Throughout New Jersey, police are always on the lookout for drunk drivers. Whether you are an Ocean City resident or visiting the state, facing a DWI charge in New Jersey can be a huge burden. Not only that, but you may face license suspensions, jail time, and expensive fines. No matter how much you had to drink, a DUI/DWI charge is extremely serious.
The penalties for DWI can be very serious and have a lasting impact on your life. Not only will you pay expensive fines if convicted of a DWI, but you may also lose your license and even go to jail. Living without a driver’s license can make life very difficult. Things like going to work, school, or picking up your kids are suddenly very complicated. You need an experienced attorney at your side to help you fight your charges and get your life back to normal.
For help facing your DWI charge, contact our experienced Ocean City DWI attorneys. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent clients facing DWIs in Ocean City and throughout New Jersey. Our lawyers have years of experience helping clients get charges reduced and dropped, and may be able to help you, too. Call us at (609) 616-4956 to set up a free legal consultation.
What Counts as DWI in Ocean City?
In Ocean City, the crime of drunk driving or drugged driving is called “driving while intoxicated,” or “DWI.” Other states may call this “driving under the influence” or “DUI,” but the charge is basically the same.
NJSA § 39:4-50 makes it illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol. This takes into account different levels of intoxication. It also makes it illegal to drive under the influence of drugs.
It is generally illegal to drive if you are under the influence of:
- “[I]ntoxicating liquor,” i.e. alcohol;
- “[H]allucinogenic[s];” or
- “[H]abit-producing drug[s].”
It is also illegal to drive if your BAC is over .08%.
BAC stands for “blood alcohol concentration,” and is the percentage of your blood that is literally alcohol. The “legal limit” for DWI is .08%, meaning that your blood is, by weight, .08% alcohol. This is usually tested in Ocean City by a breath test, known as a “breathalyzer.” More specifically, the breath test that police in New Jersey typically use is the “Alcotest,” produced by a company called Dräger.
What It Is Like to Be Stopped for a DWI in Ocean City
Being stopped for DWI can be a very scary experience. Even if you have no alcohol in your system, being confronted by the police is very intimidating, to say the least. However, even the police must follow proper protocols and procedures to ensure your rights are not violated during a DWI stop.
Stops for DWIs cannot be arbitrary. The police cannot simply pull random drivers over and check for signs of intoxication. However, the police may do something similar in DWI checkpoints mentioned below. When stopping individual vehicles, the police must have reasonable suspicion that the driver is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
Common signs of intoxication the police can use to pull you over include various forms of erratic driving. Drivers who weave between lanes, frequently slow down and speed up, or blow through red lights or stop signs could be pulled over for DWIs. However, just because the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop you does not mean they have probable cause to arrest you.
Once you are stopped, the police will ask you questions to find any additional intoxication signs. If they believe you are intoxicated, they may arrest you for a DWI. Signs of intoxication are not always apparent in every driver. The police may employ various tactics or tests to get enough probable cause to arrest you. For example, they may have you perform field tests to check your motor skills. They may also ask you to submit to a breath test. You can refuse to submit to these tests, but remember that chemical testing cannot be refused after being arrested.
If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI, please call our Ocean City DWI lawyers right away. We can help you fight your charges and protect your rights.
How DWIs Are Assessed and Charged in Ocean City
If your BAC is over .08%, you can be arrested, charged, and convicted of DWI. For a BAC under .10% and a BAC .10% or higher, the punishments differ. Drug DWI counts the same as a higher BAC when charging a DWI. While .08% is the “legal limit” in Ocean City, you may still face legal penalties even if your BAC is lower than .08%.
Despite .08% being the “legal limit,” you can be charged with DWI with a BAC under .08%. The way the law is written applies equally for BACs between .08% and .10% and a BAC under .08% where the person is still too intoxicated to drive. That means that you may not automatically beat a DWI charge by “beating” the breath test.
DWIs are commonly assessed using breathalyzer tests. These breathalyzers, also known as “breath tests,” measure your BAC by detecting alcohol on your breath. The device is designed to be blown into by a driver suspected of driving while drunk. These devices must be properly maintained and calibrated by the police to ensure their accuracy.
There is also other evidence besides breath tests that police use to determine whether drivers are intoxicated. First, police need some reason to pull you over in the first place. They often look for things like unsafe driving, missing stop signs, or swerving before even stopping you. After stopping you, police use “field sobriety tests” to determine whether you can safely drive or not.
Field sobriety tests usually involve simple tasks that most people can perform while sober. The typical field sobriety tests include the following:
- The “Walk and Turn” test, where you walk a few steps in a straight line, turn, then walk back
- The “One Leg Stand” test, where you raise one leg a few inches off the ground in front of you while balancing on the other leg, and
- The “Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus” test, where you follow an officer’s finger movements with your eyes
While these tests have some scientific basis that helps police and prosecutors use them as evidence against you, our attorneys know how to combat this evidence in court. The same is true for breathalyzer tests. While they are often accurate, the systems may not have been properly tested or calibrated. This could call your DWI charge into question and help us win your case.
DWI Checkpoints in Ocean City
Checkpoints are a method in which the police stop cars along a specific area of the road or highway and check for drunk drivers. DWI checkpoints are not set up as a trap for drivers and must follow strict procedures to be lawful.
Checkpoints must be made known to the public ahead of time. In many cases, the police will report on upcoming checkpoints in the local media, like newspapers or online postings. Drivers must be given a heads up before checkpoints are put in place. Because drivers are allowed to know about checkpoints ahead of time, they can avoid them if they wish. However, you cannot avoid a checkpoint in an illegal fashion, such as by making an unlawful U-turn.
Checkpoints must also be fair and reasonable. The police cannot stop vehicles for arbitrary reasons, like the race or gender of the driver. Usually, the police stop cars simply by counting them. They may choose to stop every third or every fourth car while letting the others pass. Being stopped at a checkpoint is sort of like a game of chance.
If you are stopped, the police will ask you several generic questions and look for any signs of intoxication. They often look for more obvious signs, like slurred speech or the smell of alcohol on your breath. Usually, if you exhibit no signs of intoxication, the police will let you go relatively quickly.
One way to defend yourself against DWI charges from a checkpoint would be to argue the checkpoint was invalid. If the police did not follow proper procedures, or you believe you were stopped for an unlawful or arbitrary reason, your stop may be invalidated. Contact our Ocean City DWI lawyers to discuss your checkpoint experience and resulting DWI charges.
DWI Penalties in Ocean City
In any DWI case in Ocean City, you face the chance of a license suspension. On top of that, each case requires driver education courses at New Jersey’s Intoxicated Driver Resource Center. Any DWI offense can also mean the installation of an ignition interlock on your car. This prevents you from driving unless you can provide a clean breath sample to the machine. All DWIs can also mean probation-like supervision.
The first DWI for no BAC or a BAC over .08 but less than .10% can mean a fine between $250 and $400, imprisonment up to 30 days, and a three-month license suspension. A first offense with a BAC .10% or higher (or a drug DWI) means a $400 to $500 fine, imprisonment up to 30 days, and a seven-month license suspension.
A second DWI means $500 to $1,000 in fines, imprisonment between 48 hours and 90 days, a two-year license suspension, and 30 days of community service. The interlock is also required after a second or further offense. A third or further offense means a $1,000 fine, at least 180 days in jail, and an 8-year license suspension.
Our Ocean City DWI attorneys can help you understand the potential penalties you face and work to get them reduced.
Additional Penalties Associated with DWIs in Ocean City
DWIs are often not the only charges faced by defendants. It is not unusual for defendants to be subject to additional criminal charges or enhanced penalties for their DWI. The nature of DWI, such as where it occurred and who was in the car with you, may lead to enhanced penalties. If somebody were hurt as a result of your DWI, you could be criminally charged. There are also penalties that may be imposed for refusing to cooperate with law enforcement.
The police frequently employ breath tests to determine how intoxicated a driver is at the time of their stop. If your test is administered pre-arrest, you do not have to consent to testing. However, if you have already been arrested for a DWI, the police will likely want to administer a breath test to get an accurate BAC reading. This post-arrest test is required by law and you may not refuse it. Refusal to submit to this test will lead to additional charges and penalties. In fact, it means an automatic seven-month to one-year license revocation under NJSA § 39:4-50.4a.
You may also face additional criminal charges if anyone was injured or killed during your DWI. If you hit a pedestrian or another car and someone was killed, you could be charged with reckless vehicular homicide. This charge is a second-degree crime and may be punished by at least 5 years in prison but no more than 10 years.
Speak to our Ocean City DWI attorneys about your case to determine if you may be subject to any additional or enhanced penalties.
Ocean City, NJ DWI Attorneys
If you have been charged with a DWI in Ocean City, New Jersey, talk to our experienced Ocean City DWI attorneys. Losing your license, paying fines, and having a criminal record can seriously interrupt anyone’s life. To help fight your charges, call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych for a free consultation today at (609) 616-4968.