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

March 8, 2024 | Posted In Drunk Driving |

As we recently discussed, New Jersey now allows plea bargaining in DUI cases. New Jersey previously had a ban on plea bargaining in DUI cases, and this left defendants with little choice but to fight their drunk driving charges in court regardless of the facts involved. Now, however, defendants have the option of seeking to avoid the inherent uncertainty of going to court by having their New Jersey DUI lawyer try to negotiate a plea to a lesser traffic offense.

But does this mean that you should seek a plea bargain in your New Jersey DUI case?

The answer to this question depends on several factors. While seeking a plea bargain will be the best option for some defendants, it won’t be the best option for others. You need to ensure that you are making informed decisions, and this starts with talking to an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer who can help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of each of the options you have available. Take note that a DUI conviction in New Jersey is never expungable in New Jersey because only crimes, disorderly and petty disorderly offenses and ordinances are expungable but not traffic offenses. So, a DUI conviction will stay on your record forever. Although considered a traffic offense in New Jersey, other States and countries may treat it as a crime (e.g. barred from entering Canada, barred from legally owning a firearm in some States, inability to get many jobs, etc.).

5 Important Considerations for Seeking a Plea Bargain in a New Jersey DUI Case

With this in mind, here are five important considerations for seeking a plea bargain in a New Jersey DUI case:

1. Did You Violate New Jersey Law?

One of the first key considerations any time you are facing a DUI charge in New Jersey is whether you violated New Jersey law. While some DUI cases are relatively straightforward, many are far more complicated than they initially seem. For example, the following factors (among many others) could mean that you are entitled to a “Not guilty” verdict in court:

  • You weren’t “operating a motor vehicle” when you got arrested;
  • Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increased between the time you were driving and the time you took the breathalyzer, or,
  • Your BAC was under the legal limit and you were not “under the influence” of alcohol or an intoxicating drug.

If you have a complete defense to your New Jersey DUI charge, you should not face any consequences as a result of your arrest. As a result, in this scenario, seeking a plea bargain may not be your best option. Instead, your best option may be to rely on your New Jersey DUI lawyer to expose the flaws in the government’s case and fight for a dismissal in court.  

2. Did the Police Violate Your Constitutional Rights?

Even if you were caught driving under the influence, you may still be entitled to dismissal of your DUI charge if the police violated your constitutional rights. For example, if the police violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on conducting a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion or making an arrest without probable cause, all of the evidence obtained subsequent to your traffic stop or arrest may be inadmissible in court. If your New Jersey DUI lawyer can keep the government’s evidence out of court, the prosecution won’t be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

While it might seem unlikely that the police would violate your constitutional rights, constitutional violations are more common than you might think. Police officers regularly make mistakes, and when facing a DUI charge in New Jersey, it is important to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the defenses you have available before you decide to seek a plea bargain.

3. Do Prosecutors Have the Evidence They Need to Convict You?

Regardless of whether the police violated your constitutional rights, prosecutors might still lack the evidence they need to secure a conviction. In New Jersey DUI cases, prosecutors must be able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutors handling your case don’t have the evidence they need to meet their burden of proof, then you are entitled to a “not guilty” verdict regardless of the facts at hand.

When you hire an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will be able to request the prosecution’s evidence before your trial. Your lawyer will then be able to assess the prosecution’s evidence to determine whether it is sufficient to prove your guilt in court. If it is sufficient, then seeking a plea bargain could be your best option. But, if it isn’t sufficient, you may be better off going to court and fighting to avoid consequences entirely.

4. Are You Prepared to Accept the Consequences of a Guilty Plea?

When you accept a plea bargain, this still involves pleading guilty to a violation of New Jersey law. In New Jersey, a reckless driving conviction carries the following penalties:

  • Fines and court costs
  • Five points on your driver’s license
  • Up to 60 days in jail for first-time offenders (more for repeat offenders)

As a result, before you decide to seek a plea bargain, it is critical to ensure that you are prepared to accept the consequences—and this generally means acknowledging that you have violated the law. If you haven’t violated the law, working with your lawyer to fight your DUI will most likely be the most cost-effective option.

5. Is Seeking a Plea Bargain Your Best Option?

Taking all of these considerations into account, you must decide: Is seeking a plea bargain your best option? As you can see, this isn’t necessarily an easy question to answer. Informed decision-making is critical, and this involves working closely with an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer who can carefully analyze the evidence and tell you everything you need to know.

Schedule a Confidential Initial Consultation with a New Jersey DUI Lawyer

Do you have questions about seeking a plea bargain in a New Jersey DUI case? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. Call 877-435-6371 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation today.

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Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.

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