Driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, and refusal to perform a breath test are all serious traffic offenses in New Jersey. New Jersey drinking and driving laws impose severe penalties for individuals who are found guilty of drunk driving. Under the New Jersey DWI statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50:
- No person is to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug;
- A person with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08% by weight of blood (BAC) is deemed to be “per se” intoxicated for purposes of determining whether a violation has occurred; and
- No person is to permit operation of a vehicle by a person under the influence or intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug.
Penalties for violation of the NJ Drunk Driving Statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, include:
- First-Offense DUI/DWI: $250-$500 fine, 12-48 hours of IDRC, 30 day – 1 year license suspension, [possible] 30 days jail time, mandatory installation of ignition interlock device;
- Second-Offense DUI/DWI: $500-$1,000 fine, IDRC, 30 days community service, [possible] 2-90 days jail time, mandatory 2 year license suspension, 2 year vehicle registration/plates revocation or ignition interlock device; and
- Third-Offense DUI/DWI: $1,000 fine, 180 days time, mandatory 10 year license suspension, 10 year vehicle registration/plates revocation or ignition interlock device.
State Must Prove Operation of a Motor Vehicle
Necessary elements of a violation of the NJ Drunk Driving Statute are (i) proof of operation, (ii) of a motor vehicle. The element of “operation” is customarily established through actual observations of operation or circumstantial evidence demonstrating operation. It is important to keep in mind that it is not essential that it was the motorist’s intention to operate the vehicle, and that the vehicle was capable of moving. The State usually attempts to establish “intent” by presenting evidence that the defendant placed the keys of the vehicle in the ignition and/or that the vehicle was running. Our lawyers are sensitive to the complicated nature of the issue of operation and are prepared to defend clients on this issue whenever a potentially viable defense exists.
State Must Prove That a Motorist Was Under the Influence at Time of Operation
The State courts have defined intoxication or being under the influence as a substantial deterioration or diminution of the mental faculties or physical capabilities of a person resulting from ingestion of alcohol or drugs. Intoxication from alcohol is typically established “per se” through breath test samples or blood tests demonstrating a blood-alcohol content either at or above the legal limit of 0.08%. The current instrument used to test breath samples in most New Jersey counties is the Alcotest 7110 MKIII-C, commonly referred to as “Alcotest 7110”. Unlike the old Breathalyzer test, an Alcotest has a keyboard attached to the instrument. If you were tested on this machine, the police officer typed your basic information (i.e. name, age, weight, gender, and driver’s license number) before your first attempt. This is a highly technical machine that defense attorneys must be sufficiently familiar with in order to create winning trial strategies in these DUI/DWI cases.
If the State is unable to establish a “per se” violation through an Alcotest or blood sample, the State may attempt to prove intoxication through field sobriety testing, also referred to as psycho-social testing. These tests are very susceptible to subjective interpretation, improper administration, and, therefore, human error.
DUI/DWI charges may also be based on alleged ingestion of illegal drugs. In these cases, the State is normally required to present evidence from a police officer specifically trained and certified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), testifying that the suspect was, in fact, under the influence of drugs at the time of operation. Blood or urine test results are also required to establish that the suspect had drugs in his or her system.
There are quite a few defenses to DUI/DWI charges in New Jersey. Some of these defenses include (i) lack of probable cause or reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, (ii) lack of probable cause to believe the driver was intoxicated, (iii) improper inspection/certification of the Alcotest, and (iv) improper administration of the Alcotest. This firm has extensive experience in drinking and driving matters and will ensure that any and all viable defenses are employed.
Sentencing issues also arise in NJ DUI, DWI & Refusal cases, and this firm will examine each of these issues to obtain the best possible result on your behalf. For example, one aspect of a drinking and driving case that can and will significantly affect sentencing is the Alcotest readings. If you are a first offender in New Jersey and your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is between 0.08% and 0.10%, then you will be facing a 3-month license suspension rather than the 7-month to 1-year suspension imposed when readings are at or above 0.10%. This firm will do its best to have the BAC readings excluded or reduced, so that you can receive the minimum suspension available. Another legal issue that frequently arises is treatment of prior convictions, as sentencing can vary quite significantly if the prior convictions are for a DUI/DWI rather than a Refusal. If your first conviction is for a Refusal rather than a DUI/DWI, then under NJ law, you must be sentenced as a first offender. If, however, your prior conviction is for a DUI/DWI and you are subsequently charged with a Refusal, then you will be sentenced as a second-time offender. As such, it is a necessity that you contact an experienced DUI/DWI attorney in New Jersey.
The Davis Law Firm, LLC has the experience you need to successfully fight DUI, DWI & Refusal charges. We are prepared to appear on your behalf in all courts in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you for a free initial consultation and discuss your case in greater detail. Contact us online today!