NJ DUI Essentials for Defendants
What Most People Want to Know when Charged with a DWI in New Jersey
What is Considered a DUI in NJ?
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) means driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. The law forbids anyone from operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, addictive drugs, and other narcotics and hallucinogens.
Impairment by alcohol is a specific calculation. When a breathalyzer, specifically the Dräger Alcotest Breathalyzer, measures 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) after a driver blows into the device, the driver is over the legal limit by law. Drivers under 21 are over the legal limit at .01%, and commercial drivers are over at .04%. Depending on the BAC and prior DWI/DUI history of the driver, the penalty for a DWI/DUI varies. Minimally, the driver pays fines, spends time in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, and faces a driver’s license suspension until the driver installs an Ignition Interlock Device in their car. Imprisonment is discretionary with the judge for specific BAC’s and first-time offenses.
For a driver under the influence of drugs, a driver’s license suspension is in effect for minimally seven months and up to a year. Determining intoxication depends on the drug and, often, an evaluation and report by a Drug Recognition Expert. Also, field sobriety tests may determine intoxication for alcohol and drugs.
Is a NJ DWI a criminal violation?
A DWI is not a criminal offense; it is a traffic violation. However, the penalties are severe, including possibly incarceration. It is often termed quasi-criminal because of the seriousness of the legal consequences. Indictable criminal offenses go before a jury in superior court, while disorderly persons criminal offenses and DWI offenses occur in front of a judge who decides the outcome in municipal court.
How does New Jersey Classify DWI’s?
New Jersey classifies DWI’s by BAC and prior DWI convictions. For a first DWI, a driver with a BAC reading between .08% and .010% must pay a fine of $250.00 to $400.00. In addition, they must spend between 12 and 48 hours at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (DRC). Moreover, a driver’s license suspension is mandatory until the drunk driver installs an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their primary vehicle. The driver’s license suspension lasts until they install the IID to prevent them from driving with alcohol in their system. They could get up to 30 days in jail, too.
For a higher BAC, over 0.10% but less than 0.15%, or for drugged driving, the fine increases to $500.00. The driver must also spend up to 48 hours at IDRC, plus a possible 30-day jail sentence. Drug DUI convictions lead to 7 to 12 months of driver’s license suspension. For a BAC over .15%, the driver gets a license suspension for 4 to 6 months plus installing an IID in their main vehicle.
Second DWI violation convictions lead to a fine of $500.00 to $1,000.00 and 30 days of community service. The driver also goes to jail for 30 days with a 48-hour minimum and a license suspension of one to two years. After their suspension period is up, they can petition the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission for reinstatement of their license. And third DWI violations bring a $1,000.00 fine and six months minimum in county jail. However, the court deducts time from the sentence for hours spent in drug or alcohol rehabilitation. In addition, a driver gets an eight-year license suspension; plus, they must install an IID.
Are there any Exceptions to Reduce a DWI Charge in NJ?
A ten-year minimum gap between convictions allows a court to treat a second conviction as a first or a third conviction as a third. This is called a 10-year step down and it essentially reduces the DWI charge for the purposes of sentencing.
Will I Lose my License if Convicted of Drunk Driving in New Jersey?
You will lose your license until you install an IID for a first offense, and you may lose it for 4 to 6 months if your blood alcohol level exceeds .15% and it’s your first DWI. You will also lose your license for 1 to 2 years for a second offense, and 8 years for a third or more offense.
Where do I go to court for a DUI Case?
DWI trials are in municipal court in front of a municipal court judge. The court in the jurisdiction where the offense took place handles all court hearings. Your case is in municipal court from first appearance, or arraignment, through the trial and sentencing if convicted.
Are there Collateral Costs Involved with a DWI Conviction in NJ?
Yes. You pay fines, which grow successively higher as your BAC and number of DWI’s increase. You could pay as low as $250.00 for a first offense and as high as $1,000.00 for a third offense. You also pay a surcharge of $125.00 to the General Fund of the municipal court. You also pay a three-year insurance surcharge totaling $3,000.00.
Can I expunge a New Jersey DUI from my Record?
Only criminal charges can be expunged or erased from your record. Since a DWI is not a crime but a traffic offense, it stays on your driving record. It does not show up as a criminal conviction on your criminal record.
Charged with Drunk Driving in NJ, Will this Impact my Job?
Though not a criminal offense, a DWI can affect your job, especially if you are a commercial driver. You are likely to lose your job if you have a DWI conviction and you are employed in trucking or another commercial function that requires you to maintain a CDL license. However, any driving job is likely in jeopardy with a DWI on your driving record. If your job does not involve driving, your employment may not be affected by a first-time conviction, as you can continue to drive to and from work and other activities with an ignition interlock on your car.
Should I hire a lawyer for a DWI Case?
A lawyer can help you with your DWI in a multitude of ways, which may avoid the DWI conviction altogether. Experienced DWI lawyers know how police make mistakes or cross legal boundaries throughout DWI arrests, which may be used to prevent your DUI conviction. Law enforcement, like anyone else, must follow the law. This could be used in your favor. For instance, if they stopped you for no reason or made mistakes in administering the breathalyzer test, your attorney can find ways to invalidate the breathalyzer results or have the entire case thrown out. The breathalyzer may have malfunctioned, have been improperly calibrated, or have not been maintained adequately, which means the results may have been inaccurate. This can be argued in court to result in suppression of your BAC reading, meaning it can’t be used against you.
Further, if your prior conviction was older than ten years, a solid DUI defense attorney can request the court reduce the number of your current offense, thus lowering the penalties. Getting advice about your specific DWI case and a preview of what is most important to know is worth it in spades. Contact us to talk to an attorney free of charge. Call (609)-832-3202, start a chat, or send us an email.
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