DWI Penalties in New Jersey and the “Ten Year Rule”

Understanding When the Ten Year Step Down Applies

NJ DWI ArrestDWI law in New Jersey is complex.  When it comes to DWI sentencing in New Jersey, having a complete understanding the “ten year step down rule” is essential.  The 10 year step down rule allows a second DWI conviction to be treated a a first conviction if the first conviction was more than 10 years prior to the second conviction.  For example a second DWI conviction in New Jersey  will result in a mandatory 2 year loss of licence where a first DWI conviction can result in as little as a 3 month loss of driving privilege.  You can review the NJ DWI penalties by clicking here.

The 10 year rule also applies to a 3rd DWI convictions where there is at least 10 years between the second conviction and the third conviction.  In this  example a third DWI conviction in New Jersey  will result in a mandatory 10 year loss of licence and 180 days in jail where a second  DWI conviction will result in a 2 year loss of licence and as little as a 48 hour incarceration.

The 10 year rule does not apply for any conviction after a third.  For example, if some one is convicted of a fourth DWI and  the third conviction was more than 10 years prior , the 10 year step down would not apply.  A fourth conviction would be sentenced as a third or subsequent offense with a 10 year loss of driving privilege and 180 days in jail.

The leading New Jersey decision on the 10 year rule is State vs Burroughs.  In Burroughs, the defendant tried to get a 10 year step down on a third conviction because his second conviction was treated as a first because of the ten year rule.  He argued, unsuccessfully, that because he had never been sentenced as a second conviction his third conviction should be treated as a second.  The court ruled that in order for the defendant to be sentenced as a second offender the third conviction need to be more than 10 years after his second conviction.  This was true even if the second conviction was treated as a first conviction.  The Burroughs decision gives a detailed analysis of the 10 year rule in New Jersey.

It is important to note that a defendant can get two 10 year step downs if the there is at least a ten year period between the first DWI conviction and the second DWI conviction and at least a ten year period between the second DWI conviction and the third DWI conviction.

If you or a loved one needs strong representation  to defend against a DWI or Refusal in New Jersey, contact the municipal court defense lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today. We are experienced DWI attorneys who are ready to defend the charges against you. Contact us now for your confidential and free initial consultation. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350. Don’t just plead guilty and risk your driving privilege or driving record.