New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney Explains DUI Charges N.J.S.A. 39:4-50

Charged with DUI in NJ, attorneys for drunk driving 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. This page contains a comprehensive breakdown of NJ DWI charges, including information about them and how to fight against them.

To learn about the best ways to defend a DWI case in New Jersey, access our Top Ways to Challenge a DWI in NJ page. You can watch the videos and read the information below to learn more about the accusations and penalties you’re facing. Please contact us today at (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation with an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer who can assist you.

“This video explains the fundamentals of DWI, the penalties associated, and all basic NJ DWI information.”

There are several things you should know about DWI in New Jersey. The main law that governs driving under the influence is NJ Section 39:4-50. It encompasses both driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence of drugs. DUI and DWI are often used interchangeably because both are violations of the same statute.

DWI is a traffic offense, not a criminal offense in New Jersey. While other states criminalize drunk driving so it shows up on your criminal record, this is not the case in NJ. If convicted of DUI, the conviction will not appear on a background check. However, it will show up on a driver’s abstract with the Division of Motor Vehicles and can be used by insurance companies to jack up your insurance rates. While not technically a “crime,” a DWI can result in jail time.

New Jersey has different levels of DWI. Each level of DUI offense has its own set of penalties. There are three categories of DWI charges: first offense DWI, second offense DWI, and third or subsequent offense DWI. As you might expect, the penalties get more severe based on the number of prior convictions (if any).

In addition to category of the offense, the severity of punishment for a first DWI offense is based on blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The level of alcohol in your blood at the time of a DUI arrest is usually measured with a breathalyzer device. In New Jersey, the approved breath testing machine is the Alcotest 7110. By operating a vehicle on an NJ roadway, you are giving implied consent to provide a breath sample if an officer has probable cause to believe you are driving impaired. By refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test, you open yourself up to charges for DWI Refusal, which entails essentially the same consequences of a regular DWI offense.

To access specific information related to the charges you are facing, continue reading about types of DWI charges in New Jersey and the potential consequences of a conviction for each.

What Consequences am I Facing for a DWI in New Jersey?

NOTE: These penalties have been updated based on the new DWI law effective December 1, 2019.

When it comes to drunk driving, 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%. Usually, they didn’t have an experienced DWI lawyer. Also, underage drivers cannot legally drive with any amount of alcohol in their system.

For a first DUI offense with a BAC up to 0.10%, you are subject to the following penalties:

  • Fines of $250- $400
  • Jail time of up to 30 days
  • Loss of driver’s license until ignition interlock device installed
  • IDRC for 12-48 hours
  • Interlock device for 3 months

The next level of punishment exists for a BAC over .10% but less than .15%. For these you face:

  • Fines of $300 to $500
  • Jail time of up to 30 days
  • Loss of driver’s license until ignition interlock device installed
  • IDRC for 12-48 hours
  • Mandatory interlock device for 7 months to 1 year

The next level of punishment for a first offense is for driver’s with a BAC over .15% who are facing the following:

  • Fines of $300 to $500
  • Jail time up to 30 days
  • Loss of driver’s license for 4-6 months
  • IDRC for 12-48 hours
  • Interlock for 9 to 15 months

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:

2nd Offense with 0.08% and above BAC:

  • Fines of $500 to $1,000
  • Jail time of up to 90 days
  • Loss of driver’s license for one to two (2) years
  • IDRC for 48 hours
  • Community service for 30 days
  • Mandatory interlock device for 2 to 4 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:

  • Fines totaling $1,000
  • Jail time for 180 days
  • Loss of driver’s license for eight (8) years
  • IDRC is determined on a case-by-case basis
  • Mandatory interlock device for 2 to 4 years (in addition to the period of license suspension)

Even for the lowest possible level of DUI offense, you face up to 30 days in jail, but hiring a good lawyer can help you avoid this calamity. Fines are required in addition to the massive increase in your automobile insurance, which can take years to get reduced. The loss of your driving privileges means 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. There are no harship or work licenses for those convicted of DWI in New Jersey.

IDRC is the New Jersey “Intoxicated Driver Resource Center,” where you have to go to learn about the potential effects of drunk driving. This is an educational program, involving lectures, movies, reading materials, and everything you need to understand the gravity of your actions.

The interlock device is installed in your vehicle to keep you from driving intoxicated again. Before driving or even starting your car, you will have to blow into a miniature breathalyzer that tests the amount of alcohol in your system.

Remember, these situations are the worst-case scenario after having been arrested for a DWI. In reality, a charge for DWI does not necessarily mean you will be found guilty, particularly if you have a skilled lawyer to fight on your behalf in court. If you have an experienced DWI lawyer defending you, you should not be faced with these punishments.  However, it’s extremely important to know what you could be facing. Since this is obviously a frightening reality, let’s discuss how our attorneys typically attack DWI cases.

How Can I Avoid a DWI Conviction in NJ?

The first thing you should know is there is no plea bargaining in New Jersey DUI cases. This means that you’re only chance of avoiding the penalties explained above is to secure an outright dismissal in court. Fortunately, there are many highly effective ways to get a drunk driving charge dismissed, a few of which are explained in greater detail below.

Challenge the Reason 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.

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.

Challenge Police Procedure after Your Arrest

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?”
Officer: “Um…”

Me: “Based on my calculations, you must have been driving 180 miles per hour.  Is that true?”
Officer:  “Umm…”

Me:  “Is there anything accurate about your report officer?”
Officer:  “Ummmmmm…”

That’s a case that wouldn’t even make it to trial.

Challenge the Field Sobriety Test Results

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.

DUI & DWI Defense Attorneys in New Jersey – Get Help Today

These are just a few of the ways that we fight DWI cases, but in reality there are many ways that this can be done. All of our 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. If you have been charged with DUI in New Jersey, contact an experienced New Jersey DWI Attorney at The Tormey Law Firm today at (201) 556-1570 for a free consultation about your case.


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Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

If you've been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.

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