If you are facing a DWI charge, you might be thinking about pleading guilty. Entering a guilty plea seems like the easy way out, and it doesn’t seem worth it to hire a New Jersey DWI lawyer.
While many people share these same thoughts, pleading guilty to a DWI in New Jersey is a huge mistake. Not only can it be costly, but it can negatively impact your life in many other ways as well. Here are 10 examples of why you should not plead guilty to a DWI in New Jersey:
Reason #1: You Will Pay Hundreds of Dollars in Fines and Fees
Pleading guilty to a DWI will result in hundreds of dollars in fines and fees. For a first offense, fines can be up to $400, and this increases up to $1,000 for repeat offenders. You will be responsible for paying various other fees as well—and these can add up to hundreds of additional dollars in financial responsibility.
Reason #2: You Will Pay Thousands of Dollars in Insurance Surcharges
The fines and fees for a DWI in New Jersey can pale in comparison to the increased insurance costs you will face with a drunk driving conviction on your record. If you plead guilty to your DWI, you will have to pay at least an additional $1,000 per year for each of the next three years. This can increase to $1,500 per year for repeat offenders.
Reason #3: You Will Lose Your Driver’s License For A While
If this is your first DWI charge, you will lose your driver’s license for up to six months—and then you will have to pay to get it back. If this is not your first DWI charge, you are facing at least a two-year driver’s license suspension. Without your driver’s license, you will need to pay for transportation to and from school or work (or rely on friends and family members for rides), and even things like going to the store or getting fast food can become things you have to plan in advance.
Reason #4: You Could Go to Jail
If you plead guilty to your DWI charge, this could also land you in jail. For first-time offenders, judges have the discretion to impose up to 30 days of jail time. Second-time offenders can face up to 90 days in jail, and third-time offenders can face up to 180 days. Contrary to popular belief, pleading guilty does not earn you favor with the judge. If you plead guilty, the judge will review the basic facts of your case and make a determination as to whether jail time is warranted.
Reason #5: You Could Face Additional Penalties
But wait, there’s more. In New Jersey, pleading guilty to a DWI can lead to other penalties as well. These include participating in screening, evaluation and education at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center (IDRC) and installing an ignition interlock device in each of your vehicles. You will need to meet both of these requirements at your own expense, which will add hundreds of dollars to the cost of your DWI. You may also be required to attend an outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation program in order to have your license restored after your suspension is over.
Reason #6: Your Test Results May Be Inadmissible
While the penalties for a DWI should be enough to convince you not to plead guilty, it is also important not to lose sight of the fact that you could have various defenses available. For example, your test results could be inadmissible.
This applies to both your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test and the field sobriety tests (FSTs). Breath, blood and urine samples can be unreliable for a host of different reasons, and there are many ways to challenge police officers’ observations during the FSTs as well.
Reason #7: The Prosecutor’s Office Might Not Have the Evidence it Needs to Convict You
If your test results are inadmissible in court, then the prosecutor’s office might not have the evidence it needs to convict you. The same is true if the police secured any evidence in violation of your constitutional rights. Additionally, even if the government’s evidence against you is admissible in court, it still might not be enough for prosecutors to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If prosecutors cannot prove your guilt, then there is no reason for you to plead guilty and accept consequences you could – and should – have avoided.
Reason #8: Even if You are Guilty, You May Be Able to Obtain a Reduced Sentence
But, let’s say you are guilty, and let’s say the prosecutor’s office can prove it. Does this mean that it is time to enter a guilty plea?
No, it does not. Even if prosecutors can prove that you were driving while intoxicated, you may still be able to obtain a reduced sentence by fighting your DWI in court. With all of the penalties discussed above, it is well worth fighting your DWI regardless of the circumstances involved.
Reason #9: A DWI Conviction Has Other Consequences As Well
In addition to statutory penalties, pleading guilty to DWI can also have various other negative consequences. We already touched on some of the transportation challenges, but this is really just the beginning. With a DWI on your record, you will find it more challenging to land many types of jobs, it could become more difficult (and more expensive) to get a loan or find a home, and you will be reminded of your DWI in various other aspects of your day-to-day life. Also, a DUI conviction can never be expunged and will be on your record forever.
Reason #10: You Owe It to Yourself to Get Help
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you owe it to yourself to get help. A DWI conviction can truly be life-changing. If you plead guilty, you will not be giving yourself a fair chance. A New Jersey DWI lawyer can help ensure that the consequences you face are no greater than necessary, and you can feel confident knowing that you are doing the right thing for yourself and your family.
Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey DWI Lawyer
Are you facing a DWI charge in New Jersey? If so, we encourage you to get in touch with us. To schedule a confidential consultation with a New Jersey DWI lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., call 877-435-6371 or contact us online now.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending DWI 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.