DUI in a School Zone in New Jersey – N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(g)
Blurry Car in School Zone

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in New Jersey is a serious offense. It is even more serious if a person accused of DUI in a school zone. Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(g), DUI in a school zone is a separate offense from DUI/DWI, with separate penalties. These penalties are usually added to those for a charge of DUI—in other words, those who drive intoxicated through a school zone can be charged with two violations. 

questionWhat is DUI In A School Zone?

A DWI in a school zone can be charged when a person drives intoxicated within 1,000 feet of a property that is used for school purposes. The property in question must be owned (or leased) by a New Jersey school board, elementary school, or secondary school. 

The offense does not apply in proximity to a nursery, pre-school, daycare center, college, junior college, university, or private adult vocational school. 

To be considered to have driven in a school zone, a person must have driven on a portion of a roadway that is contiguous to property that is a school under the N.J.S.A. 39:1-1. Any area with school crossings that children must use to get to school is also considered part of the school zone. These areas by law must be marked with school zone signs. 

finesPenalties and Fines

The punishment for a first offense of DUI in a school zone is up to 60 days in jail, a mandatory license suspension of 1 to 2 years, and a fine of $600 to $800. 

For a second offense, a person can be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail, a mandatory 4-year license suspension, and a fine of $1,000 to $2,000. He/she can also be required to perform up to 60 days of community service. 

See: Second DUI Offense in NJ?: What to Do

A third offense of school zone DUI can result in up to 180 days in jail, a 20-year license suspension, and a $2,000 fine. 

Remember: These penalties are in addition to the conviction for DUI!

It’s also important to remember that penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test are doubled if the person is also convicted of DUI in a school zone. 

how to beatHow To Beat DUI In A School Zone

New Jersey takes DUI seriously and beating a charge is not easy. The same is true of DUI in a school zone. A skilled attorney must evaluate the facts of the case to determine the best possible defense strategy. Recently, evidence has shown that NJ’s Alcotest results are not reliable indicators of how drunk a person was. As such, it may be possible to get such evidence thrown out. 

Often an officer’s observations—such as slurred speech, lack of coordination, the smell of alcohol, etc.—may be enough evidence to convict a driver of DUI. In these cases, an attorney may be able to discredit the officer. This can be done by revealing flaws in his/her memory of the events or submitting evidence of potential bias against the driver.

None of these strategies are likely to work without the help of an attorney. Anyone charged with DUI in a school zone should consult with an attorney to determine the right approach. 

case lawCase Law Analysis

In State v. Reiner, 850 A.2d 1252 (2004), the Supreme Court of New Jersey weighed whether a previous conviction for regular DUI (ie. DUI outside of a school zone) could be used as a previous conviction for the purpose of the step-up provision contained in DUI within a school zone. In other words, could a defendant who had once been convicted of a regular DUI be convicted of second-offense DUI within a school zone? The court, after considering the words of the statute and legislative intent, found that, no, a defendant could not be so convicted. A second-offense conviction for DUI within a school zone required a previous conviction for DUI also within a school zone. However, the court also found that, in situations like this defendant’s, a conviction for DUI within a school zone and a conviction for regular DUI would coincide. Further, the court was entitled to rely on, for sentencing purposes, the more serious offense. So a person once convicted of regular DUI and later convicted of DUI within a school zone could be sentenced under the second-offense DUI provisions.
The defendant in State v. Woollerton, Docket No. A-4017-14T4 appealed a refusal by prosecutors to allow him into the Pre-trial Intervention Program (PTI). He argued that the prosecutor’s failure to allow the defendant into PTI was a patent and gross abuse of discretion because it failed to adequately include a consideration of the defendant’s personal circumstances. The Appellate Division rejected this argument. They noted that the many aggravating factors in the offense, which included that the defendant had been drunkenly operating a motor vehicle in a school zone, rendered the decision more than reasonable. While this case is of limited use as precedent, it illustrates the principle that DUI in a school zone is considered a markedly dangerous offense and prosecutors can consider that fact when deciding whether or not to allow a defendant to participate in PTI.
As in Reiner (see above), the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division in State v. Wheatley, 149 A.3d 325 (2016) considered whether a person who was first convicted of DUI in a school zone and later convicted of regular DUI should be sentenced as a second-offender for the latter offense. In effect, it ruled in the reverse. The court found that, yes, an offender in Wheatley’s situation should be sentenced as a two-time offender. The reasons were similar to those found in Reiner, but not identical. Here, the court found that, by operation of law, being found guilty for DUI in a school zone required proof of regular DUI (since the latter is a lesser-included offense of the former). Therefore, a regular DUI following a conviction for DUI in a school zone implies the existence of two DUIs.
In State v. Cupo, No. A-5423-08T4, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, was faced with the argument that a conviction for DUI in a school zone was unfounded because it was based purely on the observations of the officer and a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading of 0.07 (less than the legal limit). The state rejected that argument. Citing State v. Johnson, the court noted that officer observations alone can ground a conviction for DUI offenses. The failure by the State to enter a blood test for a BAC of 0.08 or more does not disprove that someone committed DUI in a school zone.

Consequences for Out-of-State Drivers

In New Jersey, the penalties for DUI in a school zone are the same for all drivers regardless of which state they are from. In addition, depending on the state the driver is from, he/she may suffer additional penalties imposed by the home state. 

Drivers should never assume that just because a DUI takes place in another state that it will not affect them. New Jersey, like many states, is part of the Driver’s License Compact. This interstate agreement means that the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission will communicate any traffic convictions, including DUI, to the licensing authority of any out-of-state drivers. 

Be warned: New Jersey requires drivers to appear in traffic court themselves. In some instances, the court may make an exception for out-of-state drivers. These exceptions are hard to come by. If the court does allow it, the driver will need an attorney licensed in NJ to appear in his/her place.

juvenilesConsequences for Juveniles

Punishments for drunk driving in New Jersey include mandatory jail time and license suspensions. There is little leniency for a first DUI offense, especially when he/she was driving through a school zone. That said, alternative sentencing is possible, but it will require the help of a skilled defense attorney (see below). 

diversionEnrolling in NJ Diversionary Programs

A person under the age of 18 is classified as a juvenile in New Jersey. Juveniles (and those are under 21) are held to a higher sobriety standard since they are not allowed to drink alcohol at all. Underage drivers with a BAC of 0.01% to 0.07% can have their license suspended for 30 to 90 days. 

They may also be required to perform 15 to 30 days of community service. In addition, they can be ordered to attend an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center program and a safe driving program.

Those whose BAC is 0.08% or greater face the same penalties as an adult, including those for DUI in a school zone when applicable. 

diversionAlternative Sentencing

New Jersey is not lenient on those who drive drunk or on drugs, especially those who do so in a school zone. Those who are not able to beat a DUI charge should talk to their attorney about alternative sentencing. Thankfully, on first (and sometimes second) convictions, a judge may be willing to offer substitutes to jail time.

An alternative sentence allows an hour-for-hour exchange. Thus, a person who might otherwise have faced 60 days in jail could instead be remanded to 60 days in an inpatient rehabilitation facility, or 60 days of electronic monitoring. 

Other possibilities include weekend jail, which allows a person to work and take care of family during the weekdays. A person can also be ordered to participate in the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP). This would require a person to perform manual labor under the watch of law enforcement.

Judges are receptive to alternative sentencing when they can be convinced that the program in question will rehabilitate the driver and reduce the chances of driving intoxicated in the future. The specific program chosen will be at the discretion of the judge. 

FAQsFrequently Asked Questions

What is the DUI limit in NJ?

Drivers with a BAC of 0.08% can be charged with DUI in New Jersey. If the driver is under 21, the limit is 0.01%.

Is DUI a felony in NJ?

New Jersey classifies DUI as a traffic offense, not a criminal offense. However, can be punished as harshly (or worse) than some criminal offenses.

Can you be a teacher with a DUI in New Jersey?

A person applying for a teaching position in NJ can legally answer that he/she has not been convicted of a crime even if he/she has a DUI on record. However, that does not mean a person cannot lose a teaching position after a DUI.

Is jail time mandatory for a second DUI in NJ?

For second-offense DUI, at least 48 hours of jail time is mandatory. However, a judge may opt to allow the sentence to be served in an IDRC (Intoxicated Driver Resource Center), which treats substance abuse issues.

ContactWho Should I Contact?

If you or someone you love has been charged with DUI in a school zone in New Jersey, you need the help of a skilled attorney immediately. The attorneys at Rosenblum Law have helped many avoid the consequences and stigma that come with a DUI conviction. Email Rosenblum Law or call 888-815-3694 today for a free consultation about your case.

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