The New Jersey Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee has proposed a bill that will impose harsher penalties for drunk driving with a minor passenger in the car. Under current New Jersey law, DUI offenders are charged with a disorderly persons offense; the law does not impose separate repercussions for those driving under the influence with young children in tow. Hudson County Assemblyman Charles Mainor, the chair of the committee, claims that the new bill will “send a stronger message” to DUI offenders, and that the current disorderly persons offense is not enough to curtail driving under the influence.
Bill A1015 proposes protections for minor passengers aged 17 and under if they are harmed while riding in a car with an intoxicated parent or legal guardian. Drunk drivers will still be charged with a disorderly persons offense, which carries a possible punishment of six months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine, but New Jersey DUI attorneys say that the bill also outlines stricter measures for violations involving minors.
If a DUI violation results in bodily harm to a minor passenger, described in the bill as “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition,” the parent or guardian will be charged with a fourth-degree crime. This charge can be elevated to a third-degree crime if the minor passenger suffers serious bodily injury that causes “serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of…any bodily member or organ” as a result of the DUI violation.
New Jersey DUI lawyers warn that a fourth-degree crime carries penalties of 18 months in prison or a $10,000 fine, while a third-degree crime could result in three to five years in jail, a $15,000 fine, or both.
In addition to the steeper penalties for DUI offenses involving minors, the bill also proposes license suspension for any driver found driving under influence with minor passengers. Any driver convicted of a DUI violation under the new bill would be forced to turn in his or her license for a six-month period, and complete up to five days of community service.
New Jersey DUI attorneys hope that the new bill will not only keep children safe, but also keep drivers who have had a few drinks from getting on the road with their children in the back seat. If state law enforces a higher penalty for driving drunk with children in the car, NJ drunk driving attorneys expect that parents and guardians will be more aware of their alcohol consumption.
The New Jersey DUI lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons who have been charged with DUI and facing license suspension across New Jersey. If you have been arrested or charged with DUI, the experienced New Jersey DUI attorneys at our firm can help.