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Understanding the Penalties for DUI in New Jersey


Getting Pulled Over After a Few Drinks: What to Expect if You’re Charged with DUI in New Jersey

We’ve all been there – out for a fun night with friends, had a few drinks, and now you’re driving home. You see the flashing lights behind you and get that sinking feeling in your stomach. “Did I really have too much to drink?” This article will walk you through what to expect if you’re pulled over for suspected DUI in New Jersey, the potential penalties, and some tips on navigating the legal system.

The Stop: Stay Calm and Know Your Rights

Getting pulled over is always stressful, even if you’re stones cold sober. With some liquid courage in your system, it can feel downright panic-inducing. Take some deep breaths and focus on staying calm and collected. Being argumentative or abusive will not help your case.

It’s important to know your rights during any police encounter. You are not required to perform field sobriety tests during a traffic stop, but refusing may lead to you being arrested. Anything you say can be used against you, so limit what you volunteer. If you’re asked to step out of the car, comply with the officer’s orders. But don’t feel like you have to answer questions without a lawyer present ACLU.

Booking and Charges: The Legal Process Begins

If the officer suspects you are impaired, you’ll be arrested for DUI and taken to the police station. At the station, you’ll be photographed, fingerprinted, and asked for basic information. You may also be asked to undergo chemical testing – usually a breathalyzer test. There are penalties for refusing the test, so it’s usually best to comply DMV.

You’ll then be formally charged with DUI and given a court date. The exact charges depend on your blood alcohol content (BAC) and other factors. Common DUI charges in NJ include NJCourts:

  • DWI (driving while intoxicated) – BAC of 0.08% or higher. This is the standard DUI/OVI charge in most states.
  • DUI (driving under the influence) – BAC below 0.08% but still evidence of impairment.
  • DWAI (driving while ability impaired) – BAC of 0.05-0.08%.
  • Underage DUI – Driver under 21 with ANY amount of alcohol in their system.
  • School Zone DUI – DUI while driving through a school zone (harsher penalties).
  • Drug DUI – Driving under the influence of drugs, with or without alcohol.
  • Refusal – Refusing the chemical breath test. Carries penalties similar to a DUI conviction.

The Day After: Start Preparing Your Defense

Once you’re sober and recovered from your arrest, it’s time to start building your DUI defense. Don’t just ignore the charges and hope they go away – a skilled DUI lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and achieve the best possible outcome.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
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Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
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Gather Evidence and Witnesses

Any evidence or witnesses who can shed light on your level of intoxication will be helpful. For example, if you have receipts showing exactly what you drank, or friends who can testify to your sobriety, share that info with your attorney. Video footage from the bar or your arrest may also be useful.

Seek Character References

Judges and prosecutors may look more favorably on defendants who can demonstrate their good character. Letters from employers, teachers, family, or community members attesting to your strong values can help humanize you.

Enroll in Counseling or Education

Showing that you’re taking positive steps like alcohol counseling or a DUI class before your court date displays responsibility. This can help secure a favorable plea bargain or reduced sentence.

Consider Hiring an Expert Witness

In complex cases, an expert witness may be able to punch holes in the prosecution’s argument. For example, a toxicologist could challenge the accuracy of your breath test results.

Plea Bargaining: Negotiating with the Prosecutor

Many DUI cases end up being resolved through plea bargaining – negotiating with the prosecutor to plead guilty to lesser charges. A good DUI lawyer knows how to craft a persuasive argument to encourage a favorable bargain.

Why plead guilty when you feel you’ve been wrongly accused? Often, it’s the path of least resistance. Trials are time-consuming and uncertain. Pleading down to reckless driving, for example, avoids the DUI on your record. The penalties may be lighter too.

Don’t rush into any plea deal without fully understanding the consequences. And know that you always have the right to take your case to trial.

Potential Penalties: Fines, License Suspension, and More

If convicted of DUI in New Jersey, either through guilty plea or trial, here are some of the potential penalties you face NJLaws:

Fines and Surcharges

Fines start at $250 for a first offense but can reach into the thousands of dollars when other fees are added on. There are also monthly surcharges of $100-$150 for 3+ years.

License Suspension

A DUI conviction comes with mandatory license suspension of 3-12 months. For a first offense, you may be eligible for a restricted license after 3 months.

Ignition Interlock Device

You’ll be required to install this breathalyzer device in your car for 6 months-1 year before getting your full license restored. It prevents the car from starting if alcohol is detected.

Jail Time

First time offenders rarely serve jail time. But 2nd and 3rd DUIs can lead to weeks or months behind bars. School zone DUIs also increase the likelihood of incarceration.

Alcohol Education and Counseling

You’ll be required to complete an alcohol education or treatment program – usually 12-48 hours long. For repeat offenders, this may become months of intensive alcohol therapy.

SR-22 Insurance

You’ll need to obtain special high-risk SR-22 auto insurance for 3+ years, which is significantly more expensive.

Community Service and Probation

Expect to complete 70-90 hours of community service. Probation may also be assigned, requiring check-ins with a probation officer.

The Trial: Your Day in Court

If no plea deal is reached, your case will head to trial. Don’t panic and consider it a chance to tell your side of the story. Your lawyer will advocate for you every step of the way. They’ll also advise if it’s strategically smarter to opt for a bench trial vs. jury trial.

Some key events at your DUI trial DMV:

  • Prosecution’s Opening Statement – The prosecutor lays out their case and evidence against you.
  • Defense’s Opening Statement – Your attorney responds with the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case and your innocence.
  • Prosecution Witnesses – Police officers, chemical test technicians, and other witnesses take the stand. Your lawyer will cross-examine them.
  • Defense Witnesses – Your witnesses present testimony demonstrating your sobriety and credibility.
  • Closing Arguments – Final chance for lawyers to argue their side to the jury or judge.
  • Verdict – The jury or judge decides your guilt based on the evidence. Not guilty? Congrats, you beat the charges. Guilty? Your lawyer will advise on next steps for appeal or sentencing.

Finding the Right DUI Lawyer for You

If you’ve been charged with DUI in New Jersey, the stakes are high. Finding an experienced attorney you trust is critical. Look for these qualities:

  • Specializes in DUI defense – You want someone who lives and breathes DUI law, not a general practice lawyer.
  • Successful track record – Check their case results. Do they have a history of achieving not guilty verdicts and favorable plea deals?
  • Strong negotiator – Can they persuade prosecutors to reduce or drop charges? Good rapport with local officials is a plus.
  • Trial experience – If your case may go to trial, your lawyer should have plenty of courtroom experience.
  • Clear communicators – They should clearly explain your options, keep you updated, and answer all questions in an understandable way.
  • Affordable fees – Their rates should be fair and transparent. Beware lawyers who nickel and dime you.

With the right legal guidance, a DUI charge does not have to derail your life. We all make mistakes – focus on learning from the experience while fighting for the best possible legal outcome. Stay strong and know there are people who will support you along the way.

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