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Common Mistakes After a DUI Arrest

With the severe penalties for DUI convictions in New Jersey (including the possibility of a 30-day jail sentence for a first-time offense), individuals facing drunk driving charges must be extremely careful to avoid mistakes that could jeopardize their legal defense. Here is a list of 7 mistakes to avoid, prepared by the DUI defense attorneys at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.

DUI Mistake #1: Refusing an Alcotest (Breathalyzer Test)

Under New Jersey’s “implied consent” law, refusing to submit to a breath test (using the Alcotest device) can have serious consequences. If it is not too late, do not refuse the breath test, and follow these additional recommendations for dealing with the police during your DUI arrest.

What if you refused the breath test during your DUI traffic stop?

Refusing the breath test will result in a charge for an implied consent violation (or DUI refusal) in addition to your DUI charge. If you are convicted of a DUI refusal, you can face a 12-month driver’s license suspension, insurance surcharges, and other penalties even if you are not convicted of DUI. Our DUI defense attorneys can handle your DUI refusal case in addition to defending you against the state’s allegations of drunk driving.

DUI Mistake #2: Assuming Alcotest Results are Accurate

If you blow above a 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) on the Alcotest (or above 0.04 percent if you were driving a commercial vehicle), do not assume that the results are accurate. You have the right to seek independent testing, and there are a number of ways our attorneys can challenge your Alcotest results.

How can you challenge your Alcotest results?

Even if you did not have your BAC independently tested, our DUI defense attorneys could still have several options for challenging your Alcotest results. For example, we may show that the device had not recently been calibrated, or we may be able to argue that the test was not administered properly. In many cases, successfully challenging the Alcotest results can be enough on its own to prevent a DUI conviction.

DUI Mistake #3: Assuming You are Guilty

Never assume you are guilty. New Jersey’s DUI laws are harsh, but they are also complicated, and oftentimes individuals charged with drunk driving offenses will have numerous defenses available. Additionally, even if you were driving above the legal limit, police misconduct and other mistakes could still provide defenses that allow you to avoid a conviction.

What will happen if you assume you are guilty?

If you assume you are guilty and choose not to fight your DUI charge, you will face unnecessary long-term consequences. Not only will you be at risk for facing the maximum penalties for a DUI charge, but having a DUI on your record will negatively impact your life long after you have served your sentence. Our attorneys can determine what defenses you have available, and we can use our experience to seek to mitigate the consequences of your arrest.

DUI Mistake #4: Ignoring Your DUI Charge

One of the biggest mistakes you can make after a drunk driving arrest is to ignore your DUI charge. If you do nothing, your charge will not go away, and failing to appear in court can have consequences which include additional charges and having a warrant issued for your arrest.

What if you failed to appear in court for your New Jersey DUI charge?

If you skipped your DUI hearing, it will be important for you to promptly speak with an attorney. You could be facing serious consequences, but it may be possible to mitigate or avoid these consequences by working to correct your mistake. Our attorneys can explain what you need to know, and we can represent you in court for the remainder of your DUI case.

DUI Mistake #5: Failing to Understand What is at Risk

When facing a DUI charge, it is important to understand what is at risk. Even assuming you submitted to the Alcotest and there are no “aggravating factors” factors involved in your case, the potential penalties for a first-time offense include:

  •         Up to a 12-month license suspension
  •         Up to 30 days in jail
  •         Up to a $500 fine
  •         Up to 48 hours of mandatory alcohol education
  •         An insurance surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years
  •         Additional financial penalties

You may also be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID), which is a device that most people would like to avoid, as it is typically a huge inconvenience. These, of course, are in addition to the practical (and long-term) consequences of having a DUI conviction on your official record.

How can you avoid these risks?

To protect yourself to the fullest extent possible, you need to hire an experienced DUI defense lawyer to represent you. Facing a DUI charge is a serious (and complicated) matter, and it can have serious consequences.

DUI Mistake #6: Continuing to Drink and Drive

This should hopefully go without saying, but you were pulled over for drunk driving, you need to make sure you do not continue to drink and drive. In addition to putting yourself and others at risk, getting another DUI charge while your case is pending can significantly enhance your potential penalties.

What if you get another DUI while your current DUI case is pending?

If you get arrested for DUI again, this is an issue that you will need to address with the help of an experienced attorney. For example, it may make sense to proactively enroll in an alcohol education program. You will need to build a separate defense to each of your DUI charges based on the specific circumstances involved in each case.

DUI Mistake #7: Trying to Defend Yourself Without Legal Representation

With all that is at stake, if you have been charged with DUI in New Jersey, you simply cannot afford to try your case on your own. There are numerous benefits to retaining an experienced attorney—starting with understanding the additional mistakes you need to avoid in order to protect your legal rights.

What if you did not hire a New Jersey DUI defense lawyer right away?

If you tried to handle your DUI case on your own initially, it is not too late to hire an attorney. But, it is important to understand that your attorney’s options may be limited. When you contact us, one of our attorneys will review your case’s current status, and we will determine what can be done to correct any mistakes that have been made.

Checklist: Preparing for Your Initial DUI Defense Consultation

1. Review Key Facts Related to Your DUI Arrest.

First, you should take the time to write down everything you remember about what happened leading up to, during and after your arrest. The unique facts of your case will determine the defenses you have available; and, the more information you can provide, the better able your attorneys will be to represent you. Focus on answering questions like:

  • Prior to your arrest, had you consumed anything that could have produced a false BAC reading?
  • Do you take any medications? Have you been diagnosed with any medical conditions that could produce symptoms similar to those of alcohol intoxication?
  • Did the arresting officer explain New Jersey’s “informed consent” law?
  • How many breath samples did you give?
  • Did the arresting officer read your Miranda rights (e.g., you have the right to remain silent)?
  • Did the arresting officer perform any field sobriety tests? If so, which ones?
  • Why did the arresting officer say that he or she pulled you over?

2. Learn What is at Stake in Your New Jersey DUI Case.

DUI offenses carry severe penalties in New Jersey, and you could be facing additional penalties if you refused to submit to the Alcotest (breathalyzer test). The penalties increase in severity for second and subsequent offenses, and “aggravating factors” like causing an accident or being arrested in a school zone can lead to increased penalties as well.

3. Learn about the DUI Defenses You May Have Available.

Even if you think you are guilty, you could still have several defenses available. From Constitutional violations (such as stopping you without probable cause) to using uncalibrated Alcotest devices, police mistakes and other issues can present numerous grounds for seeking a not-guilty verdict at trial.

4. Make Sure You Know Your Arraignment Date.

The first court appearance after a DUI arrest in New Jersey is called an “arraignment.” Make sure you know your arraignment date, and discuss with your attorney whether you should appear or formally waive your appearance.

5. Make an Informed Decision about Your DUI Defense Representation.

When choosing a DUI attorney to represent you, it is important to do your research. Look for qualifications such as:

  • A specific focus on DUI defense and related matters
  • Recognition in the local community
  • The ability to clearly explain your situation and the options you have available
  • Years, if not decades, of experience practicing DUI defense law in New Jersey

Schedule a DUI Defense Consultation at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.

For more information about the steps you should be taking after a DUI arrest in New Jersey, contact Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. to schedule a free confidential initial consultation. To speak with an experienced defense attorney about your case, call 1-877-435-6371 or submit your information online today.

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