Having a DWI (driving while intoxicated) conviction on your record can set you up for many potential issues in the future. DWIs can be a bit unpredictable as the severity of your charges will depend on your level of intoxication and the unique circumstances of your case. In any case, a DWI is bad news and can cost you your driving privileges.
While a DWI is a traffic offense, many employers may still look at your DWI record, especially for law enforcement, delivery, or transportation careers. If you were charged with a DWI in Haddonfield, NJ, it could be a potentially expensive experience after fines and possible jail time, and you could face serious hardships if you are unable to drive because your license is suspended.
For a free case review on your DWI charges in Haddonfield, contact our Haddonfield, NJ DWI defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our DWI and criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience in criminal law and can help challenge the evidence against you. For your free case review with our attorneys, call (609) 616-4956 today.
Haddonfield, NJ DWI Definition
The crime of DWI is defined in the New Jersey driving code under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50. The conduct criminalized by this statute includes:
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol,
- Driving while under the influence of drugs,
- Driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% or higher, or
- Allowing someone else to drive while they are drugged or drunk.
This means that you can be charged for DWI, even if you were not driving. While it is rare to see DWI charges for allowing someone else to drive your car (or a car under your control), it is possible. In addition, you could be charged with DWI if you are asleep in your car with the keys in the ignition.
Although .08% is the “legal limit” for drunk driving, you can still face DWI charges with a lower level of intoxication. The law allows DWI charges for any level of “intoxication,” where you are too drunk to drive – even if you are under .08% BAC. In addition, you could still face DWI charges based on drugs, even if your BAC is low.
Police use more evidence than just your BAC to determine whether you were drugged or drunk. First, police observe your driving. Usually, police pull people over for DWI because they see driving errors, such as swerving, speeding, or failing to stop at stop signs. After that, police can testify to what they see. Signs of intoxication they can bring to court may include:
- Slurred speech,
- Bloodshot eyes,
- The odor of alcohol on your breath,
- Drug odors,
- Stumbling/inability to stand,
- Inability to remember details or retrieve documents (drivers’ license, registration, etc.), and
- Any other signs that your coordination, reaction time, or mental ability is affected.
How Police Test Drivers for DWIs in Haddonfield, NJ
There are multiple procedures and tools the police can use to test a driver’s sobriety. Some of these testing methods are less sophisticated and not intended to be used as evidence against you in a subsequent DWI trial. Other testing methods are praised for their accuracy of frequently relied on by prosecutors in the courtroom.
Police use procedures called “field sobriety tests” as “proof” of your intoxication. These tests may include following an object with your eyes, standing on one leg, or walking a straight line. Your performance on these tests does not usually work as evidence in court. These tests are extremely simple, if not downright crude. The results may provide the police with reasonable suspicion to continue investigating or probable cause to arrest. However, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which tests the movement of your eyes, is only admissible for probable cause hearings. Most other field tests are admissible evidence at your trial. Instead, breath or blood test results can be used in court to prove your intoxication.
Breathalyzer testing is one of the most common methods employed by police to investigate DWI cases in New Jersey. A breathalyzer testing device works by having allegedly intoxicated drivers take deep breaths and blow into the device. A preliminary breath test (PBT) may be done before you are arrested using a smaller, handheld breath testing device. The results of a PBT are typically good for probable cause purposes only, not as evidence in court. Chemical breath testing is usually done post-arrest on larger, more accurate equipment. Chemical breathalyzer test results are often heavily relied upon by law enforcement and prosecutors alike.
Chemical testing after you are arrested for a DWI is legally required. Chemical testing in New Jersey involves breathalyzer testing to test for alcohol. New Jersey and most other states operate under implied consent laws. Under these laws, drivers impliedly consent to chemical testing simply by having a license and driving their car on the roads of this state. However, PBTs administered roadside are not mandatory and can be refused. While law enforcement will not force you to submit to testing if you refuse, you might face additional criminal penalties. Talk to our Haddonfield, NJ DWI defense lawyers about the testing done in your case.
DWIs from Police Checkpoints in Haddonfield, NJ
Not every driver charged with a DWI is stopped in the same way. Many police officers decide to pull over drivers when they exhibit signs of impaired driving, like weaving in and out of lanes or driving at unsafe speeds. However, some DWI stops are part of predetermined checkpoints.
A DWI checkpoint is a specific location along a road or highway where all drivers must stop for the police. Checkpoints frustrate many drivers because they tend to slow down traffic, and most drivers are not intoxicated. However, checkpoints are only established when the police can point to a specific and articulable need.
Checkpoints cannot be set up at random or on a whim. The police must have a good reason for setting up a checkpoint. For example, if there is a particular road where DWIs and unsafe driving are common on Saturday nights, the police might have a good reason to set up a checkpoint in that area on a Saturday night. The police must also publicize checkpoints well in advance of actually setting one up. The police can broadcast news of the checkpoint over the radio, on local news stations, or in newspapers to get the word out. While drivers are free to avoid checkpoints, they cannot leave once they are in a checkpoint.
The police must also stop drivers using a predetermined method to avoid arbitrary stops. For example, many checkpoints stop every third or fourth car in line. If the police stop cars outside this predetermined scheme, the stop might be unlawful. Talk to our Haddonfield, NJ DWI defense lawyers about your DWI checkpoint experience.
Penalties for a DWI in Haddonfield, NJ
If you are convicted of DWI, you could face serious penalties. DWI is divided into two “tiers,” one for general alcohol intoxication or driving with a BAC of .08%-.10%, and a second for drug DWI or driving with a BAC of .10% or higher. There are different penalties depending on the tier of the offense and whether the offense is your first DWI, second DWI, or third/subsequent DWI.
A first-time DWI based on alcohol or a BAC of .08%-.10% can mean fines of $250-$400, 30 days in jail, and a 3-month license suspension. A first-time drug DWI or DWI with a BAC of .10% or higher can mean fines of $300-$500, 30 days in jail, and a license suspension of 7 months to 1 year.
A second DWI (of either type) can carry a fine of $500-$1,000, 48 hours to 90 days in jail, and a 2-year license suspension – plus 30 days of community service. For a third or subsequent DWI, you face a $1,000 fine, at least 180 days in jail, and a 10-year license suspension.
For all of these offenses, there is also a potential of being forced to use an “ignition interlock,” which prevents a car from starting without a clean breath sample. For a second or further DWI, this is required for 1-3 years.
All DWI convictions also come with mandatory fees, the potential for supervised probation, and required drivers’ education and evaluation.
Challenging Your DWI Charges in Haddonfield, NJ
DWI charges are not set in stone. You might have grounds to challenge the evidence against you or the validity of your traffic stop. Although DWIs are fairly common, most drivers do not have the legal skills or knowledge necessary to effectively challenge their charges. Our Haddonfield, NJ DWI defense lawyers can help you fight your charges and protect your rights.
Not all evidence is good evidence. Tainted evidence often comes from police misconduct or mistakes during an investigation. The police are not free to do whatever they want when investigating a DWI. They cannot stop drivers based on arbitrary reasons or simply on a hunch. The police must have a reason to pull over a car, usually an observable traffic violation. Without the reasonable suspicion to make the stop, the stop might be invalid. The same can be said for arrests. The police need probable cause to make an arrest. Without that probable cause, an arrest might be unlawful.
Improper testing protocols might also provide grounds for disputing your charges. The police rely on technical equipment when gathering certain kinds of evidence. For example, the police must use breathalyzer testing devices for both PBTs and official chemical testing that are properly functioning and well maintained. If a testing device is not maintained, its results cannot be trusted, and you could challenge its validity. The methods used for other forms of chemical testing can also be questioned if the results do not seem right. In fact, these methods should always be questioned in every case.
As mentioned above, DWI checkpoints must follow specific rules and procedures to be considered lawful. If you were stopped at a checkpoint but the police did not follow the proper protocols, you should speak to our Haddonfield, NJ DWI defense attorneys right away. The police might have stopped you for an arbitrary or unlawful reason, like your race, gender, or even the type of car you drive. The police cannot violate your rights while doing their jobs.
What if I Drive for My Job but Get a DWI in Haddonfield, NJ?
If you drive as part of your job, you are in a very precarious position. Special types of driver’s licenses, like commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), may be revoked for various traffic citations or violations. According to N.J.S.A. § 39:3-10.13, CDL drivers may be charged with a DWI with a BAC of only .04%, or half the standard legal limit. A DWI could not only suspend your license but cost you your job. To make matters worse, you might not be able to get your job back even after your suspension is over. Companies that employ CDL drivers often refuse to hire anyone with a history of DWIs.
However, your CDL may only be suspended or revoked if you are convicted of a DWI. Our Haddonfield, NJ DWI defense lawyers can help you fight any DWI charges and hopefully avoid a conviction. When you have so much at stake, it would be unwise to try to fight your charges alone. Our team is equipped to help you fight for your rights and your job.
Our Haddonfield, NJ DWI Attorneys Can Help
If you are charged with DWI, talk to our Haddonfield, NJ DWI defense attorneys right away. To avoid the difficulties that a DWI charge could cause, you may need an attorney to help defend you against the charges. For a free case review, call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.