakes are high, and the consequences severe. But this charge is not a conviction. With the help of experienced legal counsel, you may avoid the suspensions, fines and jail time by mounting a successful defense to the charges. The attorneys at Levow DWI Law have decades of trial experience, unique qualifications and an unmatched record of success. If a valid defense exists, we will find it. And we won’t stop fighting for you until you tell us to.