A bad news ruling for a New Jersey school zone DWI offense
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently took a liberal view of the 1000 foot school zone DWI offense. A driver who is convicted of drunk driving within 1000 feet of school property is subject to enhanced penalties. A first offense of drunk driving in a school zone requires a fine ranging from $606.00 to $1,006. A jail term of not more than 60-days is mandatory. In addition, the driver must lose his or her driving privileges for a period ranging from one and two years. N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(g)(3).
DWI in a school zone is a strict liability offense. This means it is not necessary that the prosecution prove that the driver was aware that he was driving within 1000 feet of a school zone. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently held, in State v. McDonald, that the school zone should be measured from the outer boundary of school property or a church/school even if the school is outside the radius. Thus, the 1000-foot radius extends from the boundary of the property and not the footprint of the school itself.
In a prosecution for a school zone DWI, the state must prove that the driving under the influence occurred within 1000 feet of an elementary or secondary school. The actual distance that the driver was from the school can be proved by the use of a map showing the location and boundaries of the area on or within 1000 feet of the school property.