DUIs carry steep penalties in New Jersey. To make sure the consequences of your DUI arrest are no greater than necessary, you need to defend yourself by all means available. Unfortunately, when some people think they are defending themselves, what they are actually doing is helping to seal their conviction. To make sure you don’t make these same mistakes, you need to rely on the advice and representation of an experienced New Jersey DUI defense lawyer.
What are we talking about? Here are 10 common “defenses” that DUI defendants frequently try to use when representing themselves in court:
1. “I Didn’t Realize I Was Too Drunk to Drive.”
In New Jersey, it doesn’t matter whether you realized you were too drunk to drive. If you admit that you were drinking and driving, this is all prosecutors will need to secure a conviction. While “intent” is an element of some criminal offenses in New Jersey, it is irrelevant to a charge for DUI.
2. “I Only Had One Drink At the Party.”
One drink can be enough to put you over the legal limit. Depending on your body composition and other factors, having one drink could be enough to increase your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), or it could impair your driving abilities enough that it is dangerous for you to be behind the wheel.
3. “I Waited Hours Before Getting Behind the Wheel.”
Similarly, waiting to get behind the wheel isn’t a defense if your driving abilities are still impaired when you eventually decide to drive. While you might think this makes you look responsible, what it actually does is confirm that you were drinking before you got pulled over.
4. “Even Though My BAC was High, My Driving Abilities Weren’t Impaired.”
Let’s say your BAC was above 0.08 percent, but you were still fully capable of driving. Does this get you off of the hook? In New Jersey, the answer is a clear “No.” Under New Jersey’s DUI law, you can be convicted of DUI for driving with a high BAC or driving while impaired. This means that if your BAC was above the legal limit, it doesn’t matter whether you could still keep your vehicle under control.
5. “The Police Officer Didn’t Tell Me I Could Refuse the Field Sobriety Tests.”
If you took the field sobriety tests and only realized after the fact that you had the right to refuse, you might be thinking that this is your “get out of jail free” card. Unfortunately, it isn’t. While you have every right to refuse the field sobriety tests, the police don’t have to tell you this on the side of the road.
6. “I Didn’t Have Any Other Way to Get Home.”
Driving drunk because you didn’t have another choice is not a defense. Prosecutors won’t feel bad for you, and the judge won’t go easy on you because you are acknowledging your mistake.
7. “My Designated Driver Left Without Me.”
This “defense” is similar to the previous one, and it fails for the same reasons. Saying that “My designated driver left without me,” is effectively an admission that you got behind the wheel despite knowing that you were too drunk to drive. The fact that you tried to do the right thing by arranging for a designated driver does not excuse your later decision to drive with alcohol in your system.
8. “The Police Officer Stopped Me for a Broken Taillight.”
The police can arrest you for driving under the influence regardless of why they pull you over. Whether the police stop you for a broken taillight, running a stop sign, speeding or drifting onto the shoulder, if they observe signs of alcohol consumption or impairment during your traffic stop, they can conduct the breath test and field sobriety tests—and then book you for DUI.
9. “I Had Pulled Over to the Side of the Road.”
This scenario is more common than you might think. Someone pulls over after realizing they are too drunk to drive, and then they still end up getting arrested for DUI.
Even if you were not driving when the police encountered you, you can still be found guilty of DUI under New Jersey law. This is because New Jersey’s DUI law does not apply specifically to “driving,” but rather to “operating” a motor vehicle. Additionally, if you are on the side of the road and the only way you could have gotten there is by driving, this could still give prosecutors everything they need to secure a drunk driving conviction in court.
10. “I Am Exercising My Right to Remain Silent.”
While it is important to exercise your right to remain silent after a DUI arrest, there is a time and place to do it. If you show up in court and refuse to say anything, prosecutors will move forward with their evidence—and they will most likely present a compelling case that convinces the judge you are guilty. To avoid a conviction at trial, you need to present a compelling defense, and this involves challenging the prosecution’s evidence, exposing any police misconduct, and showing the judge that the prosecution hasn’t proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
To be clear, these 10 “defenses” don’t work. In fact, they aren’t defenses at all. Instead, if you try to make any of these arguments during your DUI case, you will be giving the prosecution a gift, and you can expect the prosecution to use your own words against you.
Get Help from an Experienced New Jersey DUI Defense Lawyer
If you are facing a DUI charge in New Jersey, you need to make smart decisions about your defense. This starts with hiring an experienced New Jersey DUI defense lawyer to represent you. Trying to handle your case on your own simply isn’t worth it. To get started with a confidential initial consultation at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., call 877-435-6371 or tell us how you would like to be contacted online now.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending DUI cases as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our site, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.