If you, someone you know, or your child have been charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating substance, then you probably have a lot of questions and concerns about what is going to happen. It is important for anyone who is facing a driving while under the influence charge in New Jersey to understand that this is a very serious charge.
A driving while under the influence conviction can cause you to lose your license, to pay massive fines, and even spend time in jail. Accordingly, it is crucial that your hire competent legal representation as soon as possible after being arrested. The team at our law firm can help build your defense and fight to have your charge reduced or elimintated.
If you were accused of driving drunk in Sea Girt, NJ, get help from our experienced DWI defense attorneys by calling the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
DWI Arrests and Procedures in New Jersey
Getting pulled over is always an anxiety-inducing event. However, whenever a police officer believes that you may have been driving under the influence there are certain procedures and protocols that a police officer must follow in order for you to be convicted of driving while under the influence.
To begin, a police officer needs to have some reason to pull over your car, at least reasonable suspicion. According to the United State Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio, a police officer can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if the officer had a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity is afoot, even if the officer lacks probable cause. However, a police officer can gain probable cause for a variety of reasons, and for any traffic offense such as:
- Crossing the center line
- Erratic driving
- Failing to use a turn signal
- Failing to come to a complete stop
However, if a police officer does not have probable cause to pull your car over then this could be a reason why a driving while under the influence charge would be dismissed. Once your car is pulled over the police may then subsequently claim that they developed reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or some other intoxicating substance. They may base this on their statements that you were slurring your words, that you smelled of alcohol, or that you had glassy eyes.
Even after the police suspect that you had been driving under the influence, the police must still follow strict protocol in order for a person to be convicted of driving under the influence. An officer may request that you submit to a breathalyzer test. If the police officer finds that you are in violation of the New Jersey Driving under the influence statute N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 then they can bring you to the police station under arrest.
However, even at the police station, you have protections under the law.
What Are the Defenses to DWI?
If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence you probably have many questions and concerns. Additionally, you may feel that your rights were violated with the police officer pulled you over.
Some of the most applicable defenses include:
- The police officer lacked probable cause to stop your vehicle – In order for a police officer to make a constitutional stop and inspection of your vehicle, they need to have at least probable cause to do so. If the police officer cannot articulate facts that would lead them to believe that criminal activity was afoot, then the stop may be deemed in violation of the constitution of both New Jersey and the United States.
- The police officer lacks reasonable suspicion to detain you for sobriety testing – similar to pulling your car over, the police officer needs at least reasonable suspicion to believe that you have violated a law, in this case, the new jersey law on driving while under the influence in order to detain you. In the event that they do not have reasonable suspicion, then this detainment may be deemed improper and therefore require that the judge drops the charges.
- The breathalyzer machine was not properly working – to ensure that there is consistency within the DWI process, a breathalyzer machine must be continually tested and logged that it is in proper working order. However, even machines which have been tested can fail to perform the way that they are supposed to which can result in the case being dismissed.
- The police officer failed to comply with the “20-minute” observation rule – when the police bring you into the station on the belief that you had been driving while under the influence, and then they are required to observe you uninterrupted for 20 minutes.
- The police violated the discovery or evidence rules – there are numerous state and federal constitutional protections that the police must abide by when they conduct a search, and if the fail to do abide by these rules of law, then the evidence that the collect can be excluded from evidence, which means that if the police and or the state cannot prove any element of the case then the case will be dropped and you will not be convicted of driving while under the influence.
When you take into account the extreme penalties that a judge can impose if you are convicted of driving while under the influence these defenses and others are very important to understand.
Criminal Penalties that Can Be Assessed for DWI in Sea Girt, NJ
As previously mentioned, those who drive drunk may be charged with DWI under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50. The potential penalties for DWI are very serious. For example, defendants in DWI cases may be facing any of the following:
Penalties for First Time Offenders
Facing a DWI arrest for the first time may result in comparatively less severe penalties than those imposed on repeat offenders, but the repercussions can still be harsh. The severity of the penalties hinges on the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at the time of arrest.
For instance, a BAC between 0.08% and 0.10% could lead to a fine ranging from $250 to $400, driver’s license suspension, and the possibility of a jail sentence at the judge’s discretion. On the other hand, if the accused had a BAC above 0.10%, then their potential penalties can escalate, including a fine ranging from $300 to $500, a longer license suspension, and a higher potential for a jail sentence determined by the judge.
Understanding these consequences is crucial for building an effective defense. Fortunately, our DUI defense lawyers can help explain the potential penalties you may face during your free case review.
Penalties for Repeat Offenders
Penalties for repeat DWI offenders can have a significant impact. If you have been convicted of DWI for a second time, the court might impose a jail sentence of up to 90 days and a fine ranging from $500 to $1000. Furthermore, your driver’s license could be suspended for up to two years.
For subsequent offenses, the penalties become even more severe. Third and subsequent convictions can lead to jail terms of up to six months and fines exceeding $1,000. If you are convicted of DWI for the third time, your driver’s license could be suspended for a maximum of eight years.
Thankfully, there are still numerous avenues for repeat offenders to potentially challenge the charges they are facing. Our experienced legal team can carefully evaluate your case and determine the best course of action.
Are There Other Penalties You Can Face for DWI in Sea Girt, NJ?
In addition to facing the aforementioned criminal penalties, there are other potential consequences for drunk driving in Sea Girt. For example, after being convicted of DWI, you may have to deal with any of the following:
Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
Following a DWI conviction, you might be mandated by the court to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. This device requires you to blow into it each time you wish to start your car, measuring your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). If your BAC is above the legal limit, the device will prevent your car from starting.
Keep in mind that if the court requires you to have an ignition interlock device, you will be responsible for covering the costs of both its installation and maintenance.
Mandatory Participation in Alcohol Education Programs
Another possible outcome of a DWI conviction is the mandatory participation in alcohol education programs. These programs are designed to increase awareness about the risks of drunk driving and assist individuals in addressing alcohol dependency. Though beneficial, juggling these programs alongside work commitments and personal responsibilities may pose a challenge.
Court-Ordered Community Service Hours
Furthermore, a DWI conviction might lead to a mandatory completion of community service hours. For instance, the court may demand that the individual contribute their time to a non-profit organization or participate in a community project. This type of penalty can be demanding for the defendant, as it entails dedicating significant time and effort, potentially disrupting their work life and daily routine.
Higher Insurance Premiums
Lastly, a conviction for drunk driving can result in a substantial increase in your insurance premiums. This financial burden may persist for years following your arrest. Having skilled legal representation can be immensely valuable in your efforts to avoid these elevated insurance costs in your situation.
Penalties for Rejecting a Breathalyzer Test in Sea Girt, NJ
You can face criminal penalties for refusing to participate in a breathalyzer test during your New Jersey traffic stop. Such penalties are outlined by N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50.4a. Similar to the penalties for DWI, these penalties can increase for defendants with repeated offenses.
In the case of a first offense of refusing a breathalyzer test, you could be subject to a compulsory license suspension lasting from seven months to one year. Additionally, you may receive a fine ranging between $300 and $500.
When facing a second offense, your license may be suspended for up to two years, and you could be required to pay a fine ranging from $500 to $1000.
Lastly, for a third or subsequent offense of refusing a breathalyzer test, the potential consequences include a license suspension of up to ten years and a fine ranging between $1000 and $2000.
Let an Atlantic City Criminal Defense Lawyer Fight for You
If you or someone you love was arrested for DWI in New Jersey, you should strongly consider seeking legal assistance from a criminal defense attorney. In addition to handling legal paperwork, protecting your Constitutional rights, and helping you navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system, your defense lawyer will fight aggressively to have the charges against you dismissed or obtain an acquittal (verdict of not guilty).
The sooner you reach out to the Law Offices of John J. Zarych for legal help, the sooner we can start analyzing your case and formulating a defense strategy. Don’t wait to get trusted, respected legal representation in New Jersey: call our law offices at (609) 616-4956 today. Our line is always open, including nights, weekends, and holidays.