New Jersey’s driving while intoxicated (DWI) statute allows a wide range of penalties.  This gives the judge a lot of latitude to decide your ultimate sentence.  However, even a first-time DWI charge carries potential jail time in New Jersey.  If you or a loved one was charged with a drunk or drugged driving offense, it is important to talk to an attorney about your case.  For a free consultation, contact The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today.  In the meantime, our Atlantic City DWI defense attorneys explain the penalties and charges for first offense DWI charges in NJ.

First Time DWI Charges in New Jersey

If you are charged with DWI for the first time in New Jersey, you will face one of two “tiers” of DWI charges.  These charges come under the same DWI statute, but there are two different subsections with different levels of severity for this offense.  The “low tier” DWI covers drunk driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) over .08%, as well as DWIs for general alcohol intoxication.  Even if the BAC is under .08% or there is no blood/breath test, you can be charged with a low-tier DWI.  The “high tier” DWI covers drunk driving with a BAC over .10% as well as driving under the influence of any drug.

There are some important things you should note about these offenses if you are charged with DWI for the first time.  Many police and prosecutors will initially charge you with both offenses if they have reason to believe you might have a high enough BAC to reach the .10% limit, just in case there are problems with the blood test or your BAC is only high enough for a low tier offense.  Ultimately, your case only usually ends with one drunk driving charge per drunk driving event.  You may also face additional charges for refusing a breath test.  If this is your first DUI, you may not be aware of this statute, which carries its own penalties and potential jail time.

Penalties for First Time DWI Charges in NJ

The potential penalties you face for DWI depend on which tier you are charged with.  For a low-tier DWI offense, you face the potential of:

  • $250-$400 in fines,
  • Up to 30 days in jail,
  • A 3-month driver’s license suspension,
  • Court costs, assessments, surcharges, driver’s education and screening, and other standard penalties.

For a high-tier DWI, you face the potential of:

  • $300-$500 in fines,
  • Up to 30 days in jail,
  • A driver’s license suspension of 7 months to 1 year,
  • Court costs, assessments, surcharges, driver’s education and screening, and other standard penalties.

This shows that even the lowest tier drunk driving offense can yield jail time.  Many judges will refuse to issue a jail sentence for first-time offenders, especially if their DWI charges did not involve an accident or injuries.  In some cases, judges may be willing to reduce penalties to include a term of probation instead of jail time.  This probation may involve performing community service, checking in with a probation officer, and completing drug or alcohol rehab programs.

Judges may resort to using jail time as a penalty in especially severe cases of DWI.  While there are separate penalties for repeat DWI offenses, a DWI charge resets to a “first time” DWI if you’ve been DWI-free for 10 years.  This potential jail time is often used against those repeat offenders rather than true first-time offenders.  Additionally, though there are other statutes to punish those who cause an accident or vehicular assault while driving drunk, a judge may issue additional jail time under the DWI statute.  Lastly, a judge may issue jail time in a case where the defendant is especially unruly or uncooperative toward police, especially for things like resisting arrest or assaulting a police officer.

Fighting First Offense DWI Charges in Court

If your DWI charges are your first encounter with law enforcement, you may be confused and scared about what will happen.  Our New Jersey DWI lawyers have decades of experience handling DWI cases and can help guide you through the process.  This includes fighting your case in court to help you try to avoid conviction in the first place.

Our attorneys commonly examine the evidence in your case and file motions to have evidence suppressed and kept out of court.  This can include challenging illegal blood draws, arrests, confessions, and other evidence.  Our lawyers will also closely scrutinize the way that police performed field sobriety tests, traffic stops, and questioning at the scene of the alleged DWI to fight the government’s proof that you committed a crime.

Atlantic City Drunk Driving Defense Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you or a loved one was charged with a DWI offense in NJ, call our law offices today to discuss your charges.  Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers represent those accused of drunk or drugged driving in South Jersey and fight to keep them out of jail and to get charges dropped and dismissed.  For a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.