Common Misunderstandings about DWI Laws in New Jersey
May 27, 2021
A DWI conviction in New Jersey results in a tremendous loss of time and money. Regardless of the risk, many drivers believe they are not intoxicated or not intoxicated enough to be dangerous on the road. Some may rationalize that they only had one or two drinks with dinner or spent enough time after their last drink to get on the road. Unfortunately, these and many more misunderstandings about drunk driving, the law, and penalties for a DWI surprise the unprepared when they are arrested and charged with this offense.
To avoid the heavy fines, possible license suspension, ignition interlock device, insurance hikes, and other collateral consequences like issues with your job that may result from being found guilty of DWI/DUI, it is highly advisable to have a skilled, zealous, and committed lawyer on your side combatting your DWI charges every step of the way. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Union County, New Jersey, contact our office now to consult an attorney free of charge. We can answer your specific questions and address your concerns, in addition to discussing the various ways that we often achieve DUI dismissals in courts in Union Township, Westfield, Mountainside, Clark, Cranford, and throughout the state. Contact us at (908) 838-0150 today for a free consultation.
Don’t Misunderstand these Truths about a DWI Charge in NJ
It is not uncommon for people to misunderstand the rules, regulations, protocols, proofs, and punishments in their New Jersey DWI case. The following addresses some of the leading fictions about DUI law and the things you need to understand when arrested and charged with impaired driving.
A DWI is not merely a night in jail.
If a breathalyzer measures your blood alcohol level (BAC) at .08% or higher, you fail a field sobriety test, or both, you most likely will end up in the back of a police car, processed at the police station, in jail, and facing the severe consequences that come with a DWI charge. Your car may be impounded and it could be costly when you retrieve it. But that is not the least of your troubles. A DWI does not end with an arrest, including time in jail until you are released. Once arrested, you must appear in court for arraignment, trial, and if convicted, sentencing at the municipal court designated on your citation or ticket.
Legal knowledge and experience is needed to defend against DWI/DUI charges.
For the purposes of sentencing, a judge will look at your BAC and your prior history of DWI/DUI convictions, and may sentence you to a jail term, expensive fines, a license revocation at least until you install an ignition interlock device (extended license suspensions apply to second DWI charges and third DWI offenses), an annual insurance surcharge, community service, and time in drug and alcohol education program called an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, or any combination of these. Once your license is suspended, you cannot drive, not even to work until you install the device or the court restores your driving privileges, and that’s only for first-time DUI charges. A first-time offender’s sentence is not as harsh as a second or third-time offender’s, but all DWI sentences are lengthy and expensive. You may not always be able to avoid a DWI, but your best defense can and should be offered by an aggressive, educated attorney who regularly defends clients at DWI trials. Many mistakenly believe that they can talk their way out of a conviction.
A DUI may not be a criminal charge, but it is serious.
Many people have the wrong idea about DWI’s. One common misconception is that a DWI is as simple as any other traffic offense, like getting a ticket for speeding. Even though it is technically a violation of the motor vehicle code, and handed in the municipal court where other non-criminal traffic violations are handled, it is a serious, quasi-criminal infraction with unsuspected consequences. For example, you may not be employable for certain positions with a DWI on your record. Certainly, driving job options are likely excluded, as are jobs that require a clean driving record of all infractions. And what many people may not be aware of is how steep the penalties are for a second or third DWI. Having that driving record alone can be damning if you are caught again. Worse, you cannot expunge or remove a DWI or any traffic offense from your driver’s abstract. You may also face additional charges for a criminal offense if you are accused of drunk driving with a child in the vehicle or drugs are found in the car.
You can often invalidate the breath test results.
Another misconception is that once you blow into a breathalyzer that registers your BAC over the legal limit, there is nothing else you can do. You must accept the results and take your punishment. That is not true. The Alcotest breathalyzer device measures the alcohol content of the breath you blow into the device. While it can sometimes accurately detect the alcohol content in your body, there are many errors that occur with breath testing that could prevent the court from getting an accurate picture of whether you were driving inebriated. The breathalyzer results can be skewed by factors that cause inconsistent readings.
So, for example, you may have swallowed mouthwash before being stopped, which can alter the BAC reading. Your body temperature or medical condition can also alter the results. The device is calibrated on the normal 98.6 Fahrenheit body temperature, so if your body runs hotter or colder, the results could be off. Other interference may be attributed to acid reflux, burping, or medications. You can challenge the results of your breathalyzer test for these reasons but also for how the breathalyzer device was maintained, calibrated, or operated, all of which can cast doubt on the accuracy of the reading.
A blood alcohol level below .08% can still lead to DWI charges.
Blowing a reading that is below the legal limit does not buy you a get out of jail free card, another incorrect belief. You can still be charged with a DWI if the officer that stopped you judges you as unable to operate a vehicle safely with drugs or alcohol in your system based on their observations, the way you were driving before the arrest occurred, and your performance on field sobriety tests.
Refusing to take a breathalyzer does not avoid being charged with a DWI.
You can be charged separately for refusing to take a breathalyzer test, and convictions yield similar fines and penalties as a DWI conviction. Besides, you can be still be charged with a DWI without a breathalyzer test. As such, refusing to submit to a breath test in violation of NJSA 39:4-50.4a may cost you twice as much time and money.
Field sobriety tests before DUI arrests can have problems.
Another incorrect assumption is that a failed or negative outcome with a field sobriety test means you will be convicted of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of drugs. The field sobriety tests are the National Highway Traffic Administration’s approved assessment for determining whether a driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Three tests are approved, which test for balance, coordination, and eye-tracking. The one-leg stand, the toe to heel walk, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test that tracks eye movement when an officer asks the driver to follow an object with their eyes, are the main field sobriety tests. All of these tests may be challenged if the circumstances do not yield accurate results.
For example, an overweight person may fail balance and coordination tests, as may a person with physical limitations due to disease or injury. Medications and medical conditions can also affect how a person’s eyes move or twitch when tracking objects too. Weather and surface conditions may also affect someone’s balance. Challenging a field sobriety test result is common and it’s not impossible to overcome the accuracy of the SFST results in your DWI or DUI case.
Consult a Highly Trained Cranford NJ DWI Defense Lawyer to Review Your Strategic Options
Our attorneys have decades of combined experienced practicing in municipal court defending DWI defendants throughout Union County and New Jersey as a whole. We use our specific, unique education in DUI police protocols and testing to find problems with the prosecution’s evidence that could get your DWI charges dismissed. By combing through the evidence, we can often show how the motor vehicle stop, field sobriety tests, breath tests, Drug Recognition Expert reports, and other evidence the prosecutor intends to use to win their case are flawed, illegally obtained, or corrupted. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest for driving under the influence, we may be able to show that the officers stopped you illegally, and therefore the evidence they obtained from that illegal stop should not be used to convict you.
Considering the stakes, contact us today at (908) 838-0150 or send us a message for a free DWI legal consultation. A lawyer who knows how to win on behalf of those facing DUI charges is available now to assist you.