In New Jersey, being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving can have severe consequences – and you can face some of these consequences even if you are not ultimately convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). New Jersey has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation, and, from losing your license for an “implied consent” violation to facing a potential mandatory prison sentence as a repeat offender, a DWI arrest in Hackensack can easily have far-reaching consequences that negatively impact all aspects of your daily life.

Attorney Scott A. Gorman brings more than a decade of legal experience to representing clients in New Jersey DUI trials and appeals. If you are facing a DWI charge, Scott can use his experience to protect your rights and minimize the consequences of your arrest. From challenging the validity of your breath test results to asserting violations of your fundamental Constitutional rights, there are numerous ways to defend against a DWI charge even if you think you were driving drunk, and it is critical that you not make any assumptions about the outcome of your case until you speak with an experienced DWI attorney about the defenses you may have available.

Why Do I Need a “DWI Attorney”?

In Hackensack and throughout the rest of New Jersey, there is no shortage of lawyers who will offer to represent you in your DWI case. You may even know someone who is an attorney or, you may have a friend or family member who previously hired a lawyer for a legal issue in their life, and they may be offering you a referral.

So how do you choose the attorney you want to represent you in court? How do you decide who you can trust when your savings, your freedom and – in many respects – your future are all on the line? Should you hire the first lawyer who offers to help? Or, should you put in the effort to find an experienced Hackensack DUI lawyer?

Hopefully, the answer is clear. Drunk driving cases are complicated, especially in New Jersey. New Jersey’s DWI laws and court procedures are unique, the penalties are severe, and a typical case can involve issues ranging from the impact of certain medical conditions on driving ability to violations of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights. In order to have a clear understanding of the numerous issues at play and to be able to digest this information into a comprehensive and cohesive defense strategy, you need to handle DWI cases on a daily basis. If an attorney is spending time writing wills or handling divorces, he or she may not have the same nuanced and experienced approach as another attorney who devotes his or her entire practice to criminal matters with particular emphasis on DWI defense.

Drunk Driving in New Jersey: DWI or DUI?

Some states’ laws establish different offenses for driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI). Some states’ laws use only one term or another. But, in Hackensack and throughout the state of New Jersey, DWI and DUI can be used interchangeably. We have just one drunk driving statute, and it incorporates the concepts of both DWI and DUI:

“[A] person who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, or operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration [BAC] of 0.08% or more . . . shall be subject [to the penalties outlined below].”

Thanks to this statutory language, in New Jersey, prosecutors have two ways to obtain a conviction for drunk driving. They can prove that a person was operating a vehicle “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol (this is what other states usually refer to as DUI), or they can rely on breath or blood test results showing a BAC of 0.08 percent or above (commonly defined as a DWI offense).

Understanding “DWI Refusals”

In New Jersey, in addition to facing penalties for drunk driving, when you get stopped on suspicion of DWI, you can potentially face additional penalties for what is commonly known as “Refusal,” which is short for Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test.

This is a result of the law of “implied consent.” When you drive on New Jersey’s public roads or even a quasi-public road like a parking lot, by law, you consent to taking a breath test if a police officer has probable cause to believe that you drove while intoxicated. The arresting officer must advise you of certain rights when they ask you to submit to a breath test, and he or she must also advise you of the consequences of refusing to submit to testing. However, under the circumstances, it is common for drivers to misunderstand their obligations (or for the arresting officer to fail to meet his or her legal obligations). As a result, it is also common for individuals who have been charged with DWI to face an additional charge for Refusal.

Since a Refusal is a separate offense from a DWI, it is possible to face penalties for Refusal even if you are not found guilty. But, the fact that these are separate offenses also means that there are separate defenses for Refusals as well. Hackensack DUI lawyer Scott Gorman is experienced in representing clients who refused to submit to the breathalyzer during their DWI arrests, and he can make sure you have every possible opportunity to avoid the license suspension, fines and other financial penalties that can result from a Refusal conviction.

Facing a First-Time DWI in Hackensack

If you are facing a first-time DWI charge, it is important to understand what you are up against. The penalties for a first-time DWI conviction are substantial (including possible jail time), and New Jersey prosecutors vigorously pursue all cases involving alcohol and drug-related driving offenses.

Penalties for a First-Time DWI (0.09 Percent BAC or lower)

  • Up to approximately $700 in fines and fees
  • $1,000/year insurance surcharge for three years
  • Three-month driver’s license suspension
  • Up to 30 days in state prison
  • 12 to 48 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center
  • A $230 daily Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center fee
  • A possible 6 to 12 months of ignition interlock device post-license suspension

Penalties for a First-Time DWI Refusal

  • Up to $775 in fines and fees
  • $1,000/year insurance surcharge for three years
  • 12 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center
  • A $230 daily Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center fee
  • Seven to 12-month driver’s license suspension (non-school zone)

Keep in mind, these are the penalties for a “standard” first-time offense. If your BAC was above 0.10 percent or higher, if you were stopped in a school zone, if you were transporting a minor, if you were under the influence of a drug, or if there are certain other aggravating factors involved in your case, the potential penalties will be even greater.

Facing a DUI Charge as a Multiple-Time Offender

If you have a prior DUI on your record, the consequences of a conviction as a multiple-time offender are even more severe. This is true for both DWI and Refusals.

Penalties for a Second DWI (within 10 Years of First Offense)

  • Up to approximately $1,300 in fines and fees
  • $1,000/year insurance surcharge for three years
  • Two-year driver’s license suspension
  • 2 to 90 days in a county jail
  • 30 days of community service
  • 12 to 48 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center
  • A $280 daily Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center fee
  • One to three years of ignition interlock device post-license suspension

Penalties for a Second Refusal

  • Up to approximately $1,300 in fines and fees
  • $1,000/year insurance surcharge for three years
  • 12 to 48 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center
  • A $230 daily Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center fee
  • Two-year driver’s license suspension (non-school zone)

Penalties for a Third or Subsequent DWI (within 10 Years of Previous Offense)

  • Up to approximately $1,300 in fines and fees
  • $1,500/year insurance surcharge for three years
  • 10-year driver’s license suspension
  • 180 days in state prison
  • Up to 90 days of community service
  • 12 to 48 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center
  • A $280 daily Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center fee
  • One to three years of ignition interlock device post-license suspension

Penalties for a Third or Subsequent DWI Refusal

  • Up to approximately $1,300 in fines and fees
  • $1,500/year insurance surcharge for three years
  • 12 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center
  • A $230 daily Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center fee
  • 10-year driver’s license suspension (non-school zone)

Driver’s License Suspension for a New Jersey DWI or DWI Refusal

As you can see from these lists of penalties, one of the consequences of any drunk-driving related offense in Hackensack is a driver’s license suspension. The length of suspension depends upon your DWI record and whether there are any aggravating factors involved in your case, and can range from three months for a first-time DWI to 20 years for a third or subsequent Refusal in a school zone.

If you drive for a living, you also need to be concerned about your commercial driver’s license (CDL). In New Jersey, your CDL will be suspended for one year if you are convicted of a first-time DWI. For a second offense, your CDL will be revoked permanently. This is the case even if your DWI arrest involves the use of your personal vehicle on a Saturday night.

Challenging a DWI Conviction

What if you have already been convicted? If you have already been sentenced for a DWI in Hackensack or elsewhere in New Jersey, it is critical that you speak with an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as possible. There are only limited circumstances under which you can challenge a DWI conviction, and the window for doing so is extremely small. With the far-reaching consequences of a DWI conviction (including the potential for enhanced penalties if you are ever charged with another DWI), you owe it to yourself to find out if you are entitled to post-conviction relief. We offer free initial consultations, and we are more than happy to help you understand if you have grounds to challenge your conviction.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): New Jersey DWI

Q: What are my rights after a DWI arrest in Hackensack?

When you get arrested and charged with DWI, you have numerous legal rights. But, for right now, the two most important rights you need to know about are: (i) your right to remain silent, and (ii) your right to legal representation.

Once you are arrested, you have the constitutional right not to say anything that could be used against you at trial. How do you know what is okay to say and what isn’t? The best way to protect yourself is to not say anything at all. You will likely be asked a lot of questions. Politely decline to answer beyond providing background information such as your name, state that you are exercising your right to legal representation, and ask to speak with your DWI attorney.

Q: What are the police required to tell you about New Jersey’s “implied consent” law?

When the police ask you to submit to a breath test, they must inform you of two rights: (i) your right to receive a copy of your test results upon request, and (ii) your right to also be tested by an independent physician. The police must also inform you of the penalties for Refusal. If you were not adequately advised with regard to your breath test, this could potentially provide a defense to your DWI and your DWI refusal.

Q: Am I required to take a field sobriety test if the arresting officer asks?

No. New Jersey’s implied consent law applies only to breath tests. When you get pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, you are not required to submit to any field sobriety tests (FSTs). If you unknowingly consented to any FSTs, attorney Scott Gorman can scrutinize the arresting officer’s testing procedures and his or her interpretation of your performance in addition to exploring all other potential defenses.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Hackensack DWI Attorney Scott Gorman

If you have been arrested for DWI in Hackensack or throughout New Jersey, we encourage you to contact us for a free and confidential consultation. To speak with DUI attorney Scott Gorman about your defense, call (201) 489-9199 or submit your case online now.

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