New Jersey DWI Sentencing Alternatives

A New Jersey drunk driving conviction carries severe repercussions – convicted drivers face penalties that include fines, jail sentences, and license suspensions. However, on first and second offenses, some courts offer alternative sentencing that gives many individuals convicted of a n NJ DWI / DUI an opportunity to serve their sentences in other ways. A New Jersey DWI lawyer experienced in defending driving while intoxicated cases will evaluate each case to determine whether alternative sentencing may be an option.

Sentencing alternatives exist to help and punish the driver at the same time. Sentencing alternatives often allow convicted drunk drivers to keep their jobs or seek treatment for substance abuse problems, if needed.

On third offenses, however, jail means jail. The sentence is 180 days, day for day, with no parole. The jail sentence can be reduced up to 90 days for in-patient treatment at an approved rehabilitation facility. However, the driver is still “incarcerated” for the 180 day period, whether all at a county jail, or partial time spent in a rehabilitation facility. (This is why it is so important to hire a qualified NJ DWI lawyer that will not only fight the current matter, but will seek other relief to the jail time. See our page on “Post Conviction Relief”.

On first and second offenses, if jail is part of the sentence, any alternative sentencing programs allow hour-for-hour exchanges of alternative sentencing against hours that would have otherwise been spent in county jail. The convicted driver may be allowed to serve all or part of his or her sentence with electronic monitoring, in an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation facility, in weekend jail, or with the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP). Whether or not these sentencing options are available depends on the facts of the case and location of the case. Some judges do not permit any alternatives to jail, and some counties do not have such alternatives available.

Electronic monitoring programs permit convicted drivers to serve their sentences at home. The driver is usually allowed to travel to work, alcohol education classes and other essential daily activities, such as grocery shopping and religious services. The driver wears an electronic monitor that alerts probation officials of unapproved absences. The device also may monitor alcohol consumption with a sensor that detects alcohol excretion from skin surfaces.

Another option is alcohol or drug rehabilitation on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Not all convicted drunk drivers have substance abuse issues, but some or many do. Rehabilitation gives drivers who want to seek help an opportunity to obtain treatment and allows them to avoid some or all of a jail sentence, if applicable on first and second offenses. The driver must successfully complete the program in order to fulfill the sentence requirement.

“Weekend jails” allow many motorists convicted of driving while intoxicated to continue working or meeting other obligations while serving their sentences between Friday and Sunday nights. Although this stretches a sentence out longer than it normally would, this option allows convicted drunk drivers to keep their jobs and avoid even greater financial repercussions of a New Jersey DWI arrest. Unfortunately, like all these alternative sentences, this option is not available on third or greater offenses.

A fourth alternative is the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program, or SLAP. The key word is “labor” – as convicted drunk drivers will be put to work at sheriff’s department facilities or on other community projects. Many motorists convicted of driving while intoxicated find this to be an attractive alternative to spending time in jail.

Sentencing alternatives exist to help convicted New Jersey DWI drivers avoid jail in many cases. Some of the options may seem inconvenient, but alternative sentencing options are far more palatable than going to jail for many drivers. An NJ DWI attorney experienced in New Jersey DWI / DUI defense will review each case to determine whether alternative sentencing may be available.

If you would like to discuss your case, please call Levow & Associates at 877-593-1717. Call today for a free consultation.