School Zone DUI Plea Bargains Now Accepted in NJ Municipal Courts

Effective September 1, 2007, an NJ DUI-DWI defendant will be able to plea bargain away the NJ school zone enhancement for drunk driving in a school zone. Currently there are severe penalties if a driver gets a NJ DUI-DWI in an NJ school zone. The penalties for a first offense NJ DUI-DWI in a school zone (N.J.S.A. 39: 4-50(g)) include:

-Fine enhancement ($500-$800 fine), and

-Imprisonment not exceeding 60 days, and

-drivers license suspension for not less than 1 year nor more than 2 years, and

-other charges, and

-driver ignition interlock device for 6 months – 1 year, and

-IDRC screening.

The new NJ Supreme Court guidelines will give Municipal Court judges permission to accept plea bargains where if the NJ DUI-DWI defendant pleads guilty to the underlying NJ DUI-DWI offense (N.J.S.A. 39: 4-50(a)) and if there is no accident and the school property is not being utilized, then the prosecutor can dismiss the NJ DUI-DWI school zone charge (N.J.S.A. 39: 4-50(g)).

Do you think this is a good law? It seems fair to me…If a school is not being used (for example at 3:00 a.m.) an NJ DUI-DWI defendant may not know that he or she drove by a school. Furthermore, there is no risk of danger to schoolchildren during non-school hours. The point of the NJ DUI-DWI school zone enhancement is to protect school children. It only makes sense that if there are no schoolchildren present, then the law should be relaxed.