Essex County DUI Lawyer to Help Fight for Your Rights

In New Jersey, driving under the influence (DUI) convictions carry severe consequences. Even though a DUI is considered a “traffic offense” rather than a crime, individuals who are convicted can still face fines, other financial penalties, loss of driving privileges and jail time. Additionally, as a traffic offense, a DUI is not eligible for expungement, and this means that your conviction could very well stay on your record for the rest of your life. Meeting with a Essex County DUI lawyer is critical in order to protect your driving freedom and other liberties.

The good news is this: There are numerous potential defenses to DUI charges in New Jersey. Regardless of whether you believe you were intoxicated, you “failed” the field sobriety tests or you blew above 0.08 percent on the Alcotest, your case is far from over. With more than a decade of experience, attorney Scott Gorman has successfully defended numerous clients against DUI charges under a broad range of circumstances, and he can use this experience to protect you.

Defenses for DUI Charges in New Jersey

Some of the potential defenses to DUI charges in New Jersey include:

Unlawful Traffic Stop or Arrest

If you were stopped without reasonable suspicion or arrested without probable cause, any evidence obtained after your traffic stop or arrest may be inadmissible in court.

Faulty Breath Test Results

Faulty calibration, improper test administration and various other issues can result in “false positives” for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) readings above the legal limit.

Improper Administration of Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

Improper administration of the field sobriety tests and misinterpretation of suspects’ performance on the FSTs can render the results inherently unreliable.

You Were Not Actually Driving Under the Influence

Whether there are other explanations for your alleged erratic driving behavior or your BAC estimate is not an accurate representation of your BAC when you were driving, there are a variety of potential ways to challenge the government’s evidence that you were under the influence of alcohol when you were behind the wheel.

DUI Penalties in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the potential penalties for a DUI conviction vary depending upon whether you have one or more prior convictions on your record as well as whether any aggravating factors (such as causing an accident or being pulled over in a school zone or with minors in your vehicle) are involved in your case. Broadly speaking, the potential penalties include:

  • Hundreds of dollars in fines and fees
  • $1,000/year insurance surcharge for three years or $1,500/year for a third DWI occurring within three years of the second DWI
  • Loss of driving privileges for months or years
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for months or years
  • Jail time (up to 30 days for a first-time offense)
  • Mandatory enrollment at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center (IDRC) at your expense

Our Essex County DUI Attorney Explains “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. Essex County 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 

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)

  • Fines ranging from $250 to $400
  • Ignition interlock device for three months
  • Loss of driving privileges until ignition interlock device is installed
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • 12 to 48 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center and must comply with IDRC recommendations

Penalties for a First-Time DWI Refusal

  • Fines ranging from $300 to $500
  • 12 to 48 hours at an Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center and must comply with IDRC recommendations
  • Ignition interlock device for 7 to 12 months
  • Loss of driving privileges until ignition interlock device is installed

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. With so much at stake, contacting a Essex County DUI lawyer becomes a critical act. 

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)

  • Fines ranging from $500 to $1000
  • Must comply with recommendations from the Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center (IDRC)
  • 2 to 90 days in jail and 2 days may be served at the IDRC
  • 30 days of community service
  • Loss of driving privileges for one to two years, after which application must be made to Chief Administrator of the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission for restoration of driving privileges
  • Ignition interlock device during the period of loss of driving privileges and for two to four years after restoration of driving privileges

Penalties for a Second Refusal

  • Fines ranging from $500 to $1000
  • Must comply with the recommendations of the Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center
  • Loss of driving privileges for one to two years after installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Ignition interlock device during period of loss of driving privileges, as well as for two to four years after restoration of driving privileges

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

  • $1000 fine
  • Loss of driving privileges for eight years
  • 180 days in jail
  • Must comply with Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center recommendations
  • Ignition interlock device during period of loss of driving privileges, as well as for two to four years after restoration of driving privileges

Penalties for a Third or Subsequent DWI Refusal

  • $1000 fine
  • Must comply with Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center recommendations
  • Loss of driving privileges for eight years after installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Ignition interlock device during period of loss of driving privileges, as well as for two to four years after restoration of driving privileges

Drunk Driving and Fleeing the Scene

For this reason, a person who drives drunk and causes an accident may be tempted to flee from the scene, in an effort to avoid being caught. While this does make it more difficult for the police to catch the driver initially, it increases the likelihood that the driver will be heavily prosecuted when he or she is caught and it is likely to result in additional criminal charges. Officers will investigate the accident to determine how it was caused and who was at fault, and once they catch the driver, the charge of DWI may be accompanied by charges of Leaving the Scene of an Accident and Resisting Arrest or Eluding.

In New Jersey, there is both a motor vehicle charge (N.J.S.A. 39:4-129) and a criminal offense (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1) for fleeing the scene of the accident. While both laws cover the same action, there are important differences. Each law has its own penalties, but the two work hand in hand.

If a driver who is involved in an accident knowingly leaves the scene, he can be charged with the motor vehicle violation and the criminal offense. If the accident causes serious bodily harm to another driver, passenger, or pedestrian, the driver who flees can be charged with a crime in the third degree or fourth degree, depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries. If you did leave the scene in a panic, it is critical that you speak with a Essex County DUI lawyer as soon as possible.

How is Fleeing the Scene Investigated and Prosecuted?

Obviously, if the driver has fled the scene, the police have to locate him first before he can be charged with a crime. The police can use clues from the accident—paint scratches, tire marks, eyewitness testimony, traffic camera data, and more—to find the driver and prove that his car was involved. Once the driver has been found, the investigation into whether he was drunk at the time of the accident and whether he knowingly fled will begin.

In order to prove that a driver violated the state’s laws, law enforcement officials will need to determine that the driver left the scene after causing the accident without fulfilling his obligation to check on the others in the car contact the police. The police will also investigate whether the driver was intoxicated to charge him with a DUI/DWI, through a blood alcohol sample, footage of the driver on the night of the accident, receipts from a bar, or other evidence.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): New Jersey DWI

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).

What are my rights after a DWI arrest?

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.

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.

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.

How will the State try to prove intoxication?

In most cases, the prosecution will try to prove that the defendant was intoxicated by relying on evidence relating to the defendant’s blood or breath samples that were collected shortly after the defendant’s arrest. Essentially, this becomes a fight over whether the prosecution can prove the reliability of a piece of paper. The prosecution will argue that this piece of paper shows that the motorist’s blood alcohol concentration was elevated. However, a skilled Essex County drunk driving defense lawyer will sift through the prosecution’s evidence to find weakness in the State’s case. For example, to rely on the key piece of paper, the prosecution must be able to demonstrate that the device used to analyze samples of the Defendant’s blood or breath samples was in proper working order at the time that the device was utilized. Moreover, the prosecution will need to establish that the proper protocol was followed when collecting the blood or breath samples.

The prosecution will also frequently rely on what police officers like to refer to as standardized field sobriety tests. In the typical case, two of the “tests” on which the State will rely are not “tests” at all and the third “test” has never been shown to be reliable in New Jersey. A knowledgeable DWI defense attorney will develop a strategy to attack the State’s evidence and to bring out evidence of sobriety that a court might not otherwise consider.

What are the ignition interlock device requirements for drunk drivers in New Jersey?

Most drunk driving convictions result in a requirement that the motorist pay for an ignition interlock device to be installed in at least one vehicle and that the device remain installed for a period of time that would be determined by the court. The length of time that you would need to have an ignition interlock device installed would depend on the number of prior DWI convictions you have had, if any, and your blood alcohol concentration at the time that you were driving on the date of your arrest.

An experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorney will be able to review your case to determine what defenses to raise to reduce the amount of time that you would be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle. In some cases, your lawyer may be able to raise challenges to the State’s evidence that could result in avoiding the requirement of an ignition interlock device all together.

Contact Us Now for a Free Initial Consultation with an Experienced Essex County Drunk Driving

To speak with New Jersey DUI lawyer Scott Gorman about your New Jersey DUI case, please call 201-489-9199 or contact us online. We will schedule your free initial consultation as soon as possible. We also have a Morristown office location.

Scott Gorman Explains the Difference between DUI and DWI in New Jersey

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