Driving While Intoxicated or Under the Influence in New Jersey
DUI or DWI cases are often the result of a simple mistake – you thought you were able to drive, only to discover later that you were wrong. Unfortunately, New Jersey has some of the strictest DWI laws in the country, and a DWI conviction could have a lasting impact on your future. An experienced New Jersey DWI and DUI lawyer can help you navigate the process and get the best possible result.
If you’re facing DUI charges, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 to schedule a free consultation. We will evaluate your case, explain your options, and lay out what we think is the best strategy.
Drunk Driving in New Jersey
Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired (DWI) is the term used in New Jersey. Driving Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) is the term used in Pennsylvania. Just like every other state, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in New Jersey. You can be charged with Driving While Intoxicated if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or more. New Jersey law creates two tiers of penalties for DWI:
- BAC of .08 to .09%
- BAC of .10% or higher
The higher your BAC, the more serious the penalties you will face. These penalties include fines, loss of license, and potential jail time. Penalties also depend on whether this is a first, second, or third offense.
Along with your breathalyzer results, prosecutors typically rely on the arresting officer’s observations that led to him or her to suspect that you were intoxicated. Breathalyzer machines are not perfect and are capable of rendering erroneous results. A skilled New Jersey DWI/DUI lawyer will know how to analyze your breathalyzer results and identify potential problems.
Driving While Under the Influence of Drugs
As mentioned above, it is also illegal to drive under the influence of drugs in New Jersey. New Jersey law specifically prohibits driving while under the influence of any “narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug.”
It is important to note that this includes more than just illegal drugs – you can be charged with DWI for driving while under the influence of prescription drugs as well. While marijuana remains illegal in New Jersey, the growing trend of decriminalization has led to an increase of DWI charges stemming from driving while under the influence of it.
Of course, intoxication due to driving while under the influence of drugs cannot be determined by way of a breathalyzer test. There is also no threshold amount that determines whether or not you are intoxicated, as there is with alcohol. As a result, DWI drug cases have unique challenges that DWI alcohol cases do not. If you’ve been charged with DWI due to being under the influence of drugs, an experienced New Jersey DUI & DWI lawyer can evaluate your charges and develop an effective defense strategy.
Underage Drinking and Driving
The laws in New Jersey are explicit – if you are under the age of 21, you are not permitted to purchase, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages. If you are under 21 and drive with any amount of alcohol in your system, that is, a BAC of .01 or above, you are facing penalties that include a loss of driving privileges for 30 to 90 days (or a postponement of the loss of your driving privileges if you do not possess a license), 15 to 30 days of community service, and an alcohol and safe driving education program at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC).
The path that ultimately leads to a person being arrested for DUI/DWI starts with a police officer observing behavior that would cause the officer to suspect that you are driving while under the influence. In legal terms, this is referred to as “probable cause.” By law, the police are not allowed to just pull you over because they feel like it; they have to suspect that you have broken or are breaking the law. That being said, it is important to remember that they can pull you over for something unrelated, such as a broken tail-light, and then suspect you of drunk driving based on your behavior or physical appearance.
Once a police officer suspects that you are driving while intoxicated, he or she will require you to undergo a series of field sobriety tests (FST), such as walking in a straight line, eye movement tests, or standing on one leg. The officer’s observations of your performance during the field sobriety tests will be considered evidence if you are charged with DUI or DWI.
Depending on the results of your field sobriety tests, the officer may then ask you to take a breathalyzer test. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey are “implied consent” states, which means that you implicitly gave your consent to submit to a breathalyzer in exchange for the privilege of driving on Pennsylvania or New Jersey’s roadways. As a result, you could suffer severe consequences if you refuse to take the breathalyzer test, consequences that nearly equal what would happen to you if you were convicted of DWI. Refusing a breathalyzer test is a separately charged offense, and the prosecutors may be able to proceed with your DWI/DUI case even if you don’t take the breathalyzer test by relying upon the arresting officer’s observations.
Blood or Urine Testing
As mentioned above, there is no breathalyzer-type test for drugs. As a result, if the police believe there is sufficient evidence to charge you with DUI, you will be arrested and brought to the police station. At that point, the police will likely ask you to take a blood or urine test in order for them to determine whether drugs are present in your system. Unlike alcohol, you should be aware that the presence of any amount of illegal drugs or narcotics is sufficient to support your DUI charge.
Interestingly, New Jersey’s implied consent law does not apply to blood or urine tests. Pennsylvania’s implied consent law applies to blood tests. As a result, you can refuse the test in New Jersey without facing additional legal consequences.
You are better off taking the breathalyzer or blood test than you are refusing even if you know that you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A refusal to submit to chemical testing carries harsh penalties. In Pennsylvania, you are subject to an additional 12-month suspension wholly separate from the criminal penalties that you face. In New Jersey, the refusal to submit to a breath test carries the following penalties:
- 1st offense – $300-$500 fine and a license suspension until ignition interlock device installed. A minimum of six hours a day for two consecutive days in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
- 2nd offense – $500-$1,000 fine and a 1 to 2-year license suspension following installation of ignition interlock device. 48 hours consecutive detainment in Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
- 3rd offense – $1,000 fine and an 8-year license suspension following installation of ignition interlock device n Installation of an ignition interlock device for a period of 9 to 15 months after license restoration for the 1st offense, 2 years to 4 years for the 2nd and 3rd offenses
- Automobile insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for 3 years for 1st and 2nd offenses, $1,500 for 3rd offense
- A $100 surcharge to be deposited in the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund
- Referral to an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
If your BAC is .08% or higher but less than .10%, the penalties in New Jersey are as follows:
- 1st offense – $250-$400 fine and up to 30 days in prison. Loss of driver’s license until an ignition interlock is installed. 12 to 24 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center program. Insurance surcharge.
If your BAC is .10% or higher or you are charged with a drug related DWI in New Jersey, the penalties are as follows:
- 1st offense – $300-$500 fine and up to 30 days in prison. Ignition interlock during license suspension and 6 months to 1 year after your license is restored. 12 to 24 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center program. Insurance surcharge.
If this is your second or third arrest for DUI or DWI in New Jersey, you are facing the following penalties:
- 2nd offense within 10 years of your 1st offense – $500-$1000 fine and at least 48 hours in prison, up to 90 days. A one to two-year license suspension. 30 days community service. Ignition interlock is required for the entire license suspension and 1 to 3 years after your license is restored. 12 to 24 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center program. Insurance surcharge.
- 3rd offense within 10 years of your 2nd offense – $1000 fine and at least 180 days in prison unless modified by the court to be served in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program. 8 year license suspension. 30 days community service. Ignition interlock is required for the entire license suspension and 1 to 3 years after your license is restored. 12 to 24 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center program. Insurance surcharge.
How a New Jersey DUI/DWI Attorney Can Help
Despite what the prosecutors want you to believe, the fact that you have been charged with driving under the influence does not mean you are automatically guilty. DWI/DUI cases are more complicated than you might think, and an experienced New Jersey DUI attorney can build a successful defense that will lead to a fair result. Some of your defense options could include:
- Violated constitutional rights – For example, this could include the argument that the officer did not have probable cause, or that they failed to advise you of your rights.
- Faulty breathalyzer device – Breathalyzer devices require regular calibration to ensure that they are providing accurate readings. Failure to service them regularly could lead to false results.
- Improperly trained police officer administering breathalyzer tests – Administering breathalyzer tests requires proper training, and failure to use the device correctly could result in an inaccurate reading. This also applies to blood and urine tests. The technicians must be properly trained, and the lab must handle the results in a manner that avoids the risk of contamination.
- Insufficient evidence – Your attorney may be able to argue that the prosecution’s evidence (such as the officer’s observations during the field sobriety tests) is not sufficient to support a DUI or DWI conviction.
Charged with DUI/DWI in New Jersey? Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law
DUI/DWI charges are among the most serious charges that many people will ever face. The consequences can be disastrous – you could lose your license, pay thousands of dollars in fines and costs, and possibly even go to jail. Fortunately, you have rights and a skilled DUI/DWI lawyer can help you get a fair result. Call New Jersey DUI/DWI attorney Lauren Wimmer at 215-712-1212 to schedule a free consultation, or fill out our online contact form to learn more about how we can help you.