Interlock Devices and Sentencing
by Peter Lederman, Esq.
The sentencing structure in DWI cases may change dramatically in the near future. The New Jersey legislature is considering various proposed laws which would potentially ease the burden of license suspension in DWI cases, when drivers install interlock device in their cars. The extent of driving privileges would vary depending on whether the violation is a first or second offense. While this change could be a great opportunity for most drivers, especially when employment depends on a driver’s license, there are a number of problems that must be considered.
Firstly, there is the expense involved in leasing the interlock device. While many people will be able to afford this option, many working people will not be able to bear this additional monthly expense. Consequently, they would be denied the ability to operate their vehicles when more fortunate people could not have this problem.
Secondly, there may be an inclination for drivers charged with DWI to plead guilty knowing they could continue to drive. These people will “take the easy way out” and enter guilty pleas, even though they may have good defenses to their cases. This would create a problem once the plea is entered, should another DWI offense occur. Now the Defendant would be punished as a subsequent 2nd or 3rd offender. Obviously penalties for these offenses are much more severe. However, if the driver defended his initial case, this would not be a problem. Many people of course, believe that “this will never happen again.” Unfortunately, there is a 33% probability that a subsequent violation will occur.
Thirdly, there is an issue why a defendant should be required to install an interlock defense, when conviction resulted from substances other than alcohol. A similar question is whether drivers will move onto other substances, such as marijuana and “smoke and drive” even after the interlock device is installed. Obviously the IID only identifies the presence of alcohol on breath.
The fourth issue involves the possibility that fines and other penalties will increase substantially with new legislation. This will be determined as proposed legislation comes forward.