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New Jersey Now Allows Plea Bargaining in DUI Cases

January 31, 2024 | Posted In Drunk Driving |

A major change to New Jersey’s drunk driving statute is set to allow plea bargaining in DUI cases beginning in early 2024. Late last year, Governor Murphy signed bill S-3011/A-4800 into law, and its plea bargaining provisions take effect in February. This has huge implications for individuals who are facing drunk driving charges, and if you have a drunk driving case pending, you will want to speak with a New Jersey DUI lawyer as soon as possible.

Previously, the New Jersey courts prohibited plea bargaining in DUI cases. Since New Jersey does not have a diversion program for DUI cases, this meant that individuals facing drunk driving charges essentially had two options: accept responsibility or fight their DUI charge in court. Now, however, individuals who are at risk of facing the life-altering consequences of a DUI conviction can work with their lawyers to negotiate a plea—and potentially significantly mitigate the consequences of their arrest.

What You Need to Know About New Jersey’s 2024 DUI Plea Bargain Law

While plea bargaining in New Jersey DUI cases used to be prohibited, the amendments made under S-3011/A-4800 now expressly authorize drunk driving plea bargains. As amended, New Jersey’s DUI statute (Section 39:4-50) now states:

“Notwithstanding any judicial directive to the contrary, upon recommendation by the prosecutor, a plea agreement under this section is [specifically] authorized under the appropriate factual basis consistent with any other violation of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes or offense under Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes; provided, however, that if a person is convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug . . . or a person is convicted of operating a commercial motor vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance . . . the person shall forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of not less than six months.”

In other words, prosecutors now have the ability to recommend plea bargains in DUI cases, and given prosecutors’ substantial caseload, they will almost certainly be willing to consider plea bargains in appropriate cases. However, it is important to emphasize that a plea bargain is not guaranteed—it is up to the prosecutor to recommend a plea bargain to the court, and this means that it is up to the defendants to convince prosecutors that plea bargaining is warranted.

Also noteworthy is the fact that New Jersey’s revised drunk driving statute mandates a six-month driver’s license suspension in cases involving drug DUIs and commercial DUIs. This inherently suggests that a driver’s license suspension of less than six months, and perhaps no driver’s license suspension at all, may be appropriate in other cases. When you hire an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will be able to advise you whether seeking a plea bargain is in your best interests, and if so, your lawyer will be able to seek a favorable plea bargain on your behalf.

New Jersey Law Also Authorizes Plea Bargaining for DUI Refusals

In addition to authorizing plea bargaining in DUI cases, the amendments to New Jersey’s drunk driving statute now also authorize plea bargaining for DUI refusals. You can be charged with a DUI refusal if you do not take the breathalyzer during your traffic stop.

The language regarding plea bargains in DUI refusal cases is virtually identical to the language regarding plea bargains for DUIs. It allows plea bargaining “under the appropriate factual basis” and requires at least a six-month driver’s license suspension in cases involving drug DUIs and commercial DUIs. Since a DUI refusal is a “strict liability” offense—meaning that you can be convicted even if you weren’t aware of New Jersey’s implied consent law—the ability to negotiate a plea bargain will prove extremely important for many defendants going forward.

Should You Seek a Plea Bargain in Your New Jersey DUI Case?

Now that plea bargaining is permitted in New Jersey DUI cases (and DUI refusal cases), should you seek a plea bargain if you were arrested for driving under the influence? The short answer is, “It depends.”

While seeking a plea bargain will be the best option for many individuals who are facing DUI charges in New Jersey, you should not assume that negotiating a plea is the best option you have available. When you accept a plea deal, you are still accepting responsibility for violating the law. In other states where plea bargaining in DUI cases is permitted, plea bargains will often involve pleading guilty to reckless driving, which is commonly referred to as a “wet reckless.” In New Jersey, reckless driving convictions can lead to:

  • Fines and court costs
  • Jail time (up to 60 days for first-time offenders)
  • Five points on your driver’s license
  • Increased insurance premiums

If you have grounds to fight your DUI (and your DUI refusal, if necessary), you should not accept any of these consequences unnecessarily. In this scenario, instead of accepting a plea bargain, you should fight your case in court. While this may be more time-consuming and stressful in the short term, it is the best decision for you and your family in the long term.

To ensure that you are making informed decisions about how best to handle your DUI case, you should speak with a New Jersey DUI lawyer promptly. At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., our lawyers will advise you with your best interests in mind. If seeking a plea bargain makes sense, we will negotiate with the prosecutor’s office on your behalf. If you have grounds to fight your DUI (or your DUI refusal), we will fight by all means available.

Speak with a New Jersey DUI Lawyer in Confidence

For more information about New Jersey’s DUI plea bargaining law and personalized legal advice about your DUI case, contact us to arrange a confidential consultation. Call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can reach you online to speak with a New Jersey DUI lawyer as soon as possible.


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