Most people who have had a driver’s license for more than a few years have been to traffic court at least once, and most of them did not hire lawyers. DWI is a whole other ballgame, though; it is completely unlike getting a ticket for having an expired vehicle registration or for failure to obey a highway sign. You can get criminal penalties for DUI in Essex County, New Jersey, up to and including incarceration. If you are facing drunk driving charges in the Newark area, it is essential to hire a DWI defense lawyer, and the best place to do that is at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall. With two convenient locations (Newark and Bloomfield) and 11 certified criminal trial attorneys, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is your best choice for walking away from your DUI case without a criminal conviction on your record. The Essex County DUI defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have a total of more than 200 years of experience in the legal profession, including working for the Essex County prosecutor’s office, as well as for municipal prosecutors’ offices in several Essex County, New Jersey towns.
Drunk Driving in Essex County
If you have ever been to the Essex County courthouse for a traffic violation or a civil matter such as divorce or probate, you may have noticed that traffic court has its own section. Likewise, job applications often ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime, but they specifically indicate that most traffic violations do not count. Of course, some dangerous actions by drivers qualify for criminal charges and are too serious simply to be resolved in traffic court. For example, hit-and-run, also known as leaving the scene of an accident, is a criminal offense. Likewise, drivers who cause an accident that results in death can be charged with vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide, although not every fatal traffic accident results in a criminal case.
Likewise, DUI and DWI count as crimes, and you can go to jail even for a first offense DUI. You can still get criminal charges for DUI even if you do not cause an accident.
Are DUI and DWI the Same Thing in New Jersey?
Some states refer to drunk driving as driving under the influence (DUI), while others call it driving while intoxicated (DWI), but New Jersey uses both terms interchangeably. New Jersey law defines DWI or DUI as operating a motor vehicle when your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. If you are younger than 21, the legal age for purchasing alcohol in New Jersey, you can get DUI charges if your BAC is less than 0.08 but still at a level that could only be the result of consuming one or more alcoholic beverages. You can also get DWI charges in Essex County, New Jersey if there are detectable levels of illegal drugs in your blood.
It might seem excessive to face such harsh criminal penalties for DUI even if you do not cause an accident. Is not DWI a nonviolent crime, like drug possession, and are not the New Jersey criminal courts turning away from draconian punishments for nonviolent crimes in favor of more rehabilitative consequences? Yes, but driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs creates a more substantial risk to the physical safety of others in a way that offenses such as drug possession do not. In fact, when laws against drunk driving went into effect in the 1980s, it led to a sharp and permanent decline in the number of traffic fatalities. Even today, alcohol and drugs contribute to a disproportionate number of traffic accidents involving death or serious injury. Therefore, working with the Essex County DWI defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is of the utmost importance for avoiding a criminal conviction or a harsh sentence. If your DUI case is the result of an ongoing struggle with substance use disorder, then your DUI defense lawyer can help connect you to a pretrial diversion program that will connect you to services that can help you address the underlying problems with alcohol or drugs and help you achieve sobriety, instead of just handing out punishments that make the problem worse.
What are the Consequences of DWI?
The consequences of a DWI conviction vary according to your BAC and according to whether you have prior drunk driving convictions on your record. These are some of the sentences courts hand down to defendants convicted of DUI in New Jersey:
- The sentence for a first offense DWI conviction in New Jersey is a variety of financial penalties, including a state surcharge of $1,000, which you must pay every year for three years. There is also a mandatory driver’s license suspension, but the duration of the suspension depends on your BAC at the time of arrest. If your BAC was higher than 0.08% but lower than 0.1%, then your license will be suspended for three months, but if your BAC was higher than 0.1%, the license suspension can last anywhere from seven to 12 months.
- For a second DWI offense, there is also a state surcharge, as well as other financial penalties. This time the state surcharge is $1,500 per year for three years. You can also get a jail sentence of up to 90 days. You must also do 30 days of community service and have an ignition interlock device installed on your car. (An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer attached to your steering wheel which prevents the engine from turning on if your BAC is too high.)
- The financial penalties for a third DWI conviction are even greater than for a first or second offense. Your license suspension lasts for 10 years, and the court can sentence you to up to 180 days in jail.
Can You Refuse to Take a Breathalyzer Test if You Get Pulled Over for DUI?
According to New Jersey law, every person who drives in New Jersey has implicitly consented to give a breath sample if the police pull them over on suspicion of DUI. If the police pull you over and ask you to take a breath test and you refuse, you can get criminal charges for breath test refusal. You can also get this charge for intentionally sabotaging the result of the breath test, such as by providing too small a breath sample or stalling the administration of the test so that your BAC will be lower by the time the results register. Of course, you are only obligated to provide a breath sample if the police have reasonable suspicion that you were driving drunk. For example, the police are not within their rights to ask you for a breath test when you are a passenger in a car driven by someone else.
Blood Tests in Essex County DWI Cases
Law enforcement can also use blood tests as evidence that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the traffic stop that led to your arrest. As with breath tests, the results of a DUI blood test are only admissible as evidence in court if law enforcement have respected your right to due process, such as if they were justified in making the traffic stop and if your driving mistakes or your behavior during the traffic stop indicated that you were intoxicated. Of course, “appears drunk” is a subjective measure, and the Essex County DWI defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can find weaknesses in the prosecution’s arguments where these weaknesses exist.
Possible Defenses in Essex County, New Jersey DWI Cases
The Essex County DWI defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will help you identify the best possible defenses in your DWI case. Remember that, as a defendant in a criminal case in the United states, you have the right to a trial by jury, and you can only be convicted if the prosecution convinces that jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. You may be able to argue that you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that you were not driving, or that the police did not have a valid reason to conduct a traffic stop. If the evidence against you really seems incontrovertible, the Essex County DWI defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall may be able to arrange a plea agreement that spares you the most severe penalties for DUI.
Contact the Essex County DUI Defense Lawyers
The criminal courts in Essex County, New Jersey handle DUI cases, and that means that if you are charged with DUI, you have the right to representation by a lawyer. Contact Essex County defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall to arrange for a consultation at one of our two convenient locations in Newark or Bloomfield.