In New Jersey, most drivers are not at risk of indictable DUI offenses (which are equivalent to felonies in other states), even if they drive while impaired by alcohol. This is because drunk driving is a traffic offense in New Jersey, not a criminal offense.
The traffic offense is still a very serious one, which can result in the loss of your driver's license for 10 years and up to 180 days of jail time for repeat offenders. However, you usually won't face indictable charges -- even for repeat offenses.
There is, however, some risk to drivers of facing an indictable DUI. This can happen if you become involved in an accident that causes death or serious bodily injury to someone. It can also sometimes happen for repeatedly driving on a suspended license after a DUI conviction. New Jersey drunk driving attorneys should be consulted as soon as possible in this situation, because the stakes are much higher if you are charged with an indictable offense.
The Risks Associated With Indictable DUI Offenses
While a simple drunk driving arrest in New Jersey isn't going to lead to felony-like charges, this does not mean you don't need to be concerned about the risks associated with an arrest. From 2003 to 2013, 1,816 people were killed in New Jersey in crashes involving drunk drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you cause an accident that results in a death and the police believe you were intoxicated at the time, you could be charged with several different indictable crimes, including vehicular homicide. This is a second degree crime that could result in a possible penalty of 5 to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $150,000.
If an accident occurs and does not cause a fatality, a defendant could be charged with assault by auto. Assault by auto can be either a second-degree or third-degree indictable offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1c. There are a variety of factors affecting the charge, including whether you were in a school zone at the time of the incident. A DWI in a school zone that causes an assault by auto could result in five years of imprisonment and a fine of $150,000.
Causing a DUI accident is not the only time you could face indictable offense charges in connection with the DUI. According to N.J.S. 2C:40-26, a second conviction for driving with a license suspended due to DUI can result in an indictable offense charge (as can be the case even for a first conviction of driving while suspended for DWI if the DWI is a second or subsequent offense).
If you face such charges for repeatedly driving with a license that has been suspended because of a DUI conviction, the judge will be required to sentence you to imprisonment for at least 180 days and you could be jailed for as long as 18 months.
In these and other situations where you face the potential for indictable offense charges in connection with allegations of impaired driving, you are in serious legal trouble. In addition to a possible lengthy period of incarceration, you also face a criminal record if convicted.
This can affect employment opportunities and educational opportunities for the rest of your life. Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA attorneys can provide invaluable assistance in attempting to fight the life-changing charges that you face. Call our office today.