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Drunk Driving

New Jersey DUI Lawyers

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 has the discretion to impose 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?

There are many potential consequences to a DUI arrest in New Jersey. Fortunately, there are also several potential defenses. Our defense lawyers provide experienced and aggressive legal representation for clients facing DUI charges throughout the state. If you have been charged with DUI, 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.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Offenses

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
  • Three-month driver’s license suspension
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for 6 to 12 months
  • 12 to 48 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center
  • Up to 30 days in jail

However, if you are being accused of driving under the influence in a school zone or school crossing, the penalties for a first offense can include:

  • $500 to $800 in fines
  • A minimum one-years license suspension (with the possibility for a two-year suspension)
  • Up to 60 days in jail
  • The other penalties listed above

Learn more about the penalties for DUI in New Jersey.

New Jersey’s “Implied Consent” Law and Your DUI Case

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.

Whether you took a breath test or you refused to submit to the breathalyzer, there are potentially a number of different ways our attorneys can seek to mitigate the consequences. For example, we may be able to challenge the officer’s testing procedure; or, we may be able to show that the breathalyzer used was unreliable. If you refused consent, we may be able to argue that the arresting officer failed to adequately inform you of your rights. In any case, in order to ensure that you are able to present the strongest possible defense, it is important that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

Potential Defenses to Drunk Driving and DUI Refusals

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

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: What are my rights?

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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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).

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: How can a lawyer help with my DUI 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.

Questions to Ask Before You Hire a DUI Lawyer

While you need to hire a lawyer quickly, it is also important that you make an informed decision about your legal representation. Asking these questions (along with any others you may have) will help you find an experienced attorney:

What do you need to know about my case?

No lawyer can assess your case unless he or she has all of the necessary information. Your DUI lawyer should be prepared to ask numerous questions in order to determine the best defense strategy for you.

What do I need to know during my DUI case?

Your lawyer should be able to quickly and clearly explain what you can expect during your DUI case. He or she should also provide you with important information about common mistakes you need to avoid.

What outcome can I expect from my DUI case?

While the results of your case cannot be guaranteed, your attorney should be able to explain the penalties that are on the table and provide a reasonable assessment of the potential outcomes of your case.

How much experience do you have with DUI defense?

With your future on the line, you need to put experience on your side. Ideally, the lawyer you choose should have years of experience handling DUI cases in New Jersey.

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:

Contact Us about Your New Jersey DUI

To speak with an 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.

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