Downey Bill Cracking Down on Drunk Driving Signed Into Law

OCEAN TOWNSHIP - Governor Murphy today signed legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Joann Downey intending to deter repeat drunk driving offenses by focusing state law more heavily on the use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) as a preventative measure. An ignition interlock device or breath alcohol ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer for an individual's vehicle that requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece on the device before starting or continuing to operate the vehicle.

“There’s strong evidence that interlock devices go a long way in reducing re-arrest rates when they’re installed in offenders’ vehicles,” said Downey. “By requiring more drivers arrested for DUIs to install interlocks in their cars, we could see a substantial reduction in alcohol-related crashes.”

The International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety has found that IIDs, when combined with a comprehensive monitoring and service program, lead to a 40 to 95 percent reduction in the rate of repeat drunk driving offenses among offenders as long as the IID remains on the vehicle.

“Traditionally, intoxicated drivers have also had to forfeit their driver’s license while penalized, which can keep them from getting to work or performing their duties,” said Downey. “If that leads to the individual being fired, it’s not uncommon to see emotional consequences like depression, which can encourage even more of the substance abuse that led to the penalty in the first place. This law creates a more humane solution that’s also more effective in the long run, making New Jersey roads safer for everyone.”

State law has required repeat drunk drivers and drunk drivers with a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to install an IID since January 2001, but installation of these devices is not mandatory for other first-time offenders.

The bill revises penalties for drunk driving offenses – including a separate provision for drugged driving- particularly making changes to provisions covering driver’s license forfeitures and mandatory installations of IIDs on motor vehicles owned or operated by intoxicated drivers. It also provides that, for an offense that involves a “drugged driver” – operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogen, or habit-producing drug – a court would order a license forfeiture of not less than seven months or more than one year, with no option to instead operate a motor vehicle with an ignition interlock device installed.

Under previous law, the period of a driver’s license suspension for first-time drunk driving offenders was based on the offender’s BAC and the driver’s license suspension for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test is seven months to one year. The installation of an interlock device was also previously discretionary for first-time drunk driving offenders whose BAC is under 0.15 percent. First-time offenders whose BAC is 0.15 percent or higher and drivers refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test were also required to install a device in the motor vehicle they principally operate.

Current law also provides for a one-year driver’s license suspension for failing to install an interlock device. The term of the suspension would increase to 18 months under the new law.

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