Fifty things might seem like a whole lot to know about drunk driving in NJ. However, a quick summary of critical facts could help you before you even face charges. If you have been arrested, reviewing this summary should confirm the reasons you need an experienced DWI/DUI attorney when you go to court.
In the meantime, it could be that your traffic stop involved something other than accusations you drove under the influence of alcohol. If the police charged you with driving while you were high on drugs, you should also read on. You may wonder how the police even prove drug-related DUI charges in the first place.
What’s the purpose of these short synopses? No doubt you’re not expecting legal advice from a summary article you found in an internet search. However, you should know where to find a lawyer with decades of experience representing those charged for driving under the influence.
First Ten Impaired Driving Facts
1. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are synonymous terms in New Jersey.
2. In New Jersey, drunk driving and drugged driving are motor vehicle offenses.
3. Sentencing for impaired driving can include jail time.
4. NJSA 39:4-50 provides the law regarding intoxicated driving. In short, you can be arrested if you’re operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of “intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug.”
5. You can be charged with DWI if you allow someone else to use your vehicle knowing that he or she is under the influence.
6. The police need probable cause to administer tests for drunk driving. Meanwhile, the authorities just need reasonable suspicion to justify their stop.
7. Sobriety checkpoints are legal even though you might think they violate your constitutional rights.
8. You can face DWI charges for operating a boat while under the influence.
9. For the most part, your drunk driving charges are heard in municipal court. However, matters involving substantial property damage, serious injuries, or death go to the Superior Court.
10. News reports suggest that DWI convictions went down more than 10% in the decade between 2008 and 2018.
Drunk Driving Charges: The Start
11. The drunk driving statute uses the term “operation of a motor vehicle.” However, the police may attempt to press charges even if you’re sitting behind the wheel in a parked car.
12. If you are stopped for drunk driving or even approached when the vehicle isn’t moving, you should cooperate with the officer and make mental notes of any verbal exchanges.
13. Politely decline to answer any questions other than identifying yourself and producing the requested documentation.
14. Comply with the police officer’s instructions, which will most likely include exiting your vehicle.
15. If the police have reasonable suspicion to believe you are driving while intoxicated, they could ask for you to submit to field sobriety tests.
16. New Jersey law enforcement authorities generally use three standard field sobriety tests. They are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test.
17. You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests, but the officer will testify that you did so if called to court.
18. You can fail field sobriety tests for reasons unrelated to impairment. You should advise your attorney of your medical history and other issues that may be important.
19. Whether you fail the field sobriety tests or refuse to take them, the police may determine there is probable cause to arrest you for DWI.
20. Unless you are suffering from any type of injuries, the next stop for a drunk-driving arrest is police headquarters.
Breath Tests: Some Basic Facts
21. More than a decade ago, New Jersey stopped using standard Breathalyzer tests and began using a device known as the Alcotest to conduct breath tests.
22. Breath tests refer to chemical testing for blood alcohol content (BAC) levels.
23. In New Jersey, implied consent laws apply as far as taking a breath test when you are accused of driving while intoxicated.
24. The consequences of refusing a breath test are quite severe. Even if you debate that you were operating your motor vehicle at the time of the arrest, you should not reject the test.
25. Your attorney can question the authenticity of breath test results for a variety of reasons. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled on invalidating over 20,000 DWI charges due to errors associated with an improperly calibrated Alcotest device.
26. Digestive disorders and gender differences may result in inaccurate BAC readings.
27. If your BAC level is .08% or greater and you are operating a motor vehicle, you are considered driving while intoxicated.
28. You can be charged with DWI even if your BAC is less than .08%.
29. If the police suspect you are driving while under the influence of drugs, a drug recognition expert (DRE) may be asked to evaluate you. You may also be required to submit to a drug test.
30. Underaged motorists charged with drunk driving only need a BAC of .01% for a DWI conviction.
Some of the Penalties for DWI
31. One of the most alarming penalties associated with a drunk driving conviction doesn’t come from the courts. Your livelihood and reputation could suffer adverse consequences.
32. As far as sentencing, penalties vary according to the BAC level and the number of offenses. For example, a first-time offender whose BAC is less than .10 percent can expect to pay up to $400 in fines. Meanwhile, expect to pay $1,000 in automobile surcharges for 3 years.
33. License suspension applies to all DWI convictions and starts at three months. Third-time offenders face a 10-year license suspension.
34. The court might order you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
35. You can face imprisonment for up to 180 days for multiple drunk driving convictions.
36. DWI sentencing includes participation in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
37. You face additional penalties if you’re convicted of impaired driving within a 1,000 feet of school property used by an elementary or secondary school or school board.
38. Driving intoxicated through a school crossing, especially when children are present, increases your fines, chance of imprisonment and community service.
39. If a parent or guardian has a child 17 years of age or younger in the car when they are accused of drunk driving, they may be found guilty of a disorderly persons offense.
40. Community service remains a sentencing option for some DWI convictions.
Defending Drunk Driving Charges
41. If your car was not moving when you were accused of drunk driving, your attorney might dispute whether you were actually “operating a motor vehicle” while intoxicated.
42. The validity of the initial stop as far as reasonable suspicion to pull you over may be an issue.
43. Questions regarding the administration or accuracy of the field sobriety tests.
44. DWI charges involving marijuana become problematic because of the length of time weed stays in your system. Expert testimony retained in your defense may support this.
45. Failure to conduct a twenty-minute observation prior to the administration of the Alcotest may result in a false reading.
46. Different substances, such as mints and cough medicine can invalidate breath tests.
47. Proof that a medical condition made you appear intoxicated even though you were not under the influence of any substance.
48. Evidence of chain of custody issues regarding blood tests taken at a hospital or other medical facility.
49. Problems with the calibration or other issues with the device used for the breath test.
50. You claim that you did not understand the consequences of refusing the Alcotest. This is a common occurrence among defendants who were just trying to “sleep it off” in the car.
We Defend DWI Charges
Despite our comprehensive list and accompanying links, we’ve barely touched the surface on DWI charges. At the Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafajlo, we are committed to educating our clients and providing them with dedicated legal representation. Our experience can help you during this difficult time. We invite you to meet with us to learn more. Give us a call!