What you need to know about a first time New Jersey DWI?

Jersey ShoreMany of my readers will spend a large amount or even the entire summer in New Jersey. While Pennsylvania and New Jersey share bridges and boarder, they’re very different when it comes to drunk driving.  Unlike Pennsylvania, New Jersey doesn’t maintain a diversion program for 1st time DUI offender otherwise known as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD).

Prosecutors in New Jersey aren’t permitted to plea bargain DWI cases. They are, however, permitted to reduce the severity of DWI charge to a lesser tier (lower BAC) under what is known as “prosecutorial discretion. “ For example, if you were charged with a DUI for a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC )of .10, the prosecutor is permitted to reduce it to a lesser DUI charge (.08 – less .10) if he can articulate to the judge why he is reducing the severity of the charge.  A lesser DUI charge means less of a license suspension (7 month to 3 months) and less of fine so it’s an important concept.

To get this “Tier Drop” your New Jersey DWI attorney must identify issues such as the lack of probable cause for the car stop, your arrest and possible challenges to the results of the Alcotest. These issues will challenge the constitutionality of  the case against you and the ability of the prosecution to establish reasonable doubt.   This is the only way to get the prosecutor to reduce the severity of your DWI charge.

Remember that in New Jersey, a person is guilty of drunk driving if he/she operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.  N.J.S.A 39:4-50.  A person who is guilty of a first time DWI in New Jersey where the BAC is .08% or higher, but less than .10%, faces the following:

  • Fine of $250.00 – $400.00,
  • A Maximum of 30 days in prison,
  • A Minimum 3 month license suspension,
  • A Minimum of 12 hours at an intoxicated driver resource center, and
  • An automobile insurance surcharge of $1,000.00 for 3 years. (See P.L. 2003, chapter 314).

A first DWI offender who has a BAC of .10% or higher or impaired with drugs while driving, faces the following for a 1st Offense DUI conviction

  • A fine $300.00 – $500.00,
  • A maximum of up to 30 days in jail,
  • A minimum license suspension of 7 months,
  • A minimum of 12 hours at an intoxicated drivers resource center, and
  • An automobile insurance surcharge of $1,000.00.
  • In cases where a BAC is .15% or higher, a person is subject to all of the above penalties, in addition to an ignition interlock device for a period of 6 months – 1 year after license restoration.

In addition to the conviction and license suspension, New Jersey also has some unique fines which are the following:

  • A $100.00 fine to the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund,
  • A $100.00 fee to the Motor Vehicle Commission,
  • A $100.00 fee to the Intoxicated Driver Program,
  • A $50.00 fee to the Violent Crime Compensation Fund Fee, and
  • A $75.00 fee to the Safe and Secure Community Program Fund.

Obviously if your defense is strong enough, you may want to consider rejecting all plea offers and going to trial. Proper DWI case preparation should always include possible pretrial motions such as a Motion to Suppress the evidence against you due to a violation of your rights under the 4th and 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution.

If your Motion to Suppress evidence is successful your case could be dismissed before trial. If your case does precede to trial your defense counsel should focus on the following issues: actual physical control of the motor vehicle; field sobriety test administration and the administration; and results of the Alcotest to determine BAC.

If you have questions about DUI or DWI in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact our office at (215) 240-7377 or email us at [email protected]  Also visit our free download section of the website!

Alfonso Gambone
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Alfonso Gambone is a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney dedicated to protecting your rights.