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In New Jersey, a DUI/DWI conviction can have severe consequences. Read on to learn more about what you need to know when facing drunk driving charges from a knowledgeable New Jersey DUI lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.
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.
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.
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.
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 New Jersey DUI lawyer advises you otherwise.
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.
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.
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.
You may have heard that drunk driving is not a criminal offense in New Jersey. While this is true (in New Jersey, DUI/DWI is considered a traffic offense), the consequences of a DUI/DWI conviction are on par with those for many disorderly persons offenses and indictable offenses.
However, there are still a number of other reasons why the classification of DUI/DWI as a traffic offense is important. 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.
New Jersey has some of the harshest drunk driving penalties in the nation, especially if you have previously been convicted of DWI/DUI in the state or elsewhere. A drunk-driving conviction will result in the assessment of thousands of dollars of fines, penalties, and insurance surcharges against you.
Did you know that any DWI conviction will result in a loss of your ability to drive legally in New Jersey for an extended period of time? Did you know that you could lose your driver’s license for ten (10) years and be required to spend 180 days in jail if you are convicted of a third time drunk-driving offense? Did you know that if your driver license is not from New Jersey but from another state, a DWI conviction in New Jersey may be reported to your home state and your home state may then choose to suspend your driver license based upon your New Jersey DWI conviction?
If you have been charged with DUI/DWI, the potential penalties in your case will depend on factors such as whether you have any prior convictions, whether your blood alcohol content (BAC) was above 0.10 percent, whether you caused an accident and whether you were arrested in a school zone. For a standard first-time drunk driving arrest, your sentence could include:
With a DUI on your permanent record, you may also find it difficult to obtain jobs in certain occupations; and, even if you are able to find employment (or keep your old job), you may find it to be difficult or impossible to go to work and support your family while your driver license is suspended. We encourage you to contact our New Jersey DUI lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Under New Jersey’s “implied consent” law, if you get pulled over for drunk driving, you are legally required to submit to a chemical test of your BAC. This test is commonly performed with an Alcotest (breathalyzer test). If you do not take the test when requested to do so by an officer, regardless of the reason, you will be charged with Refusal to Take Breath Tests in addition to DWI, and will could be facing penalties in addition to those that apply to your DUI/DWI charge. Since a “Refusal” is a separate offense, you can be penalized for violating New Jersey’s implied consent law even if you are not ultimately found guilty of DUI/DWI. Refusal is legally similar to drunk-driving and carries most of the same penalties.
There are numerous potential defenses to DUI/DWI charges, and the defenses that are available in your case will depend upon the unique circumstances before, during and after your arrest. Some potential defenses to drunk driving charges in New Jersey include:
Depending on the facts of your case, additional potential defenses may include:
There are both steps you need to take and mistakes you need to avoid after a DUI/DWI arrest in New Jersey. Our DUI/DWI checklist starts with reviewing the key facts related to your arrest, and our list of common mistakes covers seven important issues that can jeopardize a drunk driving defense.
The list of reasons to hire an attorney for your DUI case is substantial. First and foremost are the consequences: If you get convicted, you will be at risk for all the penalties discussed above and having a DUI on your permanent record can impact your life for decades to come.
Second, when you to go court (and you will have to go to court), you will be up against state prosecutors. These are attorneys whose job is to obtain convictions and pursue maximum sentencing at trial. Without an attorney, you simply are not on a level playing field.
Third, regardless of the facts of your case, and even if you are sure you got caught drinking and driving, you potentially have several defenses available. Knowing which defenses to assert – and how to assert them effectively – requires the knowledge and insights of an experienced DUI lawyer in New Jersey.
When choosing a New Jersey DUI lawyer for your case, there are several factors to keep in mind. Most importantly, you want an attorney who has significant relevant experience. This means that you want an attorney who has years, if not decades, of representing DUI defendants in New Jersey. Other factors to consider include:
During your initial consultation, you should feel free to ask any questions you have about your case or the attorney’s experience. If an attorney is unwilling (or unable) to answer questions about his or her background or experience, this will usually be a bad sign. Some questions you may want to ask include:
Yes. When you hire a New Jersey DUI lawyer, everything you say regarding your case will be kept strictly confidential. To ensure that your attorney can present the strongest possible defense, it is important for you to be as honest and straightforward with your attorney as possible.
As a client, you are entitled to expect that your attorney will handle your case diligently, professionally and with the degree of competence required to effectively represent your interests at trial. You are entitled to receive responses to your inquiries, and you are entitled to be kept up-to-date and actively involved regarding all key aspects of your case. It is your case, and your attorney is working for you.
With 13 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 DUI lawyers, call 1-877-435-6371 or contact us online today.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.