Drivers who get behind the wheel with drugs or alcohol in their system may be arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). The label of DWI tends to apply to alcohol-related offenses, while DUI applies more to drug-related offenses. However, both are charged and prosecuted under the same statute, so it is common to see the terms used interchangeably.
DUI and DWI charges are not uncommon but should still be handled with great caution. The consequences of a DUI or DWI can be broad and affect numerous aspects of your life. Additionally, the more intoxicated you are during your DUI or DWI, the greater your penalties may be. Factors like your driving history and whether anyone was injured will also be considered.
If you were pulled over by the police and arrested for a DUI or DWI, you might need legal assistance. Our Hamilton Township DUI and DWI defense attorneys can help you fight your charges. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case review.
What is Considered DWI in Hamilton Twp?
In many states, the offense of drunk driving is known as DUI, or driving under the influence. New Jersey calls the offense driving while intoxicated, or DWI. Some states may differentiate between DUI and DWI, but in New Jersey, there is just the one offense of DWI.
If you are caught in New Jersey driving a motor vehicle while experiencing any of these conditions, you are committing the crime of DWI:
- Intoxication from alcohol
- Intoxication from hallucinogens, narcotics, or other drugs
- A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher
You can also be convicted of DWI if you let someone else drive your car (or a car in your custody) while they are under these effects.
Under this law, you can be convicted of DWI for either drugs or alcohol, and there are different penalties for first offenses based on drugs and based on alcohol. Additionally, while the nationwide standard of .08% BAC is present, there are elevated penalties for a first offense where your BAC is .10% or higher. For those wondering, BAC is “blood alcohol concentration,” and is a measurement of what percentage of your blood is actually alcohol, at the time.
BAC is tested in New Jersey with a breath test. Sometimes these tests or the machines used for them are called “breathalyzers,” but the actual name of the system New Jersey uses is “Alcotest.” This test is performed by having the subject blow into a tube connected to a machine. Drugs are tested with different procedures.
Some people may think it is a good idea to refuse to take a breath test in New Jersey, so that they cannot prove you were over .08% BAC. This is absolutely wrong. In New Jersey, under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2, by driving on the roads of New Jersey, you automatically give your implied consent to a breath test. While they cannot physically force you to take a breath test, refusing a breathalyzer has its own penalties and license suspension.
Additionally, despite what people commonly think, you do not need a BAC of .08% to be convicted for DUI. Police and prosecutors are trained to use information from a driver’s performance on “standardized field sobriety tests” to determine the driver’s ability to drive due to intoxication. Even if your BAC is under .08%, if you are too drunk to drive, you can be convicted. Different people have different abilities to function after consuming alcohol, and some people may be unsafe to drive, even under .08%.
Charges for DUIs and DWIs in Hamilton Township
The charges for DUIs and DWIs are unique to your situation. If you had a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC), a history of DUIs, or injured someone during your DUI, your charges and penalties could be increased. It is important you speak with our Hamilton Township DUI and DWI defense attorneys to figure out the extent of your penalties.
Your very first DUI or DWI tends to receive lighter penalties than a second, third, or subsequent violation. As a first-time offender, you are in a better position to bargain for more lenient penalties, especially if your BAC was relatively low and nobody was injured. However, even in the best of scenarios, you still have serious penalties to face.
If your BAC was at least .08% but less than .10%, you might have to pay a fine of at least $250 but no more than $400. You could also be detained for up to 48 hours or incarcerated for up to 30 days. You must also forfeit your driver’s license until you install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. It is also worth noting that you can be charged with a DUI with a BAC of less than .08% as long as you are intoxicated and unable to drive safely. For higher BACs, the license suspension and other penalties may increase.
If you are charged with your second DUI or DWI in New Jersey, your fines will increase to at least $500 but not more than $1,000. You might also be ordered to perform community service and face incarceration of up to 90 days. You will also lose your driver’s license for at least 1 year but no more than 2.
For a third or subsequent offense, your fine will be at least $1,000, and you will be incarcerated for at least 180 days. However, at its discretion, the court could lower your sentence to 90 days and instead place you in a drug or alcohol inpatient rehab program. You will lose your driver’s license for 8 years also be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
Other Penalties and Charges
Other factors beyond your BAC and driving history are considered when determining your charges and penalties for a DUI or DWI. Primarily, a court will look at other people involved in the incident. For example, if you had a minor passenger in your vehicle, you could face additional charges. Similarly, if someone were injured in an accident related to your DUI, your penalties would be much worse. Our Hamilton Township DWI and DUI defense lawyers can assist you in fighting your charges and any other aggravating circumstances.
Breath Tests and Chemical Testing in Hamilton Township
The infamous breathalyzer or breath test is widely used by law enforcement throughout New Jersey and the United States. These tests are used to calculate a driver’s accurate BAC and press charges for DUIs and DWIs. However, many people do not realize there are two kinds of breath tests: preliminary breath tests (PBTs) and official chemical testing. Our Hamilton Township DUI and DWI defense attorneys have experience with both forms of testing.
A preliminary breath test is often administered at the scene of the alleged DUI. These tests are sometimes called portable breath tests because the police use portable breathalyzer devices to administer the tests. You are not required to submit to these tests, and the results of these tests are typically not used in court as evidence. However, the police can use these test results to establish probable cause to support your arrest for a DUI or DWI.
Official chemical testing is done post-arrest and is legally required of all drivers. This requirement comes from implied consent laws that state that drivers consent to chemical testing simply by driving on the roads and highways of this state. The police will not physically force you to submit, but they will warn you of additional charges for refusal. Official chemical testing is often done on much larger equipment that is not portable or handheld. The results tend to be more accurate and are admissible as evidence against you.
When Can the Police Arrest Me for a DUI or DWI in Hamilton Township?
The police can only arrest you once they have established sufficient probable cause to do so. Probable cause can only be established after the police have reasonable suspicion to pull you over. If one of these elements is missing from your case, our Hamilton Township DWI and DUI defense lawyers can challenge your arrest.
Law enforcement cannot pull you over just because. They need reasonable suspicion to support stopping you. Reasonable suspicion does not require a lot of support. A police officer does not need hard evidence that you are intoxicated, just enough suspicion to warrant pulling you over. Erratic driving like weaving between lanes could be enough to make an officer suspicious.
After the police stop you for suspicion of DUI, they can begin gathering evidence for probable cause to arrest. Probable cause requires more than reasonable suspicion, and the evidence should be identifiable and articulable. Gut feelings or hunches are not grounds for probable cause. Things like field sobriety tests, PBTs, and visible signs of intoxication can all be used to support probable cause to arrest. If you believe your arrest was not based on probable cause, our Hamilton Township DUI and DWI defense lawyers can help you fight your charges.
Probable Cause for a DWI Arrest in Hamilton Township, New Jersey
Before being arrested for a DWI, the police must gather enough probable cause to support their belief of your intoxication. Probable cause comes from numerous sources, some of which may be used against you in court. However, if you believe that the police lacked probable cause supporting your arrest, we can challenge the validity of your arrest and subsequent DWI charges in court.
The police begin collecting probable cause the moment they see your vehicle on the road. Signs of intoxicated driving like weaving between lanes, speeding, or running through stop lights are sufficient grounds to conduct the stop. However, if the police suspect a driver is intoxicated, they need a bit more evidence before making an arrest.
Probable cause may come from observations of the police officers or DWI tests. Observations could be a driver’s slurred speech, the smell of alcohol in your vehicle, or open bottles or cans in your vehicle.
In some cases, the police will conduct field sobriety tests. These tests are small physical tests that are only difficult if you are intoxicated. Standing on one leg or walking heel-to-toe in a straight line may be requested. If a driver cannot perform these tests or cannot follow the very simple direction, the authorities might suspect intoxication. The police could also ask you to perform a preliminary breathalyzer test to determine if alcohol is in your system.
Once the authorities have enough probable cause, they may arrest you for a DWI. However, insufficient probable cause could undermine your charges. Call our Hamilton Township, New Jersey DWI defense lawyers for help.
Chemical Testing Requirements for DWIs in Hamilton Township, New Jersey
Chemical testing includes several different scientific procedures used to measure a person’s BAC. Chemical testing commonly involves chemical breathalyzer tests, blood tests, and urine tests. Chemical testing is legally required, and drivers must submit or face additional consequences.
According to N.J.S.A. § 39:4-20.2, consent to chemical testing is implied by virtue of operating a vehicle on the roads and highways of New Jersey. Penalties for refusing to submit to chemical testing can be found under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-40.4a and include an immediate license suspension until you install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
Your penalties may be upgraded if you have been arrested for DWIs in the past and refused chemical testing on those occasions, too. A second offense of refusal to submit to chemical testing will result in a license suspension of at least 1 year before you must install an ignition interlock device. For a third offense or more, you will lose your license for 8 years in addition to an ignition interlock device. Call our Hamilton Township, New Jersey DWI defense lawyers for more information.
Contact Our Hamilton Township DUI and DWI Defense Lawyers
If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI or DWI, our team can help you protect your rights. Get in touch with our Hamilton Township DWI and DUI defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Call us at (609) 616-4956 for a free initial case evaluation.