Californians visiting the East Coast should be careful about getting behind the wheel after having a drink. Despite the geographic distance between CA and New Jersey, getting charged with drunk driving can have serious consequences in the long run. A CA driver may be familiar with his/her home state’s DWI laws and the consequences of a conviction, but getting convicted of DWI in another state is a whole other matter. Here is what California drivers should know about getting charged with DWI while in New Jersey.
NJ DWI Will Show Up on a CA Driving Record
If a driver from California is convicted of DWI while in New Jersey, the CA DMV will be notified and the conviction recorded. The reason for this is that both NJ and CA participate in the Drivers License Compact (DLC), an interstate agreement among 45 states and D.C. to communicate details about each other’s drivers, including traffic convictions that occur within the member state.
CA Drivers Can Lose Their License over an NJ DWI
Only the state that issues a driver’s license has the authority to suspend or revoke it. However, that does not mean a CA driver is safe from a potential suspension. Once notified of an out-of-state DWI conviction, the California DMV may choose to suspend the license. States that participate in the DLC agree to consider suspending driving privileges of any driver who is convicted in another state of an offense that would result in a suspension at home. In addition, while New Jersey cannot suspend a CA license, it can choose to suspend a Californian’s right to drive within NJ upon conviction for a DWI there.
Other Fines and Penalties Are Determined by NJ
Only California’s DMV can opt to suspend a California driver’s license in response to a DWI conviction in NJ, but NJ can impose any other penalties ascribed to the offense. New Jersey charges steep fees and fines, and can sentence out-of-state drivers to time in county jail. Specific penalties include:
CA Auto Premiums Can be Impacted by a NJ DWI
Getting convicted of a DWI out of state does not hide it from one’s insurance carrier. Since CA will record the DWI on a person’s record, auto insurance providers will eventually see it and can adjust rates accordingly. Insurers base rates on the risks associated with various traffic offenses, not where they occur. As such, there’s no reason to assume that a DWI conviction in NJ will be taken more lightly than one that happened in CA. One study shows that a single DWI conviction can raise rates on CA drivers by as much as 43%. Those with less clean records or other factors can see an even steeper hike in premiums.
Remember: California maintains records of drunk driving convictions for 10 years. Even worse, New Jersey maintains records of all traffic convictions—including drunk driving—forever.
Must a CA Drivers Return to NJ to Fight a DWI Charge?
This will depend heavily on the court. New Jersey is strict about requiring individuals to appear in traffic court to defend charges. However, some courts will allow exceptions for drivers who live in another state. It is best to have an attorney who is licensed to practice law in NJ help a CA driver defend DWI charges. An experienced NJ traffic ticket attorney will know how best to increases the chance that a person will not be required to return to the state (although this is not guaranteed given the severity of the charge). Moreover, an attorney will know how to present one’s case in order to minimize consequences and hopefully avoid a conviction.
Adam H. Rosenblum, Esq. is principal attorney at The Rosenblum Law Firm, a traffic ticket and DWI law firm that practices in both New Jersey and New York. The Rosenblum Law Firm can help drivers from any state defend against drunk driving charges in New York or New Jersey.