DWI Charges, Punishments, and Defense
“This page contains a comprehensive breakdown of DWI charges, including information about them and how to fight against them.”
1.) “This video explains the fundamentals of DWI, the penalties associated, and all basic NJ DWI information… you can also read this information below.”
If you’ve been arrested for a DWI in NJ, you could possibly end up in jail, lose your license, or end up paying a fortune in fines. All of these can potentially be avoided with advanced DWI defense.
There are a couple of factors that determine the severity of the charge against you. For one, the law considers the number of DWI offenses you’ve actually been arrested for. First offenses are not treated nearly as harshly as subsequent offenses and the penalties get much worse each time you break this law.
In addition to the number of offenses, the main factor in determining the severity of your charge is the measurement of how drunk you actually were.
The Breathalyzer measures the level of alcohol that you’ve consumed by determining your blood alcohol content or “BAC”. This is that actual percentage of your blood stream that is made of alcohol at the time of your arrest… kind of a scary concept.
Now bigger people can drink more alcohol without raising their BAC as much as smaller people. Sometimes small people can handle their alcohol better than people twice their size, but all that matters is the machine’s reading, not how drunk you “felt” when you were pulled over. The Breathalyzer’s numbers determine how much trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.
The first level of illegal BAC is 0.08% to 0.10%. Anything under 0.8% is technically legal, even if it’s 0.79999% (However, I have seen people convicted of DWI with a BAC as low as .05%. They didn’t have an experienced DWI lawyer.) If your blood alcohol is in this range you face up to:
1. Fines of $250- $400
2. Jail time of up to 30 days
3. Loss of driver’s license for three months
4. IDRC for 12-48 hours
5. Interlock device for 6 months to 1 year
I’m sure you don’t need to hear about jail time. I don’t need to tell you that sitting in a cell for 23 hours per day with two random criminals is a horrible way to spend a month. You will be hungry, incredibly bored, and uneasy for every moment you spend in prison. You face up to 30 days, but hiring a good lawyer can help you avoid this calamity.
Fines are pretty self-explanatory. You’re going to end up paying for your mistakes and the municipality that arrested you is going to make a profit. This is of course in addition to the massive increase in your automobile insurance. It’s the little stuff like this that really adds up over the course of time.
The loss of license is also self-explanatory. You’re going to have to figure out how to get to work every day without a car and find some way to accomplish all of the other countless things that we typically rely on our vehicles to do. Your social life will take a hit, and little things like shopping become a heavy chore.
IDRC is the New Jersey “Intoxicated Driver Resource Center”. You’re going to have to sit in a room with a bunch of other folks who have been arrested for DWI and you’re going to have to learn about the potential effects of your actions when driving drunk. You will listen to lectures, watch movies, and undoubtedly be exposed to the horror stories associated with driving while intoxicated. This is an educational program, and it’s not something that you want to experience.
The interlock device on your car is a safety precaution that prevents you from driving drunk. In order to start your car, you will have to blow into a miniature Breathalyzer to prove to vehicle that you’re not intoxicated. This is just a pain in the neck, but it could certainly be seen as embarrassing. Blowing into your interlock device is not the best way to start a date on Friday night.
I put the words “up to” in italics because all of these situations are the worst-case scenario after having been arrested for a DWI. In reality, even if your case can’t be beaten entirely, you will probably not face nearly this degree of punishment assuming you have someone to negotiate on your behalf.
The next level of punishment exists for all BAC levels above .10% during a first offense. For these you face:
1. Fines of $300 to $500
2. Jail time of up to 30 days
3. Loss of driver’s license for seven months to one year
4. IDRC for 12-48 hours
5. Mandatory interlock device for 6 months to 1 year if BAC is .15% or above (in addition to period of license suspension
Now, if you’re being arrested for a second time, your BAC doesn’t matter. Anything over 0.08% and you’re facing the same punishment:
0.08% and above BAC:
1. Fines of $500 to $1,000
2. Jail time of up to 90 days
3. Loss of driver’s license for two (2) years
4. IDRC for 48 hours
5. Community service for 30 days
6. Mandatory interlock device for 1 to 3 years (in addition to period of license suspension).
These are the penalties for a third DWI offense in NJ at a BAC level of 0.08% and above:
1. Fines totaling $1,000
2. Jail time for 180 days
3. Loss of driver’s license for ten (10) years
4. IDRC is determined on a case-by-case basis
5. Mandatory interlock device for 1 to 3 years (in addition to the period of license suspension)
If you have an experienced DWI lawyer fighting on your behalf, you should not be faced with these punishments. However, it’s my job to tell you exactly what you could be facing. Since I’ve undoubtedly made you nervous, let me go ahead and tell you how I typically attack DWI cases.
1. Challenge The Probable Cause For the Vehicle Stoppage:
The police officer that pulls you over needs to have a valid reason for stopping your vehicle. Speeding, failure to maintain lane, a broken head or taillight, and a rear view mirror obstruction are perfectly valid reasons to pull you over. Now these stoppages aren’t always cut and dry. For example, if the officer thinks that you were speeding because it looked like you were going fast, but he has no radar reading, that stoppage can be challenged and potentially thrown out. If the stoppage itself is invalid, then anything the officer discovers afterwards it thrown out. This includes DWI charges, drug possession, gun possession, etc.
Forcing the State to prove probable cause for the stoppage frequently gives us a successful defense or at least a very strong platform to negotiate a plea.
2. Challenge The Use of the Alcotest 7110 Machine:
There are very few lawyers in the state of NJ that are certified to actually use the Alcotest 7110 machine, but I am. That means that I’m actually licensed to perform this test, and as a result, I can cross-examine the police officer that administered the test to you. If he answers questions incorrectly about the method in which he performed the test, you can have your case thrown out entirely. Police officers don’t do everything correctly, they make mistakes frequently, and we can take advantage of this tendency.
3. Challenge The 20 Minute Observation Period:
The arresting officer is required by law to observe you, in a room, by yourself, for 20 minutes before administering the Alcotest. The reason for this is that if a defendant chews gun, smokes a cigarette, burps, eats something, etc. this will affect the defendant’s mouth alcohol levels and could create a false reading on the breath testing machine.
If this 20 minute period is interrupted for any reason, (maybe you used the bathroom or the officer left the room) then the reading can’t be proven as valid and the case will be thrown out.
The timing and documentation of events in your arrest plays a huge role in the State’s ability to prosecute you. If the officer’s reported times just don’t add up, your charges can be dismissed. For example, if the officer claims that he pulled you over at 8:00 PM, arrested you at 8:03, and administered the Alcotest at 8:35, but the police station is 45 miles away, the times just don’t make sense. Those numbers can’t possibly exist.
Here’s a hypothetical series of questions that I might ask such an officer during a trial:
Me: ”Did you observe the defendant for 20 minutes before administering the test?”
Officer: “Of course.”
Me: “How did you drive 45 miles and observe my client in 32 minutes?”
Me: “Based on my calculations, you must have been driving 180 miles per hour. Is that true?”
Me: “Is there anything accurate about your report officer?”
That’s a case that wouldn’t even make it to trial.
4. Challenging The Field Sobriety Test:
In order to actually arrest you for a DWI and hook you up to the most serious breath-testing device, the officer needs to establish probable cause for the arrest. This is typically done by making you perform a series of silly tests on the side of the road. You stand on one foot, walk a straight line, and do a few other random things that give an indication of your blood alcohol content. If you fail these tests, the officer has probable cause to arrest you.
Again, police officers aren’t perfect. Many times, they don’t explain the test correctly, they don’t count the times out loud correctly, and they just don’t hold true to the standardized procedure used to administer these tests. If this is the case, then the probable cause for your arrest doesn’t exist, and as a result the readings on the Alcotest machine are inadmissible. Your case is dismissed.
These are just a few of the ways that I fight DWI cases, but in reality there are many ways that this can be done. All of my strategies are determined by a case-by-case basis. The details surrounding your arrest need to be examined carefully and run through with a fine-toothed comb. Once this has been done, we can work as a team to get you the best possible result in your DWI case.
For more information, or to discuss your case, please feel free to contact me at any time.
Travis J. Tormey Esq.
Phone: (201) 556-1571
Click Here to Email Travis