New Jersey DWI Lawyers | DUI Attorneys

New Jersey laws regarding drunk driving — driving while intoxicated or impaired (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) — are among the strictest in the nation, including a ban on DWI plea bargaining for a lower charge. A first conviction of drunk driving can cost you hundreds of dollars in fines, up to 30 days in jail, loss of driving privileges for 90 days, and additional, lasting financial consequences.

A DWI conviction remains on your record for prospective employers, loan officers, college officials and others to find during background checks.

It is absolutely crucial to have an experienced N.J. DWI defense attorney represents you if you have been charged with driving while impaired or related drunk driving offenses in New Jersey. The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have the courtroom-tested legal experience needed to defend you against DWI charges and seek the best possible results in your case.

Drunk Driving in NJ and the Types of DWI/DUI Cases We Handle

It is illegal in New Jersey to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above 0.08%, which may be established through breath, blood or urine tests. The threshold is 0.04% for trucks, bus and other commercial drivers. However, if you consume any amount of alcohol and police think your driving is negatively affected, you can be arrested and charged with drunk driving.

A person younger than 21 years old may be found guilty of DWI with any detectible amount of alcohol in his or her blood while behind the wheel of a car.

It is also a violation for a person to operate a motor vehicle when impaired by a narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug. When an impaired driving offense is based on use of drugs, it is commonly referred to as driving under the influence of drugs (DUI).

Penalties for DWI and DUI grow harsher with subsequent convictions and include prison time as well as thousands of dollars in fines.

A DWI lawyer at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can provide you with aggressive legal representation to fight these impaired driving charges:

Why Choose Us?

As with any criminal charge, you are considered innocent unless and until a prosecutor has proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To stop this from happening, there has to be some issue that shows the prosecution’s case to be flawed. The key to identifying problems in the prosecution’s DWI/DUI case is a defense attorney’s experience.

Our team of former N.J. prosecutors and public defenders has extensive experience handling drunk driving charges. Our credentials are unparalleled among New Jersey law firms, including:

  • 5 attorneys certified to operate and maintain the Draeger Alcotest 7110 MKIIIC alcohol breath test instrument, New Jersey’s official breath test machine.
  • A New Jersey version of the Draeger Alcotest breath test machine owned by the firm for use in preparing cases.
  • 5 lawyers 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.
  • 3 defense attorneys who are instructors in the administration of the SFST.
  • 100 years of combined experience successfully defending New Jersey drivers charged with driving while intoxicated and related offenses.

We have one of the largest and most experienced legal defense teams in New Jersey at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall. We have the qualifications, training and resources needed to devote the time and energy to developing an effective DWI defense for you.

If you have been charged with a DWI, DUI, or test refusal in New Jersey, contact the criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall for a free legal consultation. An initial consultation with our defense attorneys is always free of charge.

Our criminal defense attorneys handle drinking and driving cases throughout New Jersey. We do our best to accommodate clients in terms of payment. We accept all major credit cards for the convenience of our clients. We believe that our legal fees are fair and reasonable given our experience, knowledge, and the effort we undertake in every driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence, and refusal case.

If your sole criteria for hiring an attorney is the firm with the cheapest retainer, then we probably are not the firm for you. While our legal fees are far from the top of the range for experienced drinking and driving defense attorneys, we are not the least expensive because we do not wish to become involved in cases where our time becomes stretched unreasonably thin. Our pricing is competitive. We offer a comprehensive legal defense to DUI, DWI, and refusal charges.

Please feel free to contact our offices to schedule an initial consultation. An experienced DWI lawyer from our firm is accessible from almost anywhere in New Jersey, including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Morris County, Essex County and Ocean County.

Understanding the Impact of the New Jersey DWI Statutes NJSA 39:4-50

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 the ingestion of alcohol or drugs. For the purposes of the laws in New Jersey, driving under the influence (DUI), drunk driving, and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are all the same.

New Jersey’s drunk driving law (NJSA 39:4-50) and its penalties are quite strict. You cannot plead to a lesser offense if you are charged with DWI in New Jersey. Once convicted of a DWI offense, you will lose your license. This means that you cannot even get a limited driving license if you are convicted of DWI. You will also be fined hundreds of dollars and may well be jailed.

By law, a driver is considered to be intoxicated if he or she registers a 0.08% blood alcohol content on a breath or blood test. But, in New Jersey, a driver can be convicted of DWI if he or she has ingested any amount of alcohol and the court is satisfied through a police officer’s testimony that the driver exhibited a “substantial deterioration or diminution of the mental faculties or physical capabilities.”

You can even be convicted for DWI in New Jersey if you are found asleep in your car after drinking. You can be outside of your vehicle while it is parked, locked and not running and still be arrested and convicted of DWI in New Jersey.

Prosecutors have a professional obligation to win convictions in DWI cases. They are not there to do you any favors, but they do recognize that it will be more difficult to prosecute a case if the accused has a DWI lawyer.

Our lead attorney, Jonathan F. Marshall, is a former DUI prosecutor with 25 years of experience in superior and municipal courts across New Jersey. Our other attorneys have similar experiences. The attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are respected by prosecutors and judges throughout the New Jersey justice system. We know when to negotiate for a more favorable sentence and when we have a case that should go to trial. We can help you.

Penalties for New Jersey Drunk Driving Convictions

Penalties for violation of New Jersey drunk driving laws are severe and grow harsher with higher BAC and additional offenses, including:

DUI / DWI First Offense

With a BAC of 0.08 to 0.09 percent:

With a BAC of 0.10 percent or more:

  • Fine of $300-$500
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • 7- to 12-month driver’s license suspension
  • Two 6-hour classes at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center over two consecutive days
  • Annual surcharge penalty of $1,000 for 3 years

Second Offense

  • Fine of $500-$1,000
  • 2 to 90 days in jail
  • 2-year driver’s license suspension
  • 48 consecutive hours detainment in a regional Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
  • Annual surcharge penalty of $1,000 for 3 years
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for 1 to 3 years after license restoration

Third Offense

  • $1,000 fine
  • 180 days in jail
  • 10-year driver’s license suspension
  • Detainment in an in-patient alcoholism treatment program
  • Fee paid to the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center as decided by the court
  • Annual surcharge penalty of $1,000 for 3 years
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for 1 to 3 years after license restoration

Any DWI / DUI conviction also requires:

  • A Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund surcharge of $100
  • A Motor Vehicle Commission restoration fee of $100
  • An Intoxicated Driving Program fee of $100
  • A Violent Crimes Compensation Fund fee of $50
  • A Safe and Secure Community Program fee of $75

A judge may also order the revocation of the defendant’s vehicle registration.

Penalties increase if a DWI / DUI occurred in a school zone or school crossing.

A parent or guardian convicted of driving while intoxicated with a passenger in the motor vehicle who was 17 years of age or younger is also guilty of a disorderly persons offense. They will lose driving privileges for up to 6 months and be required to perform community service for up to 5 days.

Refusing to Take a Breath Test After a DWI Arrest

Any individual who drives a motor vehicle on a public road or highway in New Jersey gives his or her implicit consent to submit to a breath test if suspected of driving while intoxicated. A police officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is driving while intoxicated to justify the collection of a breath sample. But a driver’s refusal to submit to a test when requested can result in mandatory penalties.

First Offense

  • A fine of $300 to $500 and a mandatory drunk driving enforcement fund surcharge.
  • License suspension for 7 to 12 months. The suspension may run concurrently with a related DWI conviction at the judge’s discretion.
  • Two 6-hour classes at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center over two consecutive days.
  • An ignition interlock device installed on all registered vehicles for the period of the license suspension plus an additional period upon restoration of driving privileges of 6 to 12 months.
  • $1,000 Division of Motor Vehicles surcharge annually for three years.

Second Offense

  • A fine of $500 to $1,000 and a mandatory drunk driving enforcement fund surcharge.
  • License suspension for 2 years. The suspension may be imposed for a second refusal to submit to a breath test or for refusing after a previous DWI conviction.
  • Ignition interlock device installed on all registered vehicles for the period of the license suspension plus an additional 1 to 3 years after license restoration.
  • Division of Motor Vehicles surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years, and the individual’s license will remain suspended until the surcharge is paid in full.

There is no mandatory jail sentence for a second offense of refusal. Therefore, there is a clear incentive to plead to the refusal to submit instead of a related driving while intoxicated charge if you are charged with both.

Third Offense

  • A fine of $1,000 and a mandatory drunk driving enforcement fund surcharge of $100.
  • License suspension for 10 years.
  • Ignition interlock device installed on all registered vehicles for the period of the license suspension plus an additional 1 to 3 years after license restoration.
  • Participation in an Intoxicated Drivers Resource Center alcohol education program. The IDRC may impose conditions on the restoration of the driver’s license, such as mandatory attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

To obtain a conviction for refusing a breath test, the state must prove that:

  • The police officer possessed probable cause to believe that the accused was driving while intoxicated or operating under the influence of drugs.
  • The defendant was arrested for DWI or DUI.
  • There was a proper request to submit a breath sample.
  • The accused refused to perform the test.

New Jersey courts have ruled that the following can be construed as a refusal to submit to a breath test:

  • Silence. The accused must assert a willingness to perform the test. While an individual has the constitutional right to remain silent, New Jersey courts have expressly held that this right does not apply to questioning regarding consent to a breath test. Accordingly, silence is almost always construed as a refusal to submit to the breathalyzer.
  • Short Samples. A refusal charge may be filed if an individual “fakes” blowing to supply a breath sample or is unable to provide sufficient air volume or maintain volume for the necessary time period to register a valid reading.
  • Outright Refusals. When an individual refuses consent for a breath test with a flat “No” or another negative response to the request, a summons for refusing to provide a breath sample may be filed immediately. In addition, when there is an express refusal, police are not required to read the second paragraph of the Standard Statement requesting consent, which advises the accused that they will be charged with refusing the test.
  • Delaying or Stalling Administration. This is engaging in any tactics that are obviously intended to delay the efforts to start the test. In this regard, the Supreme Court of New Jersey clearly stated in State v. Widmaier, 157 N.J. 475 (1999), an individual suspected of driving while intoxicated has no right to delay breath testing. Efforts to stall can, therefore, be interpreted as a refusal.
  • Conditional Consent. New Jersey courts have expressly held that anything short of an unequivocal “Yes” or “I will” can be construed as a refusal. As a result, if an accused individual responds to a police officer with “If…”, “Can you tell me…” or anything other than an affirmative and unconditioned agreement to take the test, it can be interpreted as a refusal to submit to the breath test.

What NJ Prosecutors Must Prove to Convict You of DWI

To satisfy a New Jersey court that the defendant is guilty of driving under the influence, the prosecution must prove the following elements of the crime of DWI:

  • Operation of a vehicle or vessel. The text of New Jersey’s law does not define the operation of a vehicle. But New Jersey courts have said, “Operation may be proved by actual observation of the defendant driving while intoxicated, by observation of the defendant in or out of the vehicle under circumstances indicating that the defendant had been driving while intoxicated, or by defendant’s admission.” (State of New Jersey v. Donna Ebert, 377 N.J. Super. 1, 871 A.2d 664. (2005))
  • By the defendant. There must be something in the prosecutor’s evidence that links you to the vehicle. Usually, this is the officer’s testimony that he or she observed and stopped your vehicle and found you behind the wheel. However, if you were not driving but were “in or out of the vehicle under circumstances indicating” you had driven the vehicle, the officer would have to explain how he or she surmised that you had actually driven the vehicle – and that you were intoxicated at the time.
  • While intoxicated. The court’s finding that the defendant was under the influence can be based upon the arresting officer’s testimony, which may rely on observation of the defendant’s driving or demeanor and/or the results of field sobriety tests, and the officer’s training and experience, which enables such a judgment.
  • And/or with a blood alcohol or alcohol concentration at or above the limit set by statute. A blood-alcohol content of 0.08% or higher is considered “per se” evidence of intoxication. The prosecutor will try to prove a 0.08% BAC or more by introducing results of a chemical test of the defendant’s blood, breath or urine. But such tests are not valid unless they are conducted in a timely manner after an arrest and under other specific circumstances.

Each of these elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt or the court should hand down a “not guilty” verdict. If a prosecutor knows he or she cannot prove these elements of a DWI/DUI charge, the charges should be dropped. As your attorneys, we would scrutinize the facts of your case as they applied to each of these elements and determine where and how the prosecution’s case can be effectively attacked.

How We Will Work to Get Your NJ DUI Charges Dismissed

Being charged and convicted for drunk or drugged driving in New Jersey can have a drastic and long-lasting impact on your life. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your DWI / DUI arrest, you have a right to and deserve a strong and dedicated legal defense that seeks the best available outcome for you.

The sooner the DUI defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can get involved in your case, the better the opportunity to challenge the charges you face. There are many defenses to driving-while-intoxicated charges in New Jersey. Regardless of the allegations, prosecutors must prove their case. Our task, which we approach with the utmost seriousness, is to raise every challenge and poke as many holes in the prosecution’s case as possible.

The Arrest

For the traffic stop that led to the DWI charges you face to be valid, it must have been supported by reasonable suspicion that a motor vehicle violation had been committed. Under State v. Carpentieri, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the police must have an explainable and reasonable suspicion that a violation of the traffic laws has occurred in order to make a stop for DWI.

Once an individual is stopped, the police must have probable cause to believe that the driver is intoxicated to make an arrest and conduct a breathalyzer test. Typically, the law officer will administer one of a variety of field sobriety tests, although only three have been scientifically validated as accurate if administered correctly. You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, but that won’t stop you from being arrested. Doing well on a field sobriety test probably will not stop you from being arrested, either, but it may be evidence in your favor later.

Arraignment

When a driver is charged with a DWI, DUI, or refusal to submit to a test in New Jersey, the defendant receives a complaint. After the complaint is filed, the defendant makes his or her first appearance at an arraignment, where the charges are read and the defendant is informed of his or her rights under the law, and enters a plea of guilty or not guilty.

If you have engaged an attorney to represent you, the initial appearance can normally be waived. The arraignment can be “adjourned” by the DUI lawyer sending a letter of representation to the court advising it that you are represented, were advised of your rights, and that you are entering a plea of “not guilty.”

Discovery

The discovery process begins when the prosecutor turns over all evidence the state has against a defendant to the defendant’s attorney. We also will get your statement and any other available evidence, and start asking questions. At this point, we can determine whether there are any issues that call for immediate dismissal of the charges, such as:

  • Lack of probable cause or reasonable suspicion for stopping you
  • Lack of probable cause to believe you were intoxicated
  • Failure to advise you of your Miranda rights against self-incrimination
  • Improper or untimely administration of breath-alcohol content testing (with the Draeger Alcotest “breathalyzer” instrument)
  • Improper inspection and certification of the Draeger Alcotest breathalyzer machine
  • Illegal “search and seizure” if blood was drawn to test the alcohol content

 

In many cases, we can contest the chemical test administered. The standard instrument used in New Jersey, the Draeger Alcotest “breathalyzer” instrument, is subject to certain rules and restrictions, and the operator should record the steps taken to calibrate it before administering each test. It must also be maintained between uses and inspected regularly. There is a coordinator’s certificate required to show that a breathalyzer machine operator knows how to precisely calibrate, use and inspect these machines to ensure they are functioning properly.

Our attorneys, who are certified to operate and maintain the Draeger Alcotest 7110 MKIIIC alcohol breath test instrument, can question a breath test operator closely and identify mistakes that call a breath test into question. Many smaller New Jersey precincts have few if any certified breathalyzer operators on staff, and it is not unusual for us to demonstrate that test results are of questionable validity.

Similarly, to prove a drug DWI in New Jersey, the law generally requires that the state subject a suspect to a series of tests administered by a drug recognition expert (DRE). If the police station you were tested at did not have an expert on staff when you were there, the evidence will in all likelihood be inadmissible.

We may be able to establish other defenses and bring them to the prosecution’s attention. For example, it may be that a mechanical defect in your vehicle caused the driving problems that led to the traffic stop. Perhaps a medical condition adversely affected your demeanor and/or ability to complete field sobriety tests.

Trial on DWI Charges

If we cannot get charges against you dismissed, there will be a trial before a judge in the municipal court where you were charged. There is no right to a jury trial for DWI offenses. If found guilty, the municipal court judge will sentence you according to state guidelines for DWI and DUI offenses.

If a conviction cannot be avoided, our criminal defense attorneys will work to have BAC readings, or blood or urine test results excluded or minimized so that you receive the minimum punishment available.

We can also negotiate with prosecutors and/or argue before a judge as to proper treatment of any prior convictions you have. Sentencing can vary significantly if your prior convictions are for a DWI rather than a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test.

If your first conviction is for refusing to submit to testing rather than for a DWI, then New Jersey law says 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.

Our attorneys can ensure that the law is applied fairly in relation to the unique circumstances of your case. This requires a defense attorney who fully understands the law, and who has a relationship with local prosecutors and judges that ensures their arguments will be heard and considered. It also requires a defense attorney whose firm allows spending the time and resources needed to properly investigate and fully challenge DWI charges.

The Law Offices of Johnathan F. Marshall can provide that level of representation to you if you face a drunk driving charge in New Jersey. Our attorneys have worked DWI and DUI cases as prosecutors and defense attorneys in courts across the state. We recognize that people make mistakes. We can help you keep a DWI or DUI conviction from damaging your life today and limiting your opportunities in the future.

Meet With Our New Jersey DWI Lawyers Now

If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated or under the influence (DWI or DUI) anywhere in New Jersey, a DUI defense attorney from the Law Offices of Johnathan F. Marshall can work to obtain the best possible resolution of your case. It is imperative to hire an experienced N.J. DWI lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest. There are opportunities to challenge your arrest and/or evidence, and to avoid potentially costly and long-lasting penalties.

Contact the Law Offices of Johnathan F. Marshall at any of our nine locations across New Jersey as soon as possible for a free initial consultation about a DWI charge.

New Jersey DWI Frequently Asked Questions

DWI

Is there any way to challenge my DWI charge?

Yes, there are many ways to challenge your DWI charge. The traffic stop must be supported by reasonable suspicion. The police officers must have probable cause to believe that you are intoxicated to conduct the field sobriety tests and breathalyzer test. The field sobriety tests can be challenged. The breathalyzer test can be challenged, for example, based on the breath test operator being unlicensed or the breathalyzer machine malfunctioning. These are just a few of the tactics to contest DWI charges.

How much does it cost to hire an attorney for a DWI?

Attorneys fees for DWI charges can range greatly depending on prior offenses, the BAC reading, a trial, and most importantly – the experience and quality of your defense attorney.

What is the legal limit in New Jersey?

The legal limit in New Jersey is a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 %

What are the State Motor Vehicle surcharges in New Jersey for DWI convictions?

For a first and second offense, the surcharges are $1,000 a year for three years. For a third offense, the surcharges are $1,500 a year for three years.

Am I entitled to an attorney when charged with a DWI?

A DWI in New Jersey is not considered a criminal offense, it is considered a motor vehicle violation. Because it is a “quasi-criminal” offense, you are not entitled to an attorney when you are stopped, subjected to sobriety testing, and arrested for a DWI. However, you should contact an attorney once you are charged with a DWI in order to contest any issues relating to your vehicle stop or testing.

Am I entitled to a jury trial on my DWI charge?

No, you will be tried in front of a municipal court judge in the municipality you have been charged in.

Are roadblocks constitutional?

Generally, roadblocks are constitutional if certain procedures are followed by law enforcement officers. Under State v. Kirk, the court held that temporary road block set up by exercise of absolute, unbridled discretion of officers in field is violative of State Constitutional provision against unreasonable seizure; however, if certain procedures set forth, ensuring supervisory control of checkpoints and warnings to motorists, are carefully followed, any constitutional objections will be overcome.