Anyone operating a motor vehicle or boat in New Jersey with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher can face driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges, which are essentially the same offenses.
Charges and penalties increase significantly for those convicted of more than one DUI. They are also dictated by the level of intoxication registered on a breath test as well as the observations of the arresting officer. However, both the tests and officer actions are frequently flawed.
Potential repeat offender penalties in New Jersey
For those convicted of two or more DUIs, possible jail time, fines and other penalties depend on many factors. These include:
- Up to 90 days in jail for a second offense, up to 180 days for a third conviction
- Fines between $500 and $1,000
- Revoked license from two to 10 years
- Complete an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center program at $100 per day
What is “implied consent?”
In New Jersey, all drivers must agree to take a breathalyzer when requested by an officer. Refusing to take a test can also lead to increased penalties for repeat offenders, such as:
- A fine of $500 to $1,000
- Revoked license for two years for a second offense
- Revoked license for 10 years for a third offense
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on their vehicle
Anatomy of a DUI arrest
Federal and state laws protect New Jersey citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. An officer must have a “reasonable suspicion” that you have violated the law to stop you. This can include breaking traffic laws, a damaged taillight or a tip from a witness.
Once the officer questions you, he or she may request that you take a field sobriety test to determine whether you are physically impaired and a breath test to measure the alcohol level in your system. If they believe you are intoxicated, you will likely be arrested, and the officer must inform you of your rights.
Defenses against DUI
Once arrested, do not answer any questions and ask immediately for an attorney. Experienced DUI defense lawyers have a multitude of strategies to defend you, including:
- The officer lacked probable cause to stop you
- Field sobriety or breathalyzer tests were incorrectly administered, or the results were flawed
- The officer’s observations were incorrect
- You have medical or physical reasons for failing a test
- The officer did not inform you of your rights
Document everything and call an attorney
Being stopped on suspicion of DUI can be a frightening experience, regardless of whether your BAC is above the legal limit or the officer makes a mistake. However, it’s essential to remain calm and document all interactions with the police. Politely respond to their questions but never admit responsibility.
These cases hinge on the actions and observations of arresting officers, who often make critical mistakes. While harsh penalties can result for a first offense, second or third offenses can cause devastating results for your personal, emotional and financial well-being. Your lawyer understands how these cases are prosecuted and will fight aggressively to reduce charges and penalties or have the case dismissed.