DWI, DUI & Refusal Charges
Driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence, and refusal to perform a breath test, are all serious traffic offenses in New Jersey. New Jersey drinking and driving laws impose severe penalties for individuals who are found guilty of drunk driving. Under the New Jersey DWI statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50:
- No person is to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit producing drug;
- A person with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% by weight of blood (BAC) is deemed to be “per se” intoxicated for purposes of determining whether a violation has occurred; and
- No person is to permit operation of a vehicle by a person under the influence or intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit producing drug.
Penalties for Violation of the NJ drunk driving statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, include:
- First Offense DWI or DUI: $250-$400, IDRC, 3 months – 1 year suspension, possible 30 days in jail.
- Second Offense DWI or DUI: $500-$1,000, 30 days community service, 2-90 days in jail, 2 year suspension.
- Third Offense DWI or DUI: $1,000 fine, 180 days in jail, 10 year suspension.
The State Must Prove Operation of a Motor Vehicle
Necessary elements of a violation of New Jersey’s drinking and driving statute are: (1) proof of operation; and (2) a motor vehicle. The element of “operation” is customarily established through actual observations of operation or circumstantial evidence demonstrating operation. It is important to keep in mind that it is not essential that the State prove actual physical movement of the vehicle to satisfy the requirement of operation but simply that it was the motorist’s intention to operate the vehicle and that the vehicle was capable of moving. The State typically attempts to establish “intent” by presenting evidence that the defendant placed the keys of the vehicle in the ignition and/or that the vehicle was running. Our lawyers are sensitive to the complicated nature of the issue of “operation” and are prepared to defend clients on this issue whenever a potentially viable defense exists.
The State Must Prove that a Motorist was “Under the Influence”
New Jersey’s Courts have defined intoxication or being under the influence as a “substantial deterioration or diminution of the mental faculties or physical capabilities of a person” resulting from ingestion of alcohol or drugs. Intoxication from alcohol is typically established “per se” through breath test samples or blood tests demonstrating a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit of .08%. The current mechanism for testing breath samples in New Jersey is a device commonly referred to as a breathalyzer. The breathalyzer is, however, a dated piece of machinery and New Jersey is currently in the process of phasing in a new breath test instrument, the Alcotest. Introduction of the Alcotest device has been met by resistance and litigation is pending concerning the use and admissibility of Alcotest breath sample results in DWI and DUI cases in New Jersey Municipal Courts.
If the state is unable to establish a “per se” violation through breath sample or blood, law enforcement may attempt to establish intoxication through field sobriety testing, also referred to as psycho-physical testing. These tests are susceptible to subjective interpretation and/or improper administration and our DWI defense lawyers are well aware of these tendencies.
A DUI summons may also be issued based on ingestion of illegal drugs. When a DUI is based on drugs, the State is typically required to present evidence from a police officer trained and certified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), indicating that the suspect was, in fact, under the influence of drugs. Blood or urine test results are also required to establish that the suspect possessed drugs in their system.
There are many defenses to driving while intoxicated charges in New Jersey. Some of these defenses include lack of probable cause or reasonable suspicion for a stop, e.g., an illegal traffic stop, lack of probable cause to believe the driver was intoxicated, and improper inspection and certification of the breathalyzer machine. I am experienced in drinking and driving cases and will make sure that all possible defenses are asserted.
Sentencing issues also arise in New Jersey DWI, DUI and Refusal cases, and I will explore each of these issues to obtain the best possible result on your behalf. For example, one aspect of a drinking and driving case that can significantly affect sentencing is the breathalyzer readings. If you are first offender in New Jersey and your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is between .08 and .10, then you will be facing a three month license suspension rather than the seven month to one year license suspension involved where readings are at or above .10%. I will do my best to have the BAC readings excluded or depleted (i.e. reduced) so that you receive the minimum suspension available. Another legal issue that frequently arises is treatment of prior convictions as sentencing can vary significantly if your prior convictions are for a DWI rather than a Refusal. If your first conviction is for a refusal rather than for a DWI, then, under New Jersey Law, you must be sentenced as a first offender. However, if your prior conviction is for a DWI, and you are subsequently charged with a refusal, then this will be considered your second offense and the penalties will be much more severe. As a result, it is necessary to contact a DWI attorney in New Jersey who has experience in handling these types of offenses.
I have the experience you need as a DWI/DUI Lawyer, and I am prepared to appear in all Courts in New Jersey on your behalf. For over sixteen (16) years, I have been representing clients through my private practice as well as in my role as Municipal Public Defender for multiple towns. I have assisted countless clients with charges for DWI, DUI, refusal and other offenses. With this breadth of experience, I know how to defend your rights. I possesses the unique insight and personal contacts to help you through your ordeal and fight for your second chance. I welcome the opportunity to meet with you for a consultation and discuss your case in more detail.
If you would like to speak with me, call 732-845-3203 or e-mail Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a consultation.