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DWI in New York with a New Jersey License: What You Need to Know

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Last updated 
October 11, 2021
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When you are accused of driving while intoxicated in the State of New York, you are forced to enter a maze of complicated laws and procedures, enough to make even a trained lawyer’s head spin. And if you happen to have been accused while holding a New Jersey license, things become even more confusing. In this article, we will explain exactly how having a New Jersey license will affect a DWI case in New York. We will also give you some valuable tips about how to best protect yourself if you are in this situation.

New York DWI Cases: A Tale of Two Proceedings

To understand how having a New Jersey license will affect your New York DWI case, you must first understand the two aspects of a New York DWI case. Those are the “criminal case” and the “administrative case.” When you are charged with a DWI offense in New York, you are being charged with committing a criminal offense. Unless you plead guilty, you will have a criminal trial where a judge and/or a jury will decide whether you are guilty and, if you are, how you should be punished. But there’s more. This is just the criminal portion of your case. 

There will also be an administrative case through the New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This is because for a DWI conviction in New York, it is mandatory that the offending driver’s license is suspended or revoked. So you will also have an administrative hearing where officials from the state’s DMV will decide if, and for how long your license should be suspended or revoked.

What Is the Process if You Have a New Jersey License?

If you have a New Jersey driver’s license, you will still have both a criminal case and an administrative case in New York. There is, however, a difference. Since you don’t have a New York driver’s license, the New York DMV will not technically have the authority to suspend or revoke your license. But they can suspend or revoke your driving privileges in the State of New York. This means you will be effectively banned from driving in New York, even though your license is still valid in another state.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. 

New York’s DMV, after suspending or revoking your New York driving privileges, will report to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission that you’ve been convicted of a DWI offense and that they have taken action against your driving privileges. The New Jersey authorities will then have the opportunity, through their own proceedings, to suspend or revoke your license consistent with New Jersey’s state laws.

The Interstate Driver’s License Compact (IDLC)

The Interstate Driver’s License Compact, or “IDLC,” is an agreement among 45 of the 50 states in the U.S. to communicate with one another when someone with an out-of-state license commits a traffic offense in one of their states. New York and New Jersey are two of these 45 states. This is why, when you are convicted of a DWI offense in New York and New York’s DMV takes action against your driving privileges, they will report it to New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission. New York even has a law, NY Veh & Traf L § 516 (2019), confirming that they will report your traffic offense to whichever state you are licensed in.

Though member states are to report traffic offenses to the state where the offending driver is licensed, the driver is not always able to be punished in their home state. Under the IDLC, the rule is that a member state will only be able to punish its licensed driver for an offense they committed in another state if that member state has on its books an offense that is “substantially similar” to the offense the driver was charged with in the other state. So, for New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission to be able to punish you for a DWI offense in New York, New Jersey would have to have a DWI offense that is substantially similar to whatever DWI offense you were charged with under New York’s state law. 

If you hold a New Jersey license and have been charged with a DWI in New York, you should know that the two states have fairly similar DWI offenses, meaning it’s likely that New Jersey will be able to justifiably punish you for a New York DWI offense. Even New York’s most unique DWI offense, “Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI),” was considered to be substantially similar to a New Jersey DWI offense by a New Jersey appeals court in the case of ​​Division of Motor Vehicles v. Lawrence.

So, the key takeaway is that the IDLC will compel the New York DMV to report your DWI to New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission if you are convicted in your New York case. Then, since New Jersey and New York have similar DWI laws, you will most likely receive administrative penalties in New Jersey.

How Does New Jersey Punish a New York DWI Offense?

So far, we’ve explained that your DWI case will consist of a criminal case in a New York criminal court and an administrative case at New York’s DMV. And thanks to the IDLC, New York’s DMV will report your conviction to New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission, who will look to suspend or revoke your license and hand down any other penalties they see fit.

But what sorts of penalties are you actually facing? 

The penalties you face will depend on which New Jersey offense is considered comparable to the New York offense you were convicted of. Remember that New Jersey will only be capable of handing down administrative penalties. New York will be handling your criminal case. The following drop-down list shows just some of New Jersey’s administrative penalties for various DWI offenses.


New Jersey Administrative Penalties for DWI/DUI Offenses

  • Alcohol-related DUI with BAC with 0.10% or greater OR Drug-related DUI
    • License loss: 7 months - 1 year
    • 12–48 hours in Intoxicated Driver Program
    • BAC 0.15% or greater: ignition interlock device during license suspension and 6 months - 1 year following restoration
  • Alcohol-related DUI with BAC equal to or greater than 0.08% but less than 0.10% OR based on observational evidence with or without a particular BAC
    • License loss: 3 months
    • 12–48 hours in Intoxicated Driver Program
  • 2nd DUI offense within 10 years
    • License loss: 2 years
    • 12–48 hours in Intoxicated Driver Program
    • Ignition interlock device during license suspension and 1-3 years following restoration
  • 3rd offense within 10 years of 2nd offense
    • License loss: 10 years
    • 12–48 hours in Intoxicated Driver Program
    • Ignition interlock device during license suspension and 1-3 years following restoration

Source: New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission


How to Protect Your New Jersey License in a New York DWI Case

The most effective way to protect your New Jersey license in a New York DWI case is to hire a skilled DWI defense attorney experienced in both New York and New Jersey law. Here are some ways an attorney can help.

Beating Your New York DWI Case

The first way an attorney can help to protect your New Jersey license is to help you beat your New York DWI case. Keep in mind that New York’s DMV will only report to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission after you are convicted of your DWI offense. This means that you can avoid your license being suspended or revoked by winning your DWI case. 

“Winning” in this case might mean either being found not guilty after a trial or pleading to a lesser offense. Of course, if you plead guilty to a lesser offense, your license still might be suspended or revoked, but it will be for a much lesser period than if you are found guilty of the more serious offense. It’s no secret that the law is complex, and criminal trials are incredibly complicated. An established DWI defense attorney can help you provide the best defense possible and achieve the best outcome possible given the circumstances of your case.

Defending You in Your New York Administrative Hearing

A second important way your attorney can help your situation is by defending you in the administrative portion of your DWI case. This is true for both the administrative portion in  New York and the portion in New Jersey. Recall that you will first have a proceeding through New York’s DMV where they will decide whether to suspend or revoke your New York driving privileges and for how long. Here, your attorney can help argue for leniency and special accommodations, such as a conditional license that lets you drive only to and from work. 

Defending You in Your New Jersey Administrative Hearing

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, your attorney can help in your hearing with New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission. The State of New Jersey provides that you can request a hearing to fight whatever administrative penalties the Commission might be considering in relation to your New York DWI conviction. At this hearing, your attorney can again fight for leniency and/or accommodations. Your attorney may also be able to protect your New Jersey license by arguing at your New Jersey administrative hearing that the New York offense you were convicted of is not substantially similar to a New Jersey’s DWI/DUI offense. Remember that under the IDLC, your home state can’t punish you unless the state’s law includes an offense substantially similar to the one you were convicted of. 

In an earlier section, we pointed out that New York’s and New Jersey’s DWI laws are so similar that ordinarily New Jersey will be able to hand down administrative penalties for a New York DWI conviction. But, that doesn’t tell the full story. There is an interesting but narrow exception your attorney could use to try and prevent the Commission from punishing you for your New York DWI conviction. The exception, which some courts have supported, is proving that your New York DWAI conviction was based only on a blood-alcohol percentage of .07% or less. Why does this matter? It’s because of the case, Division of Motor Vehicles v. Lawrence.

In an earlier section, we told you that a New Jersey appeals court found that New York’s unique DWAI-offense was similar enough to New Jersey’s DWI/DUI offenses to allow New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission to punish New Jersey drivers convicted of a DWAI in New York. The controversy in that case started because New York’s DWAI-offense is defined as driving with a BAC of .05% - .07%. The convicted driver in that case thought this was too different from New Jersey’s law, which defines a DWI/DUI as driving with a BAC of .08% or more. So, he said to the court that New Jersey shouldn’t be able to suspend his license because the IDLC requires that New Jersey have an offense that is substantially similar to the New York offense. And having a BAC of .05% - .08%, New York’s DWAI rule, is not similar to having a BAC of .08% or more, New Jersey’s DWI/DUI rule. 

The court disagreed. They pointed out that the driver’s BAC level is just one factor for New York’s DWAI offense. A driver can also be convicted of a DWAI-offense regardless of their BAC level if the officer felt he or she seemed too intoxicated or impaired to drive safely. The court went on to say this makes New York’s DWAI offense similar to New Jersey’s DWI/DUI offense, which also lets a driver be convicted of a DWI/DUI for driving while intoxicated even if their BAC level is technically acceptable. 

This is where we find a potential loophole.

The court’s ruling seems to imply that the New York and New Jersey offenses would be very different if the only reason someone was convicted of a DWAI-offense is because they had a BAC of .05% - .07%. If that were true, then under similar circumstances in New Jersey, they wouldn’t be breaking the law because in New Jersey, you can’t get a DWI/DUI if the only evidence is a BAC below .08%. That means New Jersey wouldn’t be able, under the IDLC, to punish a driver who could prove they were only convicted of a New York DWAI-offense because they had a BAC of .05% - .07%. This is a tricky argument to make, but it is an example of something your attorney can help you explore to give you a fighting chance at keeping your license and avoiding serious punishment.

A final point we should emphasize is that defending yourself requires not just an experienced attorney, but an experienced attorney who practices in both New York and New Jersey. The laws and procedures differ enough between the two states that it is to your advantage to have an attorney who can handle every aspect of your case from start to finish, regardless of which state’s legal system they will have to confront.

Read more about: First Time DWI or DUI in New Jersey


Frequently Asked Questions

Can New Jersey punish you criminally for a New York DWI?

Not if the offense was committed solely in the State of NY. When you are charged with a DWI in New York, your criminal case will be handled by New York’s court system. If you are convicted or plead guilty in New York, their DMV will contact New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission but only so that New Jersey can handle suspending or revoking your license and any other administrative penalties.

What happens if you refuse a breathalyzer in New York with a New Jersey license?

When you refuse a breathalyzer in New York, you are charged with a civil offense that is separate from any criminal DWI charges that might be brought. You will have an administrative hearing at New York’s DMV where they will determine whether you are guilty of this offense. If you are guilty, your New York driving privileges will be suspended or revoked, and your conviction will be forwarded to New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission. The Commission will then suspend or revoke your license consistent with New Jersey’s rules concerning breathalyzer refusal. You should consult an attorney who can help you fight this charge in New York and/or in New Jersey.

What if you plead guilty to a New York DWI with a New Jersey license?

If you plead guilty to your New York DWI offense, New York’s DMV will suspend your New York driving privileges and refer your case to New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission so they may move forward with suspending or revoking your license, provided there is a New Jersey offense substantially similar to the New York offense you were convicted of.

What if you are a New York resident with a New Jersey license?

Being a New York resident is not relevant when it comes to administrative proceedings for a New York DWI. The question is always what kind of driver’s license you have. With a New Jersey license, your administrative penalties will be handed down by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission if you are convicted of your New York offense.


Who Should You Contact?

If you or a loved one are involved in a New York DWI case, you may be facing severe consequences. To protect your New Jersey license, you will need to consult with a qualified DWI defense attorney capable of helping you in both your criminal and administrative cases. For decades the renowned attorneys at Rosenblum Law have successfully operated in both New York and New Jersey courtrooms and administrative hearings. Our first priority is securing the very best outcome for our clients. We stand ready to help you understand the process and defend yourself in your DWI case. E-mail or call 888-815-3649 for a free consultation.

Additional Resources

Author Bio

Adam H. Rosenblum

Founding Attorney Of Rosenblum Law

Adam H. Rosenblum is an experienced and skilled traffic violations and criminal defense attorney. Mr. Rosenblum provides expert and aggressive representation to those facing points on their drivers’ licenses and the associated fines and surcharges.

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