The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that drunken drivers convicted of multiple offenses may use a ‘step-down’ provision in the state’s drunken driving statute more than once, provided that at least 10 years have elapsed between the most recent offense and the prior one.
The current New Jersey drunk driving statute [N.J.S.A. 39:40-50] states in part that if a second drunk driving offense occurs more than 10 years after the first offense, the court shall treat the second conviction as a first offense for sentencing purposes and if a third drunk driving offense occurs more than 10 years after the second offense, the court shall treat the third conviction as a second offense for sentencing purposes. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:40-50 for a second drunk driving offense, the driver is subject to, among other things, no more than 90 days imprisonment and loss of driving privileges for two years and for a third or subsequent DWI offense the driver is subject to, among other things, incarceration for a term of not less than 180 days and a ten-year loss of driving privileges.
While this decision provides some reprieve to drunk drivers, the overwhelming tone of the New Jersey Legislature is to keep these individuals off the streets.