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New Jersey DUI Lawyers

There's a Lot at Stake After a DWI Arrest. Let a New Jersey DUI Lawyer from Our Firm Help

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in New Jersey, you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of your present circumstances. For example, did you know that you are not entitled to a trial by jury? Did you know that the judge could order jail time for a first offense, and that jail time is mandatory for repeat offenders? Did you know that you could be facing thousands of dollars in fines, costs and insurance surcharges? Without the help of a New Jersey DUI lawyer, there are too many circumstances that put your freedom in jeopardy. 

There are many potential consequences to a drunk driving arrest in New Jersey. Fortunately, there are also several potential defenses. Our DUI defense lawyers provide experienced and aggressive legal representation for clients facing DUI charges throughout the state. If you have been charged with DUI (or DWI), you simply cannot afford to face the judge on your own (or, worse, miss your court date). You need to take your situation seriously, and this starts with hiring serious legal representation.

What are Drunk Driving Offenses in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, there is no distinction between “driving under the influence” and “driving while intoxicated.” These terms are used interchangeably, and they describe the traffic offense outlined in Section 39:4-50 of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code. Under Section 39:4-50, it is illegal to “operate[] 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.”

As a result, even though the law only establishes one drunk-driving offense, there are actually two ways a person can be charged with DUI. First, you can be charged with DUI if you are “under the influence” of alcohol regardless of your BAC. Second, you can be charged if your BAC is 0.08 percent or above, regardless of whether the alcohol has an influence on your driving capabilities.

In addition to being charged with DUI, individuals arrested for drunk driving in New Jersey will often face charges for additional offenses such as:

  • 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 (“implied consent” violations)
  • Underage drunk driving (under New Jersey’s “zero tolerance” law)

Penalties for Drunk Driving in New Jersey

The range of potential penalties for DUI is determined based upon (i) the alleged offender’s DUI history, and (ii) whether there were any aggravating factors involved in the arrest. For example, for a first-time “standard” DUI, the potential penalties include:

  • $200 to $400 in fines
  • Insurance surcharges
  • Indefinite forfeiture of license
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for 3 months
  • 12 to 48 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • School zone offenses eliminated
  • The other penalties listed above

Learn more about the penalties for DUI in New Jersey.

A New Jersey DUI Defense Lawyer Explains the “Implied Consent” Law 

New Jersey is among the states that has a law commonly known as “implied consent.” Under the state’s implied consent law, if the police stop you on suspicion of DUI, you are legally-required to submit to a breath test (the Alcotest, also commonly known as a “breathalyzer”). If you take the test as required, the prosecutor’s office can use your BAC against you in court. If you refuse to blow, you can be charged with an implied consent violation in addition to facing charges for drunk driving. Since this is a separate offense, you can be penalized for an implied consent violation even if you are not convicted of DUI. The penalties for implied consent violations are severe, and in certain respects even exceed those for a first-time DUI.

Potential Defenses to Drunk Driving 

What are the potential defenses to a DUI in New Jersey? There are several; but, once again, the defenses available in your case will depend on the unique facts and circumstances involved. Some of the possible defenses to DUI and implied consent violations include:

  • Breathalyzer machine errors – The Alcotest is a complex piece of machinery that must be carefully calibrated and properly maintained. These devices can malfunction and issue “false positives” for high BACs; and, if this happened in your case, your BAC test results may be inadmissible in court.
  • Police procedural mistakes – Police officers must follow numerous specific procedures when conducting traffic stops, making arrests and administering breath tests. When they fail to follow these procedures exactly, their failures can provide defenses in court.
  • Instructions in English – Among the procedures that police must follow, when you are stopped for DUI, the arresting officer must explain your rights under the implied consent law in language you can understand. If you were not provided instructions in your native language, you may be entitled to have your implied consent law violation dismissed.
  • Mistaken refusal – In order for the Alcotest to work properly, you must blow into it strongly and for a long period of time. If you have a serious medical condition that prevents you from blowing enough air into the machine, you may be able to assert a mistaken refusal defense.
  • Field sobriety test issues – Unlike the breath test, you are not required to submit to field sobriety tests (FSTs) in New Jersey. If you agreed to perform the one-leg stand, walk-and-turn or horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, our attorneys may be able to challenge the arresting officer’s testing procedures or interpretation of your performance.
  • Medical conditions – If you suffer from a medical condition that can cause driving impairments similar to intoxication or that can make it difficult to “pass” the FSTs, your illness or injury may provide a defense to DUI.
  • Constitutional violations – The U.S. Constitution provides numerous important protections to citizens that apply during DUI traffic stops and arrests. If the police violated your Constitutional rights, we can use their violation to help protect you.

FAQs: Defending Against a New Jersey DUI

Is there a difference between DUI and DWI in New Jersey?

No. In New Jersey, the crimes commonly referred to as DUI and DWI in other states are both charged as traffic offenses under the same statute, and they carry the same potential penalties.

What should I do after a DUI arrest?

After a DUI arrest, the single most important thing you can do is ask to speak with a lawyer. An experienced DUI lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights and help you avoid costly mistakes that could make it much harder to defend against your DUI and implied consent charges at trial.

What are my rights after a DUI arrest?

If you have been arrested for DUI, you have several important legal and Constitutional rights. These include the right to remain silent and the right to speak with an attorney. You should assert these rights and politely refuse to answer any questions until you have legal representation.

Will my license be suspended?

Potentially, yes. Driver’s license suspension is a penalty for DUI and for violating New Jersey’s implied consent law.

What else can I expect during my DUI case?

The first major step in a New Jersey DUI case is the arraignment. This is your first court date, and you need to attend unless your attorney advises you otherwise. After your arraignment, your case will go through a number of steps before being resolved by motions or at trial.

What do I need to know if I am a repeat offender?

If you have a previous DUI conviction on your record, you could be facing enhanced penalties. A second DUI within 10 years carries enhanced fines, a two-year driver’s license suspension and a jail sentence of two to 90 days. A third DUI within 10 years carries enhanced fines, a 10-year driver’s license suspension and a 180-day jail sentence (which can be reduced with inpatient treatment).

Can a DUI conviction be expunged?

No. In New Jersey, DUIs are not eligible for expungement. However, in limited circumstances, our attorneys may be able to help you file for post-conviction relief.

How will a DUI conviction impact my auto insurance?

If you are convicted of DUI, your insurance will be impacted. Note that the state charges a surcharge of $3,000. For a third or subsequence offense within three years, this can be increased to $4,500.

How will a DUI conviction impact my commercial driver’s license (CDL)?

If you receive a DUI conviction and you hold a CDL, your CDL will be suspended for a year for a first-time offense; and, for a second offense, your CDL will be permanently revoked. This is the case whether or not you were operating a commercial vehicle at the time of your arrest.

How can a DWI lawyer help with my arrest if I was driving drunk?

While challenging the state’s evidence of intoxication is one way to defend against a DUI charge, many DUI defenses focus on procedural mistakes and other issues – and they are available regardless of whether you were drunk at the time of your arrest. With so much at stake, it is critical not to assume that you are guilty, or that you do not have any full or partial defenses available.

Why You Need a DUI Attorney After a Drunk Driving Arrest in New Jersey

 An individual arrested and charged with driving under the influence is not required to have an attorney appear with them in court or provide them with legal representation.  In fact, because a New Jersey DUI is considered a traffic offense, the proceedings occur before a Judge, without a jury, and any individual can appear to plead guilty or to represent themselves at trial. 

Because a DUI case is considered a traffic offense, many New Jersey residents believe that they can save money by representing themselves in court or hiring a general practice attorney.  Unfortunately, the consequences of a DUI conviction are severe including imprisonment, the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device, as well as significant fines, fees, surcharges and other obligations, such as community service, making it critical to have a New Jersey DUI defense attorney working to defend you and to minimize the possible consequences imposed against you

Benefits to Retaining an Attorney

If suspended, New Jersey does not allow a hardship license or any ability to drive even to work). Therefore, a conviction for DWI can have a negative effect on your life and ability to work and travel for many years after the violation.

Many people do not understand the benefits to retaining a DWI defense attorney including:

  • Suppression of Evidence: There are many different reasons why evidence gathered by law enforcement can be suppressed so that it cannot be used against you in court.  Perhaps the sobriety checkpoint did not adhere to guidelines established by the New Jersey Superior Court or the police did not have probable cause to arrest you.  Or, in the case of a motor vehicle stop, was there a sufficient quantum of suspicion to allow the police to stop you? Only an experienced DWI lawyer is knowledgeable on the evidence that can be suppressed and the manner to have it thrown out of court.
  • Careful Analysis of the Facts: Each New Jersey DUI case is unique based on specific facts and the possible defenses that apply vary from case to case.  For example, a person’s particular physical and medical condition may cause them to fail a field sobriety test, or the arresting and testing officer may not have followed the guidelines and procedures necessary to administer either the field sobriety tests or a chemical breath test. Only a skilled DUI defense lawyer understands which defense will result in the elimination of the charges filed against you. 

Questions Your New Jersey DUI Defense Attorney Must Ask You During Your Meeting

When selecting a lawyer to handle your drunk driving case, you need to ask lots of questions. How much experience does the attorney have in DUI/DWI matters? Will he or she personally handle your case? What outcomes can you reasonably expect before and after trial?

But, when evaluating potential attorneys, the questions they ask can tell you a lot as well. A skilled DUI lawyer should know the questions to ask in order to quickly narrow down the issues in your case and begin formulating a strategy to secure the best possible outcome. These questions include:

How much alcohol had you consumed (if any) prior to your arrest?

While everyone’s biology is unique, an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer will be able to assess whether, based upon your alcohol consumption, your blood alcohol content (BAC) reading and the arresting officer’s interpretation of your performance on the field sobriety tests (FSTs) are likely to be accurate.

When did you have your last drink?

Even if you were drinking, if the effects of the alcohol should have worn off by the time you were arrested, there may be another explanation for the driving behavior that caused you to get pulled over. If you were drinking shortly before your arrest, your BAC could have risen between the time you got pulled over and the time you took the Alcotest.

Do you have any medical conditions?

Certain medical conditions can cause erratic driving behaviors and poor performance on FSTs. If you suffer from a medical condition, your condition may provide a solid defense to your DUI/DWI.

Why did the arresting officer say he or she pulled you over?

The police cannot pull you over for no reason. If the arresting officer lacked reasonable suspicion to pull you over, or if he or she lacked probable cause to make an arrest, any evidence obtained following your traffic stop may be inadmissible at trial.

What did you say to the arresting officer?

If you were lawfully arrested, anything you said to the arresting officer could be used against you in your case. Your New Jersey DUI defense attorney will need to know everything you said in order to address any incriminating statements you may have provided.

 

Additional Key Questions for Assessing Possible DUI/DWI Defenses:

Additional questions you can expect an experienced attorney to ask during your initial consultation include:

  • What were you doing in the hours prior to your arrest?
  • Was anyone else in your vehicle?
  • Were there any other witnesses to your arrest?
  • What were the weather and road conditions at the time of your arrest?
  • Whose vehicle were you driving?
  • Do you have any prior DUI/DWI arrests or convictions?
  • Did you understand everything the arresting officer told you?
  • How long after you were pulled over did you take the FSTs? The Alcotest?
  • Which FSTs did the arresting officer ask you to perform?
  • Did you request an independent BAC test?

Our DUI Defense Lawyers Are Here to Help - You Can Hire Us With Confidence

At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., we have a team of attorneys whose practices are dedicated to DUI defense. We are also proud to note that attorneys John Dell’Aquilo and Michael Troso listed below are specifically trained in the Alcotest and SFSTs. Choose an attorney below to learn more about his or her experience and credentials:

Don't Let Too Much Time Pass. Contact a New Jersey DWI Lawyer from Our Firm Today

To speak with a New Jersey DWI attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. about your case, please call 1-877-HELMER1 or submit your case online. You can contact us 24/7, and if we are not available immediately we will respond as soon as possible. As top defense lawyers, our DUI attorneys have offices throughout the state including: SalemTrenton, Fort Lee, Clark, FreeholdMillville and more. 

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