If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in New Jersey, there are many things you need to know. This is because facing a DUI charge in New Jersey is a very big deal. A conviction could mean jail time, fines and other penalties—and it is crucial that you rely on the advice of an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer to make smart decisions.
This is true regardless of the facts of your case. Even if you believe you are innocent, you must still present an effective defense to avoid a conviction. If you think you are guilty, you have defenses available, and carefully protecting your legal rights will be essential for avoiding unnecessary consequences.
7 Key Facts to Know After a DUI Arrest in New Jersey
With this in mind, here is an overview of seven key facts to know when facing a DUI in New Jersey:
1. Once You Get Arrested for DUI, the Clock Starts Ticking
Once you get arrested for DUI, the clock starts ticking. Your arraignment will be set, and you will need to make plans to show up in court on time. The only exception is if you hire a New Jersey DUI lawyer promptly and your lawyer is able to get your arraignment waived.
If you miss your DUI arraignment, you can be charged with failure to appear. While the judge may give you a second chance by issuing a failure to appear notice, the judge may also issue a bench warrant for your arrest. The judge can also suspend your driver’s license.
As a result, if you are facing a DUI in New Jersey, it is important that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you prepare for your arraignment or seek to have your arraignment waived. Your lawyer can also represent you in court—and speak to the judge on your behalf so that you don’t say anything that could jeopardize your defense.
2. There is a Big Difference Between an Excuse for Driving Drunk and a Defense to DUI
Speaking of your defense, it is important to understand that there is a big difference between an excuse for driving drunk and a defense to DUI. While there are lots of excuses for why you may have ended up behind the wheel, very few of these excuses will serve to protect you in court.
Unfortunately, there are lots of misconceptions out there. While you might hear or read about a potential DUI defense strategy, there is a good chance that this “defense” doesn’t actually work. If you try to rely on one of these “defenses” in court, you could give prosecutors the opportunity to use your own words against you.
3. There Are Many Potential Defenses to DUI Charges in New Jersey
While you need to be careful to avoid relying on excuses that don’t protect you, there are various valid defenses that an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer may be able to argue on your behalf. With that said, the specific defenses that you can assert will depend heavily on the facts of your case. To determine what defenses you have available, your lawyer will critically assess the answers to questions such as:
- Why did the police pull you over?
- What did (and didn’t) the police say during your DUI stop?
- Were there any issues with the breathalyzer device?
- Were there any issues with the field sobriety tests (FSTs)?
- What evidence do prosecutors have in their possession?
The answers to these questions—among many others—will be critical for determining the best way to approach your DUI charge. While your lawyer will rely on you to provide as much information as possible, your lawyer will also be able to conduct an investigation and use the discovery process to gather any additional information that is necessary.
This raises another important point: When you are facing a DUI charge in New Jersey, it is up to you (and your lawyer) to determine what defenses you have available. Prosecutors aren’t going to tell you how to defend against their case, and it isn’t the judge’s role to help you. If you are going to avoid unnecessary consequences, it is going to be because you took action to protect yourself.
4. Inadmissible Evidence Won’t Be Kept Out of Court Automatically
In New Jersey DUI cases, a key defense strategy often involves keeping inadmissible evidence out of court. If prosecutors can’t use the evidence they have in their possession, they won’t be able to secure a conviction. Evidence can be deemed inadmissible for various reasons, including (but not limited to):
- The police stopped you without “reasonable suspicion.”
- The police arrested you without “probable cause.”
- Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading or FST results are unreliable.
- The police interrogated you in custody without reading your Miranda rights.
- Prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence in violation of your constitutional rights.
Even if the prosecution’s evidence is clearly inadmissible, however, it won’t be kept out of court automatically. Instead, you will need your New Jersey DUI lawyer to file a motion to suppress on your behalf—and convince the judge that your motion should be granted.
5. The Prosecution Has the Burden of Proof
While you need to defend yourself, it is also important to keep in mind that the prosecution has the burden of proof. This means that you do not need to prove you are innocent. Instead, the prosecution must prove that you are guilty.
If prosecutors cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then you are entitled to have your DUI charge dismissed. As a result, if your New Jersey DUI lawyer can successfully challenge even a single element of the government’s case, this could be enough to save you from a conviction.
6. Prosecutors in New Jersey Handle (and Win) DUI Cases Every Day
But, even though prosecutors have the burden of proof, they still regularly secure convictions in DUI cases. Prosecutors handle these cases every day, and many have decades of experience winning “Guilty” verdicts in court.
A big part of why prosecutors are often able to secure DUI convictions is that they have two ways to prove a violation of New Jersey’s DUI law. Under Section 39:4-50 of the New Jersey Statutes, prosecutors can secure a conviction if they can prove either:
- You were operating a motor vehicle “while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug;” or
- You were operating a motor vehicle “with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more by weight of alcohol in [your] blood.”
Prosecutors do not need to prove both. As a result, disputing your BAC reading (or keeping it out of court) won’t necessarily be enough on its own. Likewise, even if you were driving safely, a high BAC is enough to justify a conviction. When you hire an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will thoroughly assess the facts of your case and build a defense strategy that addresses all of the issues that need to be addressed in order to defend you effectively.
7. There Are Lots of Ways an Experienced New Jersey DUI Lawyer Can Help You
From evaluating the facts of your case to representing you in court, there are lots of ways an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer can help you. For example, in addition to everything we’ve discussed above, an experienced lawyer will also be able to help you by:
- Determining if you are facing any additional charges on top of your DUI;
- Helping you avoid costly mistakes during your DUI case (and deal with any mistakes you have already made);
- Protecting your legal rights during your DUI case—including your right to obtain exculpatory evidence and have inadmissible evidence suppressed from trial;
- Making sure you understand the specific penalties you are facing as well as the collateral consequences of a conviction for your specific charge (or charges); and,
- Communicating with prosecutors and the judge on your behalf to help you achieve a favorable outcome in light of the circumstances at hand.
Due to the challenges and risks involved with facing DUI charges in New Jersey, if you have been arrested for drunk driving, it is strongly in your best interests to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. During your initial consultation, your lawyer will help you understand your situation and make informed decisions about your next steps.
Speak with a New Jersey DUI Lawyer About Your Case
If you need to speak with a New Jersey DUI lawyer, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To schedule an initial consultation at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. as soon as possible, call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can reach you online now.