Law Offices of Michael T. Nolan, Jr.

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Examining New Jersey’s Ten Year Step Down Rule

Most Ocean County residents likely understand how serious a drunk driving charge can be, and thus will try to avoid engaging in such activity at all costs. Yet despite this understanding, drunk driving arrests continue to occur in New Jersey and throughout the rest of the U.S. In fact, study information shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that in 2012, 1.5 percent of New Jersey adults surveyed admitted to having driven after drinking too much at some point during the previous month.

DUI offenses will typically carry with them the revocation of one’s license for a particular period of time along with the potential for fines, probation, or even jail time. Repeat offenses could bring even harsher penalties, even up to the point of losing one’s full driving privileges for multiple years. However, the state does provide a way to keep repeat drunk driving offenses from being overly punitive.

N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 describes what is commonly referred to as the state’s Ten Year Step-Down Rule. What this states is that if one is arrested and convicted of a second DUI offense, he or she will be treated by the court as a first-time offender provided that the subsequent conviction occurred more than 10 years after the first. The same holds true for third time convictions being downgraded to second-time offenses.

Many wonder what difference this makes when it comes to the penalty phase of a drunk driving case. For a first offense, one will typically only lose his or her license for 3 to 7 months. However, mandatory sentences for second-time offenders require a license suspension of two years. Third and subsequent convictions carry with them a revocation of 10 years. 

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