When you get caught driving under the influence (DUI) in New Jersey, the government only has a limited amount of time to prosecute your case. This time limit is established by New Jersey’s statute of limitations for DUI. If the government does not commence prosecution before the statute of limitations expires, you are entitled to a dismissal regardless of the underlying facts of your case—and while there are no guarantees, an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer should be able to help you avoid a conviction.
But, while New Jersey’s statute of limitations for DUI can come into play in some cases, in practice, this is relatively rare. Still, it is good to know the statute of limitations for your case—and if you believe that the statute of limitations may have expired, this is definitely something you will want to discuss with your New Jersey DUI lawyer.
New Jersey’s Statute of Limitations for Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
So, what is the statute of limitations for DUI in New Jersey? To answer this question, we need to look at the Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation portion of the New Jersey Revised Statutes. This is because DUI is classified as a traffic offense in New Jersey—not as a crime.
The fact that DUI is classified as a traffic offense has a significant impact on the statute of limitations. While the criminal statute of limitations in New Jersey ranges from one to five years in most cases, the statute of limitations for traffic offenses is much shorter.
In fact, in most cases, the statute of limitations for traffic offenses is just 30 days. But, there are some exceptions, and one of these exceptions is for DUI. Under Section 39:5-3.b. of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, the statute of limitations for DUI is 90 days from the date of the offense.
This means that the government has 90 days from the date that you are driving drunk to commence prosecution. But this raises another important question: What does it mean to “commence prosecution” of a DUI case?
The answer to this question is the reason why the statute of limitations doesn’t come into play in most DUI cases. When you get a DUI ticket on the side of the road, this “commences prosecution” of your DUI case. In other words, once you receive a ticket, the government has already done everything it needs to do to prevent you from asserting the statute of limitations as a defense.
Facing Criminal Charges Related to a Drunk Driving Arrest in New Jersey
While New Jersey’s statute of limitations for DUI is 90 days, the statute of limitations for other drunk driving-related offenses can be much longer. This is because most other drunk driving-related offenses are classified as either disorderly persons offenses or indictable crimes. For disorderly persons offenses, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of the offense. For most indictable crimes, the statute of limitations is five years. This includes causing an accident resulting in bodily injury while driving under the influence, which is either a third-degree or fourth-degree indictable crime.
Statute of Limitations vs. Right to a Speedy Trial
Even if the statute of limitations doesn’t provide a defense in your DUI case, timing can still come into play. This is a result of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees defendants the right to a speedy trial. While there isn’t a specific definition of what constitutes a “speedy” trial, prosecutors have a duty to pursue DUI charges without unreasonable delay. The longer it takes prosecutors to bring your case to trial, the greater the likelihood that your New Jersey DUI lawyer will be able to raise the Sixth Amendment as a defense to prosecution.
Determining What Defenses You Have Available in Your New Jersey DUI Case
Along with the statute of limitations and the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, there are numerous other potential defenses to DUI charges in New Jersey. As a result, even if you received a ticket on the side of the road (which, again, means that you likely can’t use the statute of limitations as a defense), an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer may still be able to help you avoid unnecessary consequences as a result of your arrest.
Similar to the statute of limitations, there are other DUI defenses that apply even when you were clearly driving drunk at the time of your arrest. For example, if the police stopped you without reasonable suspicion or arrested you without probable cause, this violation may render the government’s evidence inadmissible in court. Without admissible evidence, prosecutors won’t be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, if your lawyer can show that prosecutors have improperly withheld evidence or engaged in any other form of prosecutorial misconduct, this may entitle you to a dismissal as well.
In short, there are many ways to fight a DUI charge in New Jersey, regardless of the facts of your case. Even if the statute of limitations doesn’t protect you, other provisions of the New Jersey Revised Statutes or the U.S. Constitution might. So, no matter what happens on the road, you should not give up hope, and you should not make any assumptions or decisions until you speak with an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer. You have too much at stake, and as long as you seek help in time, an experienced defense lawyer will be able to help you identify and assert defenses that you won’t be able to identify and assert on your own.
Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey DUI Lawyer in Confidence
Are you facing a DUI charge in New Jersey? To find out what defenses you have available, contact us to arrange a confidential consultation with a New Jersey DUI lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. Call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can reach you online now.