Navigating the treacherous waters of a DUI charge can be daunting, especially in New Jersey, where the laws are strict, and the penalties are severe. If you find yourself facing such charges, it is crucial to understand your rights and the role of a criminal defense lawyer in this process. This article, brought to you by The Law Office of Jill R. Cohen, provides a comprehensive guide to help you take appropriate steps if charged with DUI in New Jersey.
New Jersey DUI Laws and Penalties
Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a severe offense in New Jersey, attracting significant penalties for those found guilty. These penalties are structured based on factors like the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest, the number of previous DUI offenses, and other specifics of the incident, such as causing injury or death. Below, we will delve deeper into the intricacies of New Jersey's DUI laws and the associated penalties:
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and Associated Penalties:
- BAC of 0.08% but less than 0.10%: This is the legal threshold for intoxication in most states. First-time offenders in New Jersey with this BAC level can expect:
- Fines ranging from $250-$400
- Potential imprisonment for up to 30 days
- License suspension for 3 months
- Participation in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) for a minimum of 6 hours a day for two consecutive days
- BAC of 0.10% and above: The penalties increase when the BAC is 0.10% or higher:
- Fines between $300-$500
- Potential jail time up to 30 days
- License suspension between 7 months to 1 year
- IDRC participation as determined by the court
Repeat Offenders: The state of New Jersey takes subsequent DUI offenses seriously, imposing incrementally harsher penalties for those with prior convictions.
- Second offense within 10 years:
- Fines from $500-$1,000
- Imprisonment between 48 hours and 90 days
- License suspension for 2 years
- 30 days of community service
- Mandatory IDRC detention
- Third and subsequent offenses within 10 years:
- A $1,000 fine
- Imprisonment for 180 days (though 90 days of this can sometimes be served through community service)
- License suspension for 10 years
- Detention in an in-patient alcoholism treatment program, as determined by the court
Additional Penalties and Charges: Beyond the primary penalties listed above, those convicted may also face:
- Installation of an ignition interlock device for a period after license restoration, especially for repeat offenders or those with very high BAC levels
- Higher auto insurance premiums
- Additional charges and penalties if the DUI resulted in an accident, injury, or death
- Charges for drug DUIs (DUID), if the impairment was due to drugs rather than alcohol
Rights of the Accused
Every individual charged with a DUI in New Jersey has specific rights, and it's vital to be aware of these:
- Right to Remain Silent: This prevents self-incrimination. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- Right to Legal Representation: If you cannot afford one, the court will provide a public defender. However, it’s often recommended to seek specialized legal help, given the complexities surrounding DUI cases.
- Right to a Fair Trial: Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A fair and speedy trial ensures that the accused isn't prejudiced due to prolonged litigation.
Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Having a criminal defense lawyer, especially one who specializes in DUI cases, can significantly increase your chances of a favorable outcome. Here’s how they can assist:
- Initial Consultation and Case Evaluation:
- Understanding Your Situation: At the outset, the lawyer will discuss the specifics of your arrest, your rights during the process, and potential defenses.
- Evaluating Case Strength: After reviewing the details, the attorney will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution's case.
- Investigating the Arrest:
- Procedure Review: Your attorney will scrutinize the arrest procedure to ensure all protocols were followed. This includes ensuring that the traffic stop was legitimate and that there were valid reasons for suspecting intoxication.
- Evidence Collection: The lawyer will gather evidence that can be used in your defense. This might involve interviewing witnesses, collecting video footage, or examining the scene.
- Challenging the Evidence:
- Breathalyzer and Blood Test Results: An experienced lawyer can question the reliability and accuracy of the BAC results. This involves investigating the calibration and maintenance of the testing devices and the procedure followed during the test.
- Field Sobriety Tests: These tests can be subjective, and a defense attorney can challenge the validity of the results, especially if there are reasons (medical or otherwise) that might have influenced your performance.
- Legal Strategy and Defense:
- Negotiating Plea Deals: In some cases, when the evidence is overwhelmingly against the accused, the lawyer might negotiate with the prosecution for a plea bargain to reduce the penalties.
- Preparing for Trial: If your case goes to trial, your lawyer will prepare a defense strategy, including selecting witnesses, challenging evidence, and presenting arguments in your favor.
- Representation in Court: One of the most vital roles of a defense attorney is to represent you in court, ensuring that your rights are upheld throughout the process.
- Post-Trial Assistance:
- Appeals: If the verdict is not in your favor, your attorney can file an appeal, challenging the decision based on aspects of the trial that may have been unfair or incorrect.
- License Reinstatement: After serving your suspension, a lawyer can assist you with the complexities of getting your license reinstated, ensuring that you've met all requirements.
- Emotional and Moral Support:
- A DUI charge can be emotionally taxing. While it's not a formal part of their role, many defense lawyers provide moral support, offering assurance, and guiding their clients through the ordeal.
Contact an Experienced DUI Defense Lawyer at The Law Office of Jill R. Cohen for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today
Being charged with a DUI in New Jersey is a serious matter. The consequences of a conviction can be life-altering, impacting your personal life, professional reputation, and financial situation. But remember, being charged doesn't mean you're guilty. Understanding your rights and the legal avenues available can make a difference.
If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge, don’t navigate this challenging situation alone. Seek the expertise and guidance of an experienced legal professional.
Contact The Law Office of Jill R. Cohen today. With our vast experience in defending DUI cases, we're dedicated to ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive the best possible defense.