DUI / Drunk Driving
New Jersey DWI Lawyer
Driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence, and refusal to perform a breath test, are all serious traffic offenses in New Jersey. You should also know that the lawmakers in NJ believe that this issue is so significant as to outlaw plea bargaining of DWI offenses. If you want to avoid the impact of a conviction, it will require a legal issue(s) concerning the prosecutors case. The experience and talent of a highly qualified defense attorney is invaluable in this regard. This is precisely why you want to speak to one of the lawyers at our office. We are the only law firm in New Jersey that possesses the following credentials:
- 5 attorneys who are certified to operate and maintain the Draeger Alcotest 7110 Breath Test Instrument (there are only approximately 50 of these in the entire state);
- 5 lawyers who are certified in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST), the only way to prove a DWI if and/or when scientific evidence like breath readings or blood tests are eliminated (there are only 10-15 in the state with this qualification);
- 3 defenders who are actual instructors in SFST (perhaps 5 exist statewide);
- 100 years of collective experience defending driving while intoxicated and related charges in the state;
- former prosecutors in over 25 municipalies; and
- the only firm to own a New Jersey version of the Alcotest machine to prepare cases and arguments (there is only one other firm with the device).
As our qualifications and training demonstrate, we take defending our clients very seriously and that is for good reason, we need to be. If you want to avoid a conviction, you need to be serious as well by selecting the lawyer(s) that can give you the best opportunity for success -- we like to believe that we would be our firm.
NJ DWI Law & Associated Penalties
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: $250-$400, IDRC, 3 months - 1 year suspension, possible 30 days in jail.
- Second Offense: $500-$1,000, 30 days community service, 2-90 days in jail, 2 year suspension.
- Third Offense: $1,000 fine, 180 days in jail, 10 year suspension.
For a more detailed discussion regarding all of the issues and potential penalties involved in drinking and driving cases, you can refer to our New Jersey DWI, DUI, or Refusal Site.
Elements of a DWI Offense
The elements that must be proved by the prosecutor in order to obtain a conviction under the New Jersey drinking and driving statute include: (1) proof of operation; and (2) proof of intoxication, also referred to as being under the influence.
The element of "operation" is customarily established through actual observations of operation or circumstantial evidence demonstrating that the accused was operating or possessed an intention to operate. The State typically 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.
The State Must Also Prove Intoxication. New Jersey's 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 at or above the legal limit of .08%. The current mechanism for testing breath samples in New Jersey is a device commonly referred to as the Alcotest. If the state is unable, however, to establish a "per se" violation through breath sample or blood, law enforcement may attempt to establish intoxication through SFST, also referred to as psycho-physical testing. These tests are susceptible to subjective interpretation and/or improper administration and our DWI defense lawyers are well aware of these tendencies.
DUI Charges. When a charge under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 is based on drugs, it is commonly referred to as Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUI). When a DUI is based on drugs, the State is typically required to present evidence from a police officer trained and certified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), indicating that the suspect was, in fact, under the influence of drugs. Blood or urine test results are also required to establish that the suspect possessed drugs in their system.
Defenses. There are many defenses to driving while intoxicated charges in New Jersey. Some of these defenses include lack of probable cause or reasonable suspicion for a stop, e.g., an illegal traffic stop, lack of probable cause to believe the driver was intoxicated, and improper inspection and certification of the breathalyzer machine. Our DWI attorneys are experienced in drinking and driving cases and will make sure that all possible defenses are asserted.
Sentencing. Sentencing issues also arise in New Jersey DWI, DUI and Refusal cases, and our criminal defense attorneys will explore 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 significantly affect sentencing is the breathalyzer readings. If you are first offender in New Jersey and your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is between .08 and .10, then you will be facing a three month license suspension rather than the seven month to one year license suspension involved where readings are at or above .10%. Our criminal defense attorneys will do their best to have the BAC readings excluded or depleted (i.e. reduced) so that you receive the minimum suspension available. Another legal issue that frequently arises is treatment of prior convictions as sentencing can vary significantly if your prior convictions are for a DWI rather than a Refusal. If your first conviction is for a refusal rather than for a DWI, then, under New Jersey Law, you must be sentenced as a first offender. However, if your prior conviction is for a DWI, and you are subsequently charged with a refusal, then this will be considered your second offense and the penalties will be much more severe. As a result, it is necessary to contact a DWI attorney in New Jersey who has experience in handling these types of offenses. For more information on DWI charges, DUI charges, Refusal charges, and DWI Law in New Jersey, we also maintain a New Jersey DWI Blog which includes extensive discussion on these subjects.
The DUI Lawyers at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall have experience in defending these types of cases and are prepared to appear in all Courts in New Jersey. The lead attorney of the firm, John F. Marshall, has over fifteen (15) years of experience in defending traffic tickets, including DWI charges. In fact, Mr. Marshall has even served as Municipal Prosecutor in several municipalities in New Jersey and therefore has experience in acting on both sides of driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence and refusal cases. Mr. Marshall and the other members of his firm welcome the opportunity to meet with you for a free initial consultation and discuss your case in more detail.