A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey could mean a temporary license suspension, fines, and incarceration, depending on your case and personal history. At the Law Office of Steven Ellman, we know how disruptive and frightening a DWI in New Jersey can be. We treat each client with respect and compassion during these challenging times and plan a defense strategy to work toward the best possible outcome in each case.
If you’ve been arrested for DWI, you should know the basic processes and events in a DWI case. More importantly, you should know that the Law Office of Steven Ellman is on your side. An experienced DWI attorney can help you understand your rights and develop a defense to work in your favor. Contact our award-winning firm today for a free consultation.
Types of DWI in New Jersey
Whether you call it a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI, both terms mean the same thing in New Jersey. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater. However, there are different types of DWI in New Jersey, including:
- Standard DWI – In a typical DWI case, the prosecution must prove the driver was impaired. Evidence like erratic driving, field sobriety test results, the driver’s appearance and behavior, and witness accounts indicate intoxication, regardless of the exact amount of substances in the driver’s system.
- Per se DWI – A per se DWI relies on the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If the BAC is 0.08 percent or higher, the driver is legally intoxicated, whether or not they appeared impaired while driving. The BAC test results alone can lead to a conviction in these cases.
- Underage DWI – Any detectable amount of alcohol could result in a DWI charge for individuals under the legal drinking age of 21.
- Aggravated DWI – This elevated offense could apply to individuals with extremely high BAC levels who caused injury or death in a crash or had a minor in the vehicle.
- Felony DWI – A DWI can be elevated to a felony (called an indictable offense in New Jersey), generally if there are multiple offenses within a certain period or they involve injury or loss of life.
What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?
An ignition interlock device (IID) is installed on a driver’s vehicle and prevents it from starting if the driver’s BAC level exceeds the preset limit. Here are additional things you need to know about an ignition interlock device:
- Drivers must pay for the installation and lease.
- The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has a list of licensed installers.
- Leasing prices range from $2.50 to $3.50 per day.
- The ignition interlock must remain in place for the duration of court-ordered monitoring.
What Happens During an Arrest for DWI in NJ?
A DWI arrest in NJ begins with a traffic stop if an officer has probable cause. From there, the arrest process continues:
- Traffic stop – Law enforcement pulls the driver over after observing erratic driving, weaving, and similar behavior.
- Field sobriety tests – After observing additional signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, red eyes, or the smell of alcohol, police request that the driver perform a few tasks to test for physical or cognitive impairment.
- Breathalyzer test – At this point, police officers ask the driver to take a breathalyzer test. If their BAC exceeds 0.08 percent, they arrest the driver.
- Custody – Police take the individual into custody, where they can refuse to answer questions and request an attorney.
- Court proceedings – The driver hears the formal charges and enters a guilty or not guilty plea.
What Happens if I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in New Jersey?
Like most states, New Jersey has an “implied consent” law. As a condition for obtaining a driver’s license, motorists give their implied consent to a chemical DWI test, such as a breathalyzer, when law enforcement asks. The consequences for refusing a breathalyzer are harsh, even without a DWI conviction. For a first refusal, you face the following penalties:
- $300 to $500 fine
- License suspension until an interlock device is installed
- Required participation in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) program
Penalties and Fines for DWI in NJ
Along with a suspended license, New Jersey has other penalties for a DWI. Depending on the number of convictions and the driver’s BAC, these include:
- Fines ranging from $250 to $1,000
- Jail terms ranging from under 30 days to 180 days
- Annual auto insurance surcharge of up to $1,500 for three years
- Community service
- Ignition interlock device
Penalties and fines for underage DWI include temporary loss of license for up to 90 days, community service, and alcohol safety education.
DWI Trials in NJ
If you plead not guilty to a DWI charge, your case goes to trial. Here is the typical process in a DWI trial:
- Discovery – Prosecution and defense exchange evidence.
- Pre-trial motions – Both sides make legal arguments to the judge.
- Opening statements – Prosecution and defense lawyers outline their case for the judge.
- Presenting evidence – Both sides present evidence, such as witnesses and test results.
- Cross-examination – Opposing attorneys question the other side’s witnesses, including experts.
- Closing arguments – Lawyers summarize their cases for the judge.
- Verdict – The judge decides the case.
- Sentencing – The judge sentences the defendant if convicted.
Why Should I Fight My DWI Case in NJ?
Fighting a DWI case could result in reduced charges or even dismissal if there are errors in the arrest or testing process. There are other reasons to contest DWI charges, such as:
- Examining the validity of evidence and offering expert opinions
- Negotiating for reduced penalties or charges
- Protecting your reputation and legal history if you’re acquitted
Call a New Jersey DWI Lawyer Today
A DWI charge is a serious matter that requires the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Office of Steven Ellman, we protect and defend individuals who want to avoid a DWI conviction and the penalties that it brings. A DWI attorney can pursue the best possible outcome of your case in Northern, Central, and Southern New Jersey. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out how.