DUI FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About DWI NJ
NJ DWI And DUI Penalties
“These are some of the most frequently asked questions about DWI charges in New Jersey.”
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There seem to be a lot of very common questions that I receive after people have been arrested for DWI charges in New Jersey. Hopefully this FAQ page will help some of the people out there with whom I have not spoken.
FAQ #1. “Are there work or temporary licenses after a DWI conviction in New Jersey?”
Answer: No. Once you have lost your license in the state of New Jersey, it’s gone. While the courts don’t want you to lose your job, they do want you to feel the inconvenience of not having your driving privileges any longer. This is a huge punishment; people commonly take the ability to drive for granted, and it becomes a bit of a culture shock when they can no longer do so. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is, and it’s a great reason to fight your DWI charges as hard as you can.
FAQ #2. “Will I lose my license in another state if I am convicted in New Jersey for DWI?”
Answer: Not necessarily. New Jersey can only take your driver’s license in New Jersey. Our state government can’t enforce penalties outside of New Jersey state lines. However, New Jersey does communicate with your home state about such convictions, and if your home state chooses to do so, it can enforce its own DWI or DUI punishments based on the conviction here. Each state has different rules with respect to what information they consider, so it’s actually quite hard to tell what will happen to your license back home.
FAQ #3. “IS DWI or DUI a criminal charge in New Jersey?”
Answer: No. DWI is not a criminal charge and as a result, it will not show up on any type of criminal background check. This is good news if you were worried about your ability to find a job or apply for some type of housing.
DWI is referred to as a “quasi-criminal offense” in New Jersey. This basically means that it shares some of the characteristics of a criminal charge, but not all of them. This is true in the sense that you can potentially end up in jail depending on the severity of your offense, how you handle it, or the number of times you have been arrested for the charge. Still, the bottom line is: if you are convicted of DWI, you won’t have a permanent criminal record.
FAQ #4. “Can I appeal my pre-existing DWI conviction?”
Answer: Yes. You can appeal pretty much any type of charge in the state of New Jersey, but there needs to some “appealable” issue with respect to the way the case itself is handled. An appeal is not a “do-over” on your court case. You don’t get to start over with a different defense strategy and hope for the best. I pulled this analogy off of expertlaw.com:
Appellate review of a conviction is a bit like watching a videotape of a football game, to look for errors by the referees. If the referees make a lot of errors in a close game, you may get the feeling that their mistakes changed the result of the game. However, even if they made a lot of errors, the score can be so lopsided that you conclude that the errors did not affect the outcome. The judges on appeal are looking for errors which may have changed the verdict, and will disregard “harmless errors,” which they believe did not have an effect. They judges will also disregard what they deem to be mistakes of “trial strategy” – a concept that is akin to when the coach chooses a play that doesn’t work out the way he intended.
Again, an appeal has more to do with reviewing the way that the court case was administered. If there are no appealable issues, then you can’t do anything about it. However, there tends to be a lot of grey area with respect to what is appealable. For example, you can make an appeal based on the “competence” of your attorney. This is completely subjective; it’s difficult to factually “prove” the competence of anyone. Your new attorney will have to make a strong case pertaining to the blatant blunders of your preexisting council in order for the case to be reopened. For this reason, it helps to have a talented appeals attorney at your side, so that you can have another shot at avoiding this conviction.
Additionally, there are other time constraints that exist when considering appeals. Most appeals have to be filed within 20 days of your conviction. However, you can file other motions which will allow the DWI appeal process to move forward, even if those time constraints have expired.
If you are trying to appeal a DWI case, the best thing to do is pick up the phone and call me for a free consultation 24/7. We can figure out together where you stand on your case, and where to go from here.
FAQ #5: “Can I do community service instead of paying fines or losing my license?”
Answer: Wouldn’t that be nice? No. The penalties for DWI in New Jersey are pretty rigid. There is very little room for flexibility, and this has to do with the letter of the law in the DWI statute. While you might not be able to afford to pay the fines in full, the state doesn’t really care. Every municipality offers payment plans, and they are lenient to say the least. Typically, these arrangements are made within the courthouse, and often the payment amount is determined by your answer to the question: “How much can you afford to pay monthly?” It’s important that you are clear about any financial holdups that you might have with your attorney (if you have one) and with the judge.
Remember, this is a business. The courts want to make sure that they get paid, and they aren’t trying to force you into a position where you have to skip out.
The license suspension is also non-negotiable. It would be great to go outside and play basket-ball with Big Brothers/Big Sisters on the weekends as community service, but that’s hardly a punishment. A DWI charge is considered to be pretty serious in the state of New Jersey, and they want you to feel that fact after you walk out of the court room. Having to arrange for public transportation or having to annoy your friends/family for rides all of the time is a huge hassle. That alone, without all of the fines or potential jail time is enough to make you think twice about drinking and stepping foot inside a vehicle.
DUI FAQ #6. ”Can I fight my DUI or DWI case on my own?”
Answer: Yes, but it’s not a good idea. First of all, DWI law is a highly complicated field. There are multiple certifications that lawyers are able to get, which allow us to challenge different elements of DWI cases against you. For one example, I am certified to operate the Alcotest 7110 machine which is the breath testing machine at the police station. This means that I can examine the “discovery” in your DWI case pertaining to the breath test results, and challenge the outcome based on the officers use of the machine. If the machine wasn’t used properly, I can have the results thrown out.
Additionally, these machines need to be serviced and calibrated regularly. If this hasn’t happened, I can have the results thrown out. Even if the state fails to provide the service record, I can have the case thrown out. This type of loophole is a good reason to go with a legitimate DWI defense attorney and there are many examples of these.
Also, do you know how to file a motion? Do you know how to write a letter to get the discovery, the collection of evidence in your case? Are you familiar with basic court-room procedure when actually presenting your case? Of course not. The ability to execute DWI defense strategy is key if you want to win, as well as when making deals with the prosecutor.
When I challenge a DWI case, many times the case is dismissed because of conversations that I have with the prosecutor, long before the trial begins. He or she and I may agree that, for example, the field sobriety results were not adequate grounds for probable cause for the DWI arrest and the state may dismiss the case.
Even if you do find a loophole in your case, and bring it to the prosecutor, do you think that he or she will dismiss the case while knowing that you probably don’t have the faintest idea of how to file a motion to disregard evidence? Probably not. You need to have a legitimate threat in your back pocket, and quite honestly, most prosecutors will simply not back down to the strong-arm negotiations of an every day civilian.
The fact remains: if you really want to win this case, you will only be able to do so with an attorney at your side.
DWI or DUI FAQ #7. What’s the difference between DUI and DWI in New Jersey?
Answer: Believe it or not, there is no such thing as DUI in new Jersey. DUI is an acronym for “Driving Under the Influence”. DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated”. Technically, you could drive “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol just as you could “drive while intoxicated” on drugs or alcohol. Since these terms mean basically the same thing, the state of New Jersey decided to prosecute every type of “influence” or “intoxication” under the same statute: N.J.S.A 39:4-50.
This is the New Jersey DWI statute. There is no New Jersey DUI statute. If you were smoking marijuana and driving, it’s a DWI. If you were drinking and eating prescription drugs, it’s a DWI. Any form of intoxicant that will result in the impairment of your driving results in a DWI charge.
Driving under the influence is simply the most commonly used term to reference these charges around the country.
DWI FAQ #8. “Can I expunge my DUI or DWI conviction in New Jersey”
Answer: No. Once you have a DWI conviction, it stays on your record. However, this is not something that is going to show up on your background check, so it will never prevent you from getting a job or housing. In reality, a DWI conviction stays on your driving record known as your “driver’s history abtract”. Unfortunately, its on there for good.
This basically means that you will be considered a higher risk driver for a long time. Every insurance company has a different way of quantifying the level of risk that you present on any given policy. If you have a DWI or DUI on your driving record, you are probably going to be paying more than most other people for insurance.
Usually, there is a “time value” that is attributed to any negative mark on your insurance policy. For example, if you had a bad accident when you were 17 years old, your insurance company isn’t going to hold it heavily against you now that you’re 35. The same thing can be said about your DWI charges, after a certain amount of time, your insurance costs will start to return back to a normal level. That said, these surcharges are best avoided, and that’s why it’s a great idea to fight these cases tooth and nail from the beginning.
DWI FAQ #9. Do I need an attorney for my DWI case in NJ?
Answer: Yes, if you actually want to win your case. Look, you can always walk into a courtroom and plead guilty to your DWI charges. You will end up with the lower end of the mandatory penalties outlined withing the New Jersey DWI statute. If you end up going with a cheap DWI attorney, this is exactly how he will represent you, and it’s just a horrible waste of money. You don’t need to hire an attorney to plead guilty for you, you can easily do that yourself.
If you have the means to hire an attorney, I would strongly recommend that you do so. In the end, you will end up saving yourself a ton of money. You will probably end up spending more than $7,000 dollars if convicted for a drunk driving charge in New Jersey. This is in part due to the monetary penalties imposed by the state, as well as insurance premium spikes that you will suffer if you ever want your driving privileges restored. This of course doesn’t take into consideration the incredible inconvenience of not being able to drive on a suspended license.
If you hire an attorney, we can challenge hundreds of aspects of your DWI case. We can challenge the probable cause for the vehicle stop, the Alcotest reading, the Field Sobriety testing and a execute a virtually endless series of advanced defenses that can potentially allow us to get this thing thrown out of court. You wouldn’t believe the technicalities that we have exploited in order to win DWI cases.
Again, if you have the means, I strongly recommend taking a shot at winning this thing. Feel free to call me for a consultation about the potential loopholes that we can find in your case.
DWI FAQ #10. Does it help to hire a local lawyer in a DWI or DUI case?
Answer: Kinda… but it’s not that simple. The concept of hiring a local lawyer applies in being able to utilize relationships with the prosecutor and judge. For example, my main office is in Hackensack NJ. I get a ton of phone calls daily from this area, so I come into contact with the Hackensack prosecutor and judge frequently.
They know that I am a competent lawyer, and if there are any loopholes in this case that can be exploited, they know that I will attack these elements aggressively. As a result, if I want into a room to talk about the case and we agree that there were several mistakes made in the arrest, the prosecutor is far more likely to negotiate some type of plea instead of risking a loss on the day of a trial.
On the other hand, if the arrest is iron-clad, there were no mistakes, and somehow there is nothing that can be challenged about the DWI case, it wouldn’t matter if the prosecutor was my best friend and the judge is my Dad. They will not negotiate based on the fact that my office is across the street. Instead, they will throw the book at you and shake my hand heartily as I walk out of the room. The fact that I’m a local lawyer only plays a role in assessing my competence when exploiting existing loopholes and potential challenges in your case. If those exist, it becomes a very good thing that the judge and prosecutor know who I am. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter.
My recommendation is to talk to a few attorneys licensed to practice in the state of your arrest, and you will know which one is ready to fight, and who is just after your money.
DWI FAQ #11: “Should I hire the cheapest DWI attorney for my case?”
Answer: Absolutely not. You get what you pay for, and I can assure you that you will be very disappointed with your results if you hire the cheapest available attorney.
Here’s the truth of the matter: lawyers expect a reasonable amount of money per hour for the work that we do. Many lawyers bill from $500 to $1000 dollars per hour. When you hire the cheapest DWI attorney for your case, you are going to get someone who won’t put in the time to research your arrest, go through the calibration records for the Alcotest machine, or examine the intricate details of a case that could potentially have it thrown out entirely. You will basically be paying someone $1000 dollars or more to show up in court on one single occasion, and plead you guilty to your charges.
That’s absolutely ridiculous, and you easily could do it on your own. For $1000 bucks, most lawyers won’t even crack open a case file in a DWI charge.
That said, you don’t necessarily want to go with the most expensive DWI lawyer either. Some of the large firms out there have the name of one major DWI attorney, but it’s 5-10 other associates that actually go out and try the cases. Everyone needs to get paid, so they have to charge more. If the all-star spotlight attorney demands $1,500 for himself every time a DWI call comes in, but he still has to pay his associates $2000 in addition to the costs for his receptionists, paralegals, huge office space, and the lease on his Aston-Martin, now all of a sudden you are shelling out $5,000 for a DWI case when you could have found someone just as good for half of that price.
You get what you pay for, but you don’t have to pay for what you don’t need. The best thing that you can do is make a handful of calls to attorneys, find the ones that are quoting reasonable prices but also seem to have a vested interest in beating your charges and can actually present a strategy to do so. When you’ve found a good and honest attorney, you’ll probably know it, but don’t be too quick to judge.
If you’d like to talk to a reasonably prices, aggressive DWI attorney in New Jersey, feel free to call my office any time, and I’m more than happy to talk about your case.
DWI FAQ #12: “Should I tell my boss about my DWI arrest or conviction?”
Answer: It’s up to you, but it’s not 100% necessary. Remember, a DWI is still technically a traffic offense in the state of New Jersey. Employers typically are concerned with criminal charges, not traffic offenses. Further, many employers are only concerned with certain kinds of criminal charges. For example, it might not be wise to knowingly employ a violent criminal. Also, it would make sense to avoid maintaining employees convicted of any kind of theft charges (otherwise things might go missing from the supply closet.) A traffic offense doesn’t really play a role in your character within the workplace. The bottom line is that your employer will not be notified by anyone from the State, and unless he or she happened to read something in the paper about your arrest, your boss will probably not find out.
That said, if you are convicted of DWI, you will probably be losing your license for a while. This could play a huge role in your ability to get to work on time, if at all. If transportation starts to become a serious issue, you’re probably going to need to tell your boss something so that you don’t seem flat out irresponsible. It might be a good idea to make your difficulty commuting known so that this change in your behavior doesn’t seem “out of the blue”.
To avoid losing your license, you might want to consider contacting a NJ DWI lawyer that can attack the case against you, or perhaps negotiate a plea that may allow you to keep your license. Feel free to contact my office at any time.
DUI FAQ #13: “The police officer didn’t read my miranda rights after he pulled me over. Can I get my DWI case dismissed?”
Answer: No. This is an unbelievably common question, and I think it’s a result of too many people watching TV in order to learn about the legal system.
Being read your miranda rights is intended to make sure that you are aware of your right to remain silent. Let’s examine a hypothetical situation which failing to remain silent could end up securing a conviction against you:
Let’s say you were just arrested for DWI in New Jersey, you’re drunk in the back of a police car, and the officer strikes up a conversation with you. At the time, considering your situation, you might feel like it doesn’t hurt to make a friend out of the arresting officer, so you happily engage.
After talking about sports for a little while, he asks you what you were drinking, how many drinks you had, if you smoked any marijuana during the evening, or any other number of questions which could seem completely normal in the course of a regular conversation. If you admit to using drugs, and you admit to being drunk, that information can and will be used against you in a court of law… at least it can if you have been read your miranda rights.
If the officer did not inform you of your right to remain silent, then any of the statements that you made can be thrown out and can not be used against you in court.
People don’t typically know what their rights are, and often times they get themselves into trouble by being influenced by the police officers at hand. Many times, people are coerced into consenting to searches that they have the right to refuse because they are not made aware of that right.
Being read your miranda rights is simply a way for the State to guarantee that you are aware of your right to remain silent so that you are not “coerced” into convicting yourself with statements after the fact. It has nothing to do with your arrest, and failure to mirandize you will not allow you to beat your charges.
DWI FAQ #14.: “How do I get my driver’s license back after a DWI conviction in New Jersey?”
Answer: A simple trip to the DMV should do the trick, but you do not automatically have your driving privileges restored. Just because the amount of time in your license suspension is up, does not mean that you are automatically reinstated with your driving privileges in New Jersey. Once your suspension time is up, you must go to the division of motor vehicles, pay the $100 restoration fee, and at that point, you have your driver’s license back.
If you don’t, and you are pulled over, you will technically be guilty of driving while suspended for DWI. The penalties for this charge are serious, and require mandatory jail time, aside from losing your license for a very long time.
While a lawyer might be able to make a case for you in the courtroom, it’s best to avoid this altogether. Get a ride to the DMV the day that your suspension is over, and get your license back fair and square.