The Senate voted 29-4 in favor of the bill, A1368 sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden), which allows most first offenders to keep driving. However, they would have to outfit their cars with a device that requires a Breathalyzer-type test to start the engine.
Under current law, first offenders in New Jersey face a license suspension of three to 12 months, depending on how high their blood alcohol level is above the .08 percent legal limit. Second- and third-time offenders are handed more time and can be ordered to use the interlocking ignition device. A mandatory alcohol-awareness class also is required.
Under the proposed law, first offenders would keep their licenses, but would have to rent the ignition lock and have it reviewed monthly to see if they attempted to start their vehicle while legally drunk. The length of time they must use it is based on how high their blood alcohol level was at the time of arrest.
Scutari, also a municipal prosecutor in Linden, told New Jersey Monthly in December, “I’ve seen people get sentenced to DWIs in my court over the years, then walk down the street, get in the car and leave. They are not being punished, they are risking a lot and the public is put at risk.”
The bill now goes to Governor Chris Christie for consideration. Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts told NJ.com that it "will receive careful review in the 45 days prior to the deadline for action."
Mothers Against Drunk Driving is among the groups that support the change in New Jersey law.