From Memorial Day to New Year’s Eve, the New Jersey police are on the lookout for drunk drivers year-round. Whether you were celebrating, spending time with friends or colleagues, or simply having a night out, if the police stopped and arrested you for driving under the influence (DUI), there is a lot you need to know. Essex County DUI lawyer Scott Gorman explains.
What You Need to Know About Your New Jersey DUI Case
Facing a DUI charge in New Jersey is a very serious matter. Not only could you face penalties if you get convicted in court, but losing your license and having a permanent record can impact your life in many other ways as well. To protect yourself, you need to fight your DUI charge by all possible means, and you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of what you can expect before, during and after your DUI case.
With this in mind, here are 10 facts you need to know if you are facing a DUI in New Jersey:
1. DUI Is a Traffic Offense, Not a Crime, in New Jersey
Under New Jersey law, DUI is classified as a traffic offense, not a crime. While this might seem like it limits the seriousness of your situation, this is not the case.
In fact, this makes your situation worse in many respects. For example, since you are not a criminal defendant, you are not entitled to a jury trial. If your DUI case goes to court, you will need to argue your case directly to the judge. Additionally—and even more importantly—the fact that a DUI is a traffic offense means that it is not eligible for expungement.
2. DUI Still Carries Crime-Like Penalties
While DUI is a traffic offense in New Jersey, DUI convictions still carry crime-like penalties. In other words, if you get convicted, you can face fines and jail time. Getting convicted of DUI can also result in loss of your driving privileges, substantial insurance surcharges when you get your license back, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, mandatory alcohol education, and various other consequences.
3. Several Factors Can Increase the Penalties in a New Jersey DUI Case
While first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.09 percent or lower can face up to $400 in fines and 30 days in jail (in addition to the other consequences discussed above), various factors can increase the penalties you are facing as a result of your DUI arrest. These include:
- BAC of 0.10 Percent or Above – If you took the breathalyzer test and blew a BAC of 0.10 percent or above, this will increase the penalties that are on the table.
- Repeat Offender – Repeat DUI offenders face enhanced penalties under New Jersey law regardless of their BAC.
- Breath Test Refusal – If you refused a breath test during your DUI stop in New Jersey, you can face penalties for a “DUI refusal” in addition to facing penalties for your DUI.
4. Having a High BAC Isn’t the Only Way to Get Convicted of DUI
In New Jersey, having a BAC above the legal limit is just one way you can be found guilty of DUI. Under Section 39:4-50 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, it is illegal to “operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating [alcohol or drugs], or operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration [BAC] of 0.08% or more.” If the police observed you swerving, braking for no reason, or acting drunk on the side of the road during your traffic stop, you could get convicted even if prosecutors don’t have a high BAC to use against you.
5. You Could Be Facing Criminal Charges In Addition to Your DUI Charge
While DUI is not a crime in New Jersey, getting arrested for drunk driving can lead to criminal charges (or additional traffic violations) in various circumstances. For example, if you caused a serious or fatal accident, if you had a minor passenger in your vehicle, or if you had an open container in your vehicle, these could all result in additional charges carrying additional penalties.
6. Prosecutors Must Prove Your Guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Even though DUI is not a crime, prosecutors must still prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. As a result, you should not assume you are guilty, and you should consult with a lawyer to find out what defenses you can use to fight your charge.
7. There are Several Ways to Fight a DUI Charge
There are several ways to fight a DUI charge in New Jersey—including ways to fight a DUI charge even if you were drunk behind the wheel. Again, you should consult with a lawyer to determine what defenses you have available.
8. You May Need to Assert Multiple Defenses to Avoid a Conviction
Remember when we said that having a high BAC isn’t the only way you can face a DUI conviction? This means that you may need to assert multiple defenses to protect yourself. For example, even if you can show that your breathalyzer test result is unreliable, you may still need to challenge the prosecution’s evidence that you were “under the influence” of alcohol when you were driving.
9. Avoiding Trial May Be Your Best Option
In some cases, it will make sense to fight for a “not guilty” verdict at trial. But, in others, seeking to avoid trial could be your best option. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this could involve negotiating a plea deal, seeking pre-trial intervention or filing a motion to dismiss.
10. There are Several Ways a Lawyer Can Help
From determining if the police violated your constitutional rights to representing you in front of the judge, there are several ways an Essex County DUI lawyer can help you. With all that you have at stake in your DUI case, it is strongly in your best interests to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Schedule a Free Consultation with DUI Lawyer Scott Gorman
To discuss your case with Scott Gorman in confidence, call 862-250-6201 or request a free consultation online. We will schedule your appointment as soon as possible. Our offices are located in Essex County and Morristown.
Published in Categories: DUI / DWI