Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a very serious offense. An intoxicated driver may be unable to control their vehicle and cause a dangerous accident. Every year people are seriously injured or even killed in drunk driving accidents. Because driving while intoxicated is so dangerous, the state punishes this offense quite harshly.
In New Jersey, the crime is punished by very high fines, license suspensions, and even a possibility of jail time. Drivers convicted of a DWI may also lose their license for several months or several years, depending on how many DWIs they have on their record. If you have been charged with DWI in Ocean County, talk to an experienced New Jersey defense attorney who can help you with your case.
Our experienced Ocean County DWI lawyers can help you fight your charges and clear your name. It is important to talk to a lawyer about your DWI charges because they are never expunged from your driving record. To talk to an experienced DUI/DWI defense attorney in New Jersey, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today.
Ocean County DUI/DWI Offenses
In New Jersey, the crime of drunk or drugged driving is “driving while intoxicated,” usually shortened to “DWI.” Other states call this “driving under the influence” (DUI), or they may use both terms for different levels of drunk driving.
In New Jersey, as stated in N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while “under the influence” of any alcohol. A driver may be charged with a DWI for operating their vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08%. The law also forbids driving while under the influence of any drugs, including narcotics, hallucinogens, or any kind of habit-producing substance.
In New Jersey, the law additionally forbids people from allowing drunk people to drive their vehicles. This means you could face penalties for a DWI even if you did not drive the car. Just by letting someone you know to be drunk drive your car, you open yourself up to legal penalties. Under this rule, even a sober passenger could be charged with a DWI if it is determined that they own the car and allowed the drunk driver to operate it.
How Law Enforcement Determines a Driver is Drunk in New Jersey
As previously mentioned, DWIs may be charged when a driver has a BAC over the legal limit of .08%. A BAC measurement determines, by weight, the percentage of your blood that is pure alcohol. As your body absorbs alcohol, this number goes up, and as it breaks down the alcohol, the number goes down. That means that this number can change drastically over time. Because of this, police use a breath test, or “breathalyzer,” to test your BAC quickly. In New Jersey, police usually use the Dräger Alcotest device to test your BAC. The later a breath test is used, the less accurate your BAC measurement will be.
Despite common understandings, you can be charged with a DUI/DWI with a BAC under .08%. In cases of drugged driving, you would not have a high BAC. Even in drunk driving cases with a BAC under .08%, a driver may still be too drunk to drive safely, so police charge them with DWI anyway. Underage drivers may also face legal penalties for driving with any alcohol in their system at all.
The police need to see signs of intoxication before being allowed to pull someone over on the road. Signs of drunk driving can include weaving in and out of traffic, driving the wrong way down the road, or other forms of erratic or reckless driving. Once pulled over, the police will begin to question you to determine if you are intoxicated.
To discuss the details of your arrest and interaction with the police, call our New Jersey DWI attorneys today.
Field Sobriety Tests for DWIs in Ocean County, NJ
If the police suspect you are drunk after pulling you over, they may ask you to perform something called a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are usually small, physical tasks that require more refined motor skills to complete. Tests include standing on one leg, tracking movement with your eyes, or walking in a straight line. These tests are used because they are easily completed by someone who is sober, but difficult for someone who is intoxicated.
Field sobriety tests are not mandatory. The police may request that you perform these tests for them, but you are allowed to refuse. Your refusal will not be met with immediate legal consequences. However, your lack of cooperation may not look good to a judge.
Hiring an attorney to help fight your case can pinpoint problems with the arrest and police testing to put holes in the prosecution’s case. Our attorneys understand field sobriety tests and where their failures are. Our lawyers also know how a breath test could be tainted or inaccurate. To properly challenge your case, it is always best to consult an attorney. Call our Ocean County DWI lawyers today to discuss your case.
DUI/DWI Penalties in Ocean County
DWI punishments in New Jersey increase depending on the BAC. In all DWI cases, the defendant faces required information classes at New Jersey’s Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). Standard fines and court fees apply in every case. You could also face community service or supervision (similar to probation). The other fines and penalties also increase for second and subsequent offenses.
One possible penalty is the requirement of an “ignition interlock.” This device attaches to your car and requires a clean breath test before the car can start. Note that it is a serious offense in New Jersey to drive without an interlock if you were ordered to do so. It is also a serious offense to drive with a suspended license.
The fines, jail, and other penalties are listed below for each level of DWI:
This is the standard DWI listed under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50 for any DWI based on alcohol or drugs, or a BAC over .08% (but under .10%). These cases face fines of $250 to $400 and up to 30 days in jail. There is a mandatory license suspension for 3 months. A court can also order you to drive with an ignition interlock for between 6 months and 1 year.
When your BAC is .10% or greater, the fines and penalties for your first DWI will go up. These penalties include a $300 to $500 fine, a possibility of up to 30 days in jail, a license suspension between 7 months and 1 year, and the possibility of 6 months to 1 year with an interlock.
Second Offense (of any DWI)
For a second DWI offense, the penalties will be increased even more. Generally, to count as a second DWI, your current DWI must occur within 10 years of your previous one.
These offenses have a fine between $500 and $1,000, jail time of at least 48 hours (up to 90 days), a 2-year license suspension, and 30 days of community service. They also require an interlock for 1 to 3 years, or they may revoke all vehicle registrations and license plates for 2 years.
Third or Further Offenses
This has a mandatory $1,000 fine, jail time of at least 180 days, and an 8-year license suspension. They also require an interlock for between 1 and 3 years, or may revoke all vehicle registrations and license plates for 10 years. Instead of 180 days in jail, it may be reduced to 90 days in jail and inpatient treatment at an approved drug and alcohol rehab program.
At this point, the reinstatement of your license is not guaranteed. You may apply to get your driver’s license back, but the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission has the discretion to deny your request.
Criminal Charges Associated with DWIs in New Jersey
DWIs are technically not criminal charges. As such, convictions of DWI are not reflected on your criminal history but are instead listed on your driving record. However, because DWIs are not “crimes” under the law, DWI defendants may not be entitled to jury trials. You are still afforded certain other protections such as the right to an attorney.
Even though DWIs themselves are not crimes, other crimes may be charged in connection with a DWI. If anyone is hurt as a result of your DWI, you could face criminal charges and penalties. For example, if your DWI causes the death of another passenger, driver, or pedestrian, you may be charged with reckless vehicular homicide. This is a second-degree crime and may be punished with at least 5 but no more than 10 years.
You could also be charged with strict liability vehicular homicide. This is similar to the charges mentioned above, but is a third-degree crime. Third-degree crimes may be punished by at least 3 years in prison but no more than 5 years.
Each person hurt or killed as a result of your DWI will constitute a separate charge. So, if two other people are killed, that could be two charges of reckless or strict liability vehicular homicide. These charges will add up very quickly to many years behind bars.
If you have been charged with a DWI and believe there may be other criminal charges pending, please contact our New Jersey DWI attorneys immediately. We can help you fight your charges and get your life back.
Defending Against DWI Charges in Ocean County, NJ
There are several ways we can help you fight your DWI charges. It may be possible to challenge the accuracy of BAC measurements or the procedures followed by the police during your stop. Even if we cannot have your DWI completely dismissed, it may be possible to reduce penalties.
Your DWI charges will undoubtedly be based on signs of intoxication the results of breath and chemical testing. The police are responsible for maintaining breathalyzers used in the field so that they are in working order and can accurately detect alcohol in your system. If we have reason to believe your breathalyzer was faulty, we may be able to challenge your DWI. Similarly, if we have reason to believe later chemical testing was faulty or inaccurate, we can challenge your DWI.
The police are also required to follow standard procedures and protocols during DWI stops. For example, when police conduct a checkpoint stop, they must follow specific rules. The police are required to inform the public ahead of time that they will be conducting a checkpoint. The police must also avoid stopping vehicles at checkpoints for arbitrary and unlawful reasons. If the police failed to notify the public of the checkpoint, or you were stopped for an unlawful reason like your race, your stop may be invalidated.
For help determining how to challenge your DWI, please get in touch with our New Jersey DWI lawyers.
Contact an Ocean County DWI Lawyer Today
These penalties are nothing to risk to chance or face without an experienced attorney on your side. To fight your charges, or help reduce your penalties as much as possible, talk to our experienced Ocean County DWI lawyers today. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych handle DWI cases in Ocean County and throughout New Jersey. Call us today for a free consultation at (609) 616-4956.