School Zone DWI Charge Under New Jersey Law
The definition of a school zone DWI can be found under the Criminal Code statute N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a). In a prosecution for a school zone case, the State will attempt to prove that the driving under the influence offense occurred within 1000 feet of an elementary or secondary school. The actual distance that the defendant was from the school can be proved by the use of a map depicting the location and boundaries of the area on or within 1000 feet of the schoolhouse or other school property. Conversely, in a prosecution for a DWI within a school crossing, the Prosecutor will look to demonstrate that a school crossing, as defined in N.J.S.A. 39:1-1, was crossed while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Proof of the designation of such a crossing may be made simply by presenting a certified copy of the resolution or ordinance designating the school crossing as such. Beyond a school zone or designated school crossing, penalties will be enhanced if the Prosecutor can prove that the defendant drove through a non-designated school crossing while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or greater. There will be additional proofs required, in order to trigger enhanced punishment under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(g)(3). A non-designated crossing is a school crossing which has not been so designated by a municipal ordinance or resolution. When this is the case, the State must present proof that the defendant drove through the school crossing in violation of the driving under the influence statute, knowing that juveniles were present at the time. Note that the statute does not specifically protect only students near the school crossing, but rather any juvenile.
Enhanced Penalties for DWI In A School Zone
In Essex County, an individual convicted of a DWI in a school zone or crossing will face penalties twice the amount of those for a DWI not within a school zone or crossing. These doubled penalties are generally consistent for the first, second, third and subsequent offenses. For a first offense, a defendant convicted of a DWI in a school zone or school crossing will face a fine ranging from $606.00 to $1,006.00, a mandatory jail sentence of not more than sixty (60) days. Additionally, the defendant must suffer a loss of driving privileges for a term of between one (1) and two (2) years. For a second offense, the enhanced sanctions require a fine between $1,006.00 and $2,006.00, A mandatory sixty (60) days, or 360 hours, of community service, a minimum mandatory jail sentence between ninety-six (96) hours and 180 days. Lastly, there is a period of license suspension is for a minimum of four (4) years. For a third or subsequent offense, there is a fine of $2,006.00, a mandatory 180 day jail sentence, and a mandatory twenty (20) year suspension of driving privileges, which begins upon completion of any prison sentence imposed on the defendant.
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