New Jersey’s DUI Process
In the state of New Jersey, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a common charge, and is variously referred to as DUI or DWI. According to the Department of Justice, New Jersey law enforcement officers arrest about 24,000 people per year for this violation. On average, that is about 65 DUI arrests per day.
Understanding a DUI Charge
While intoxicated driving is a common charge, it can be intimidating for those facing the legal consequences of an arrest. Before you find an attorney, you will need to know the proper terminology in the state. Most states refer to drunk driving as a DUI, which is known as driving under the influence. However, in New Jersey, the offense is often called driving while intoxicated (DWI). The terminology may be different, but the basic charge and consequences are the same.
Under New Jersey law, a person can be charged with a DWI if the driver’s BAC (blood alcohol content) is .08 or greater. Commercial drivers and anyone under the age of 21 have a lower BAC threshold. Plus, a driver who has a BAC of at or over .10 faces enhanced penalties.
What Happens After Getting Arrested?
When a law enforcement officer stops a driver, a field test is conducted. Those individuals found driving while intoxicated are given a ticket. You might have a court date set for your case. In many situations, the court date is within a few days of the violation. During the arraignment, the judge will explain the charges, and you need to plead guilty or not guilty. A guilty plea will lead to an immediate sentence. However, a not guilty plea means that the case goes to court.
Will I Have a Criminal Record?
Drunk driving is a serious traffic violation, but it is not technically considered a criminal offense in New Jersey. For that reason, if you are convicted of a DUI, your information will not be added to the National Crime Information Center database. However, this offense will be documented with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, and that information is available to the public. In addition, the DWI charge can cause issues with insurance and employment.
In New Jersey, convictions and arrest records can be sealed during an expungement process. New Jersey’s expungement laws do exclude DWI convictions since they are not criminal offenses. If you have questions about your record, reach out to a Morristown criminal defense lawyer.
What Are the Penalties for a DWI?
If you have been charged with a DWI in New Jersey, you are probably worried about the consequences. In many cases, your driver’s license will be suspended, and you must pay hefty fines and court costs. Many drivers might have to install an ignition lock device in their vehicles. This device is similar to a Breathalyzer, and it will measure your BAC level before you will be allowed to start the car. Even a trace of alcohol could render the vehicle undriveable.
Many of these penalties are based on certain factors. If it is your first offense, the penalties are less severe than someone facing a third or fourth charge. Those with a first DWI conviction can be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail, although alternative penalties such as community service are often assesses, and they will likely have their license suspended through a separate administrative hearing. For those who have a BAC of .10 percent or more, you could face a driver’s license suspension of at least six months with a fine ranging from $300 to $500.
Second DWI offenses can lead to a two-year license suspension, community service, and fines in excess of $1,000. As a driver continues to get arrested for this offense, the penalties and consequences will continue to increase, including permanent revocation of a driver’s license.
DWI and Reckless Driving Charges
In some cases, the DWI offenses can overlap with reckless driving charges. Under NJSA § 39:4-96, a person can be charged with reckless driving if the individual had a “willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property.” Some examples of reckless driving can include blocking other vehicles, ignoring traffic lights and signs, and weaving in and out of traffic lanes.
Like DWI offenses, a first-time reckless driving charge can include a fine and jail time. For those second and recurring offenses, the fines and jail sentences will increase. Along with that, the judge could temporarily suspend the individual’s driving license.
What Happens to My Insurance?
While many people worry about the fines and jail time associated with a DWI arrest, other consequences should be addressed as well. If you are found guilty of a DWI, it can negatively impact your daily life, including raising your insurance rates.
As previously stated, a DWI is not technically a criminal charge, but it will be documented on your driving record. The state does not add points to your driving record, but most insurance companies could add those points. These points are used as a way to measure whether you are a risky driver. If you have a high point range, you will have to pay a higher premium.
In some cases, the insurance company could drop you from their policies. If you have been charged with a DWI, it is vital to keep up with your insurance payments, including any periods of temporary license suspension. Any lapses in your insurance can lead to a monetary fine.
Will a DWI Conviction Affect My Employment?
With a DWI conviction, you might face some issues with your employment status. New Jersey municipal courts do not contact employers when a person is convicted of a DWI. However, you will have to contact your own employer if you work as a delivery driver, truck driver, taxi driver, chauffeur, or bus driver. Members of the military and pilots might have to disclose a DWI conviction to their employers. It is not uncommon for individuals to be terminated from their job due to a conviction.
Today, many employers will conduct a background check on anyone who applies for a job. While a criminal background check will not disclose a DWI, your driving record can show a conviction. If you are applying for a job, you do not have to talk about a DWI offense since it is considered a traffic violation and not a criminal charge.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Drunk Driving Charges?
Many people have never been arrested and have questions about the process. The New Jersey legal system is complicated. It is advisable to take an aggressive approach to these accusations. As a result, that can improve a person’s chances of beating the DWI charges. A Morristown criminal defense lawyer can examine every detail of your case and craft an effective defense. If you have been arrested for DWI in New Jersey, you need to consider all of your legal options. With the right help, you can possibly avoid the harsh consequences of a DWI conviction.
Find a Lawyer for Your Case
Anyone who has been arrested for drunk driving needs to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. When you reach out to Gregg Wisotsky, he will analyze your case and help to formulate a defense strategy for you. You want to have respected and trusted legal representation in the state, especially when facing the consequences of a DWI charge. Gregg is ready to handle your case. You can schedule a consultation by calling the Morristown office at (973) 898-0161 or visiting our website.