What's Next, Torture for DWI?
Monday, 29 December 2008 18:52

Being convicted of driving while intoxicated in the state of New Jersey is no trivial matter. You can be found guilty in two ways–one is the reading on the Alcotest machine and the other is the officer’s observations. You are not allowed a jury trial and three convictions will land you in jail for half a year, cost you thousands in fines, and a ten year loss of license.

Despite the fact that you can spend a half year in jail, New Jersey does not categorize DWI as a crime. If the state called it a crime, it would be required to provide jury trials and plea bargaining with the prosecution. Since this is the case, judges side with the prosecution and jail otherwise law abiding individuals for six long months. The disruption of family life and professional life has no bearing on these onerous results. In fact, most judges could care less about any extenuating circumstances.

New Jersey has a provision in its code that allows a judge to allow a convicted third offender to request 90 days in rehab following the 90 days in jail. How generous is that? Not very. You are sentenced for committing a potential crime, since DWI itself is not a crime. The potential crime is that the driver could hurt others in an accident. Since when does any legal code call for jailing people for the potential of hurting someone?

Jailing people for the potential of hurting others could result in restaurant owners being jailed for serving liquor or bad food. It could result in houseware store owners being jailed for selling steak knives and gun shop owners would simply change their zip code to the nearest jail.

It is time to reform the legal code surrounding DWI in New Jersey. DWI defendants must have the same rights as other defendants. They must have their constitutional right to a trial with a jury of their peers enforced, and they should be punished according to the gravity of their delinquency. It is manifestly unjust to jail someone for six months for having two drinks.





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