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Drunk Driving: DUI/DWI Glossary

When facing drunk driving charges in New Jersey, familiarizing yourself with the terminology is the first step toward understanding your situation and making informed decisions about protecting your future. Here is a list of some of the key terms you will hear during your DUI/DWI case:

Alcotest

The Alcotest is the instrument the New Jersey police use to test suspected drunk drivers’ blood alcohol content (BAC). Alcotest devices are prone to errors and malfunctions, and you may be able to challenge your Alcotest results as part of your DUI/DWI defense.

Arraignment

The arraignment is the first court appearance after a DUI/DWI arrest. It typically happens, at the latest, within a week following the arrest. It is very important that you attend your arraignment unless your attorney advises you otherwise.

Field Sobriety Test (FST)

The police use field sobriety tests to obtain evidence to support DUI/DWI arrests. The most common FSTs are (i) the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, (ii) the walk-and-turn test and (iii) the one-leg stand test. Unlike the breath test (see Implied Consent, below), you are not required to submit to FSTs in New Jersey.

Implied Consent

Implied consent is a legal term that refers to the statute that requires all drivers in New Jersey to submit to a breath test during a DUI/DWI traffic stop. If you refuse a breath test in violation of New Jersey’s implied consent law, you will face an additional charge and penalties on top of your DUI/DWI.

Probable Cause

Probable cause is the Constitutional standard that applies to DUI/DWI arrests—the police cannot arrest you unless they have probable cause to do so. In order to establish probable cause, the police must have a logical belief supported by evidence that you are guilty of a traffic offense or crime.

Reasonable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is the Constitutional standard that applies to traffic stops—the police cannot pull you over without reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause, but the police must still be able to articulate a specific, factually-supported basis for making a stop.

Summons

A summons is the “ticket” you receive after a DUI arrest. It is very important that you keep your summons because it includes the date of your arraignment.

Traffic Offense

Unlike other states, in New Jersey, DUI/DWI is a traffic offense, not a crime. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, you cannot request a jury trial for a traffic offense—your DUI/DWI case will be tried by a judge (known as a “bench trial”). Second, as someone facing charges for a traffic offense and not a crime, you are not eligible for any type of pre-trial probation or diversionary program. It should also be noted that traffic matters, unlike criminal matters, cannot be expunged from an abstract.

Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. | New Jersey DUI/DWI Defense Lawyers

With 12 office locations in New Jersey (and one in New York), Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. represents individuals charged with DUI/DWI and related traffic offenses throughout New Jersey. If you have been arrested for drunk driving, you need skilled legal representation. For a free and confidential consultation with one of our experienced defense lawyers, call 1-877-435-6371 or contact us online today.

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