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DUI/DWI Defense

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If you have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) in New Jersey, it is important to understand what you are up against. Potential jail sentences start at 30 days for a “standard” first-time offense (though it is often possible to avoid jail time); and, if you caused an accident or have a history of drunk driving arrests, the consequences of your arrest could be far more severe.

Although DUI/DWI is considered a traffic violation (as opposed to a crime) in New Jersey, and although your case will be heard in municipal (rather than criminal) court, facing drunk driving charges is still an extremely serious matter. Even if you avoid jail time, you will be facing loss of your driver’s license; fines, surcharges and other financial penalties; mandatory alcohol education; and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for a minimum of 6 to 12 months. Then, there is the fact that you are not entitled to a trial by jury (which means that a judge will determine your guilt and sentencing); and, if you are convicted, your DUI/DWI will not be eligible for expungement.

With these considerations in mind, if you are facing a DUI/DWI charge, you need to hire an experienced DUI lawyer.

DUI vs. DWI in New Jersey

Some states distinguish between the offenses of DUI and DWI. New Jersey does not. Instead, Section 39:4-50 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes establishes the singular offense of “driving while intoxicated,” which prosecutors can prove in two different ways. Under Section 39:4-50, it is a traffic offense to:

“[O]perate[] a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating [alcohol or drugs] or operate[] a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration [BAC] of 0.08% or more.”

In other words, you can be found guilty of DUI/DWI if you are driving “under the influence” or if you have a BAC of 0.08 percent or above. This means that the prosecution can prove your guilt without evidence of your level of intoxication. Moreover, individuals charged with DUI/DWI will often face additional charges for:

  • Driving under the influence with a minor as a passenger
  • Possession of an open container
  • DUI with injury or death by auto
  • Refusing to consent to a breath test (an “implied consent violation” or “DUI refusal”)

Understanding New Jersey’s Implied Consent Law

By driving on New Jersey’s public roads, you give your consent to submit to a breath test in the event that the police stop you on suspicion of DUI/DWI. This is what is known as New Jersey’s “implied consent” law, and it is found in Section 39:4-50.2 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes:

“Any person who operates a motor vehicle on any public road. . . in [New Jersey] shall be deemed to have given his consent to [a breath test] to determine the content of alcohol in his blood; provided, however, that the taking of samples is made . . . at the request of a police officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that such person has been operating a motor vehicle [while intoxicated].”

If you refuse to consent to a breath test during a DUI/DWI traffic stop without justification, you can be charged with an implied consent violation or DUI refusal, and you can face penalties including driver’s license suspension, fines and other costs regardless of if you are ultimately convicted of DUI/DWI.

Defenses to DUI/DWI and DUI Refusals

When deciding whether to hire a DWI lawyer, in addition to considering the potential consequences, it is also important to consider the defenses you have available. There are numerous potential defenses to DUI/DWI charges in New Jersey, and our defense lawyers may be able to protect you by asserting defenses that arose before, during or after your DUI/DWI arrest. Some of the potential defenses to DUI/DWI charges in New Jersey include:

  • Breath test faults, calibration errors and misinterpretations
  • Procedural mistakes during your traffic stop
  • Violations of your constitutional rights
  • Mistaken refusal (inability to register a reading on the Alcotest)
  • Improper administration of field sobriety tests or misinterpretation of performance
  • Medical condition causing impairments similar to intoxication
  • “False positive” breath test result
  • Other factual and legal defenses (i.e. you were not “operating” a vehicle at the time of your arrest)

In order to determine the most-effective defense strategy for your case, we will need to get many of the facts about your case from you. As a result, you should write down everything you remember about your arrest and try to be as comprehensive and detailed as possible.

5 Key Facts About Defending Against a DUI/DWI Charge in New Jersey

1. You Can Lose Your License.

For a first-time DUI/DWI, you can lose your license for three months. As a repeat offender, you can lose your license for 2 to 10 years. If you violated New Jersey’s implied consent law, you can lose your license for up to 12 months (for a first-time offense) even if you were not driving while intoxicated.

2. You Can Lose Your Freedom.

In New Jersey, all DUI/DWI charges carry the potential for jail time. The imposition of jail time is subject to the judge’s discretion.

3. The Consequences of a DUI/DWI Conviction Can Last a Lifetime.

Beyond your sentence in Municipal Court, the practical consequences of a DUI/DWI conviction can last a lifetime. Your conviction will not be eligible for expungement and having a DUI/DWI on your record can exclude you from consideration for many types of employment.

4. Even if You Were Drunk, You Still May Not Be Guilty.

Even if you were indisputably drunk when the police detained you, you could still be entitled to a “not guilty” verdict at court. Many of the defenses to DUI/DWI have nothing to do with your level of intoxication.

5. An Experienced DWI Lawyer Can Help.

Regardless of the circumstances at hand, an experienced defense lawyer can help mitigate the consequences of your DUI/DWI arrest. From helping you make smart decisions to fighting for your freedom at trial, an experienced DWI lawyer will be able to use his or her knowledge to protect you against unjust punishment.

Request an Initial Consultation With a DUI Lawyer Right Away

For more information about defending against a DUI/DWI charge in the Municipal Court, please contact us to schedule an initial consultation. To speak with one of our experienced defense attorneys in confidence, call 908-782-5317 or tell us how to reach you online now.

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