DUI in a School Zone

In general, all states provide for maximization of penalties when a driving offense involves a school bus or it is committed within a school zone. New Jersey is unique in establishing a law imposing stiff penalties for drunk driving and other serious traffic offenses when committed in the vicinity of a school or a school crossing. This law was intended to honor Filomena Coppola, a well-known and popular crossing guard who was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver while protecting two eight-year old girls at a crossing near Radcliffe Elementary School in Nutley, New Jersey. The law includes a comprehensive definition of a school zone, including school crossings, along with the enhanced penalties.

Under Filomena’s law, the penalties for driving while intoxicated in a school zone on or within 1,000 feet of a school crossing or school property are double those when in a non-school zone. A first offender is subject to a fine of $ 500 to $ 800, possible imprisonment for up to 60 days, and loss of a driver’s license for up to two years. The penalties for a second offense in a school zone include a fine of not less than $ 1,000 or more than $ 2,000, community service for a period of 60 days, imprisonment of up to 180 days, and loss of a driver’s license for up to four years. A third offense will result in a $ 2,000 fine, imprisonment of up to 180 days, and suspension of one’s license for up to 20 years.

The law also doubles the penalties imposed on a person convicted of refusing to consent to a breathalyzer test in connection with an offense committed on or within 1,000 feet of school property or a school crossing. These penalties are independent of the penalties imposed for a drunken driving conviction. The fine imposed ranges from $ 600 to $ 2,000, and the period of license suspension is up to two years for a first offense, four years for a second offense, and 20 years for a third or subsequent offense.

Finally, Filomena’s law imposes mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for persons who are found guilty of driving while on or within 1,000 feet of school property or a school crossing when their licenses have been suspended or revoked for drunk driving. Equally draconian are the penalties for vehicular homicides occurring within a school zone.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.