TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey became the 34th state in the country to mandate ignition interlock devices for all drunk-driving offenders, that includes those convicted for their first offense. 

The mandate is part of a new state law which has revised penalties for drunk driving and expanded the use of ignition interlock devices (IID).

An IID is a device that detects alcohol from breath samples it takes from the driver. If alcohol is detected, the vehicle’s engine will not start.

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The law actually loosens overall penalties and suspension as New Jersey seeks to allow offenders to be able to drive to work and live normally. Convicted drivers are required to blow a sober breath sample before the car will start. 

“We must deter drunk driving without negatively impacting individuals’ ability to take care of themselves or their families," Governor Murphy said after signing the legislation late last week. "License suspensions are an imperfect tool for accomplishing both aims, as they do not stop drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and they can prevent ex-offenders from supporting their livelihoods. In contrast, ignition interlock devices prevent drunk driving while allowing ex-offenders to support themselves and their families.”

The law requires that first-time offenders install ignition interlock devices, which they will have to pay for.

Previously only repeated offenders and those with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15% or greater were required to use the device. This law applies to all with legal limit of 0.08% and also applied automatically to those who refuse to submit to a breath test after being pulled over.

For first-time offenders with BAC of 0.08 to 0.10%, the ignition interlock will have to be used for six months following the license suspension of 30 days (previously three months).

For offenders with a BAC of 0.10 to 0.15%, the device must be used for six months to a year following a license suspension of 45 days (previously seven months to a year).

For offenders with a BAC higher than 0.15%, the device must be used for one year to 18 months after the license suspension of 90 days.

“Drunk driving is a serious issue in New Jersey,” Senator Scutari (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union) said. “Having been a prosecutor for 16 years, my experience is that the use of ignition interlocks is the best way to safe guard our roads while also allowing minor offenders to continue their employment.”

“The numbers show that requiring the installation of an ignition interlock device is the most effective way to prevent repeat offenses and ultimately reduce deaths caused by drunk driving,” Senator Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic) said. “You simply cannot drive drunk with one in your vehicle because the engine will not even start if you are intoxicated. This law will make our roads safer to travel for all of our residents.”

Offenders that do not own, lease or operate a vehicle will be required to attest to this in court and their license will be suspended for a period of time equal to the IID installation period.