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New Jersey has some of the steepest drunk driving penalties in the country. With thousands of dollars in financial penalties and up to 30 days in jail for a standard first-time offense, a DUI/DWI charge is not to be taken lightly.
While each case is unique, in many cases, individuals facing DUI/DWI charges will have several defenses available. Here are some of the top ways to avoid a drunk driving conviction in New Jersey:
We say “prove,” but really all you need is to raise enough questions about the prosecution’s proof to cast a reasonable doubt in the mind of the judge (all DUI/DWI cases in New Jersey involve bench trials—you do not have a right to trial by jury). If your blood alcohol content (BAC) test results are the prosecution’s evidence, was the Alcotest calibrated? Was your test administered properly? Did your BAC rise after you got pulled over? These are just a few of the types of issues your lawyer will investigate in order to challenge the prosecution’s evidence.
If the prosecution’s evidence is strong, do you have grounds to have it suppressed (excluded) from your case? If the police stopped you without reasonable suspicion, arrested you without probable cause or otherwise violated your Constitutional rights, any evidence they collected (such as Alcotest results or self-incriminating statements) may be inadmissible in your trial.
Research has shown that several non-alcoholic substances can generate false positive BAC test results. There are various things that may invalidate a BAC test, such as certain types of dental work, mouth jewelry, and RFI-emitting devices.
If there is a reasonable chance that you could face a conviction at trial, your best option may be to plead to a different charge. While you cannot plea bargain a DUI/DWI case in New Jersey, if the State’s case isn’t bulletproof, the prosecutor may dismiss the DUI and allow you to plead to a different charge with less severe consequences. Note, however, that any such resolution would be subject to court approval.
Of course, the best way to avoid a DUI/DWI is to avoid getting pulled over. If you are planning to go out drinking, make sure you have a sober ride home. This could be a designated driver, a rideshare service (such as Uber or Lyft), or another safe ride alternative.
New Jersey’s DUI/DWI laws impose steep penalties for driving under the influence. These penalties increase for repeat offenders, and the law contains special provisions for commercial drivers, drivers who are under the age of 21, and drivers who fail to comply with the state’s “implied consent” requirements.
One of the most important aspects of New Jersey law is that DUI/DWI is not considered a crime. Instead, in New Jersey, a DUI/DWI is a “traffic offense.” While this may seem like a good thing, the fact that a DUI/DWI is a traffic offense means that: (i) you are not entitled to a trial by jury, and (ii) DUI/DWI convictions are not eligible for expungement.
While some states’ laws differentiate between driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI), in New Jersey all drunk driving violations are lumped into a single offense. Under Section 39:4-50(a) of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code, prosecutors can pursue DUI/DWI charges against:
“[A] person who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor . . . or operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more by weight of alcohol in the defendant's blood.”
The law describes this offense as “driving while intoxicated.” In other states, however, operating a vehicle “under the influence of intoxicating liquor” (which applies regardless of BAC), is commonly referred to a DUI, while driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher is classified as DWI.
Although New Jersey does not have separate offenses for DUI and DWI, the distinction is still important. The fact that Section 39:4-50(a) of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code covers DUI and DWI means that you do not need to blow above 0.08 to face a drunk driving conviction. If there is other evidence of impairment – for example if the arresting officer observed you weaving in your lane or if you “failed” the field sobriety tests – it is possible that you could be convicted under Section 39:4-50(a) even if you refused the Alcotest or your BAC test results are deemed inadmissible in court. Our lawyers are skilled at challenging both aspects of DUI/DWI cases in New Jersey, and we can use the defense strategies discussed above (among others) to protect you against a conviction or mitigate the consequences of your arrest to the greatest extent possible.
Section 39:4-50(a) of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code establishes the state’s BAC limit of 0.08 percent. While this is the standard that applies to most drivers with regard to establishing culpability for DUI/DWI, there are actually five different BAC limits under New Jersey law:
New Jersey’s breathalyzer rules are found in the state’s “implied consent” law. Under this law, all drivers are required to submit to a breathalyzer test if they get pulled over for DUI/DWI by virtue of the “implied consent” they give by making use of the state’s public roads. As stated in Section 39:4-50.2 of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code:
“Any person who operates a motor vehicle on any public road, street or highway or quasi-public area in [New Jersey] shall be deemed to have given his consent to the taking of samples of his breath for the purpose of making chemical tests to determine the content of alcohol in his blood; provided, however, that the taking of samples is made . . . at the request of a police officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that such person has been operating a motor vehicle [while intoxicated].”
However, Section 39:4-50.2 does not just establish rules for drivers. It also establishes rules for the police officers who administer breathalyzer tests (using the Alcotest device) in New Jersey. These rules include:
If the police officer who arrested you for DUI/DWI violated any of these rules during your traffic stop in New Jersey, our lawyers may be able to use the violation to keep your Alcotest results out of your case.
In New Jersey, the potential penalties in a DUI/DWI case vary depending upon the specific facts and circumstances involved. Factors that can affect the penalties that are on the table include:
To learn about the penalties that are on the table in your case, you can read:
Fines are among the penalties for DUI in New Jersey. When you engage our attorneys to represent you, in addition to fighting to help you avoid jail time, loss of driving privileges and other penalties, we will also seek to minimize your financial liability as much as possible. Some of the potential fines in New Jersey DUI cases include:
With these penalties in mind, what can drivers in New Jersey do to avoid a DUI/DWI arrest? While it simply may not be possible to avoid getting pulled over in some cases, steps drivers can take to mitigate their risk of a DUI/DWI arrest include:
What are your obligations if you get pulled over? What mistakes can increase your chances of a DWI arrest? Our New Jersey DWI lawyers recommend:
A drunk driving arrest does not have to mean a DUI/DWI conviction. If you are facing charges in New Jersey, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free, no-obligation consultation. To learn more about your rights and the defenses you may have available, call Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. at 1-609-281-8868 or request an appointment online today.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.