New Jersey takes a very strong stance against DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) also called DUI (Driving Under the Influence), and if convicted there must be a loss of license. A person can be found guilty for a DUI if they have a blood alcohol content (bac) of .08 or higher, or if they are suspected of being under the influence of a legal drug or Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS), which the officer believes, impaired the driver’s ability to operate the motor vehicle.

DUI/DWI Penalties in New Jersey

1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense
Jail Up to 30 days Up to 90 days Up to 180 days
Fines and Penalties $250 to $500 $500 to $1000 $1000
License Suspension 3 months to 1 year 2 years 10 years
IID* Required Possible Possible Possible

*Ignition Interlock Device

(See Detailed Penalties, for more information.)

Retaining an Attorney for DWI Representation

Our first step is to enter a Not Guilty Plea in writing.  We’ll request all available discovery (evidence that the State may have against you, including any video and audiotapes which might exist) and request a postponement of your Court date until the evidence is received and reviewed. The State must provide all evidence that will be introduced at the trial, if a timely request is made.  The State is obligated to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to receive a guilty verdict.  Although the Court attempts to resolve all DWI matters within 60 days, a Court may not force us to resolve a DWI matter until we are given an opportunity to review all requested evidence.

Defense for DWI Charges

Based on the evidence they have, we’ll determine if we think the State can prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We’ll investigate all claims to ensure there was sufficient reason (probable cause) for the police to stop your vehicle. We’ll review all available information to make sure that your Constitutional rights were not violated throughout the arrest process, including your account of any field sobriety tests (FSTs), the results of any breathalyzer or ‘Alcotests’ that were performed, the police report and that the police followed proper procedure through every step of the process.  If your 4th Amendment right to avoid an unreasonable search and seizure was violated, or your Miranda rights were not properly adhered to, we’ll most likely move to file a suppression motion with the Court requesting the Judge to exclude evidence found against you.  If successful, the State often will not be able to proceed against you on these charges.  Failing a suppression ruling, we may be able to overcome reasonable doubt on the basis of a failure to follow proper procedures and respect the protection afforded to you by the Constitution.

A blood alcohol level (bac) of .08 or higher is considered a violation of the law.  If such a reading is entered into evidence against you, it will most likely result in you being found guilty and convicted of a DWI.  To reduce the penalties and loss of license, we will try to have such a reading thrown out and defend against any case the State attempts to build through observation of your behavior.

To challenge the Alcotest, we will try to determine if the officer was properly trained and certified to administer this test, if the machine had been calibrated within the time period required.  Other considerations include a required uninterrupted 20 minute observation period prior to the test and the condition and state of the solution and probe used in the test.

Refusing to Take a Breathalyzer
If you refused to blow into the Alcotest, or attempted to do so but failed to achieve a a good reading, you are likely to be charged with ‘refusal to provide a proper breath sample’ under N.J.S.A. 39 § 4-50.2, in addition to a DUI charge.

Upon probable cause, New Jersey requires that you provide a valid breath sample.  If this is not done, the penalties for this violation are equal and in some cases more severe then just the DUI alone. In these cases we must check to determine if there was a valid reason to ask you to provide a breath sample and that you were read a statement detailing the penalties associated with such a refusal.

DUI versus DWI
DUI (Driving Under the Influence of a Controlled Dangerous Substance) charges for drugs are cases that require the State to prove you guilty by observations of the officer. They usually require a special DRE (Drug Recognition Officer) to evaluate you, and write a report detailing why they believe your abilities were impaired. (The exception is for marijuana, where any officer can make these observations). Often there is a urine or blood sample which the State will also attempt to enter into evidence to sustain a conviction.  Additional drug offense charge may also be levied against you.

The New Jersey Statutes Title 39.Motor Vehicle and Traffic Regulation 39 § 4-50.2

(a) Any person who operates a motor vehicle on any public road, street or highway or quasi-public area in this State shall be deemed to have given his consent to the taking of samples of his breath for the purpose of making chemical tests to determine the content of alcohol in his blood;  provided, however, that the taking of samples is made in accordance with the provisions of this act and at the request of a police officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that such person has been operating a motor vehicle in violation of the provisions of R.S.39:4-50 or section 1 of P.L.1992, c. 189 C.39:4-50.14.

(b) A record of the taking of any such sample, disclosing the date and time thereof, as well as the result of any chemical test, shall be made and a copy thereof, upon his request, shall be furnished or made available to the person so tested.

(c) In addition to the samples taken and tests made at the direction of a police officer hereunder, the person tested shall be permitted to have such samples taken and chemical tests of his breath, urine or blood made by a person or physician of his own selection.

(d) The police officer shall inform the person tested of his rights under subsections (b) and (c) of this section.

(e) No chemical test, as provided in this section, or specimen necessary thereto, may be made or taken forcibly and against physical resistance thereto by the defendant.  The police officer shall, however, inform the person arrested of the consequences of refusing to submit to such test in accordance with section 2 of this amendatory and supplementary act.

1 A standard statement, prepared by the chief administrator, shall be read by the police officer to the person under arrest.

Convictions and Pleas

In cases where we find the State acted properly and there is enough evidence to convict, you are still entitled to review all evidence, and make sure that the State can prove their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Your rights entitle you to review all this information – the Prosecutor and the Judge will accept a reasonable delay to ensure that we have reviewed everything.  Once we’ve reviewed all the evidence and we haven’t found any leverage in equipment calibration, procedure, 4th amendment or Miranda rights, then we should begin to negotiate a plea bargain.

Plea Bargain
The goal in a plea bargain deal is to find a way to minimize potentially serious life-altering consequences.  There is a restriction in New Jersey against offering a Plea Bargain for DUI’s.   Our negotiations will involve working at a deal to dismiss all other charges and keep the penalties to the mandatory minimums under the law.  The Prosecutor has a lot of experience in making these deals, and denying them.  We have a lot of experience in offering deals, based on admissible evidence, that will be accepted.

The State is under no obligation to enter into a Plea deal, and may request a Judge to impose a maximum sentence upon conviction.  Proper representation is important to help ensure the best possible results.

Penalties for DWI in New Jersey

DWI Penalties†

Offense License Suspension Fine Jail Time Requirements
1st Offense (BAC .08) 90 days $250-$400 Up to 30 days Min. 12 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
1st Offense
(DUI / BAC .10+)
7-12 months $300-$500 Up to 30 days Min. 12 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center and possible IID* 6-12 months after license restoration
2nd Offense 2 years $500-$1,000 48 hours, up to 90 days 48 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center and IID* 1-3 years after license restoration
3rd Offense 10 years $1,000+ 180 days 12-48 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center and min, 90 days community service

†Tickets received in a school zone will increase these penalties.
*Ignition Interlock Device

All DUI convictions carry a minimum fee of $364 that must be paid to the State of New Jersey.

All DWI convictions also carry the following penalties:
$100 Surcharge for the drunk driving enforcement fund.
$100 Motor Vehicle Restoration Fee.
$100 Violent Crimes Compensation fee.
$100 Intoxicated Driver Program Fee.
$100 State and Municipality Fee.

Lookback Period: 10 years (Period of time that prior DUI/DWIs are relevant for sentencing. Also known as “washout”.)