The New Jersey driving under the influence (DWI) law has a carved out provision that holds passengers of motor vehicles accountable when the driver is found“under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug”.
According to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, a passenger of a motor vehicle that “permits another person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, …to operate a motor vehicle owned by him or in his custody or control or permits another to operate a motor vehicle…” is subject to the same penalties as the drunk driver.
However, the burden of proof required to be met by the State in prosecuting a case against the passenger under the above cited law is a little different (although not according to the plain reading of the statute itself).
According to the holding of State v. Skillman, 226 N.J.Super. (1998) the State has to establish an additional element of “knowledge”. In other words, the State has to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant passenger (owner or custodian) of the motor vehicle knew or reasonably should have known of driver’s impaired condition.
If you have been charged with allowing a impaired driver to operate your motor vehicle along the New Jersey roadways, contact an experienced New Jersey (NJ) DWI attorney Dan T. Matrafajlo for a free consultation to discuss your possible defenses.