DWI First Offense

If you have been arrested for DWI chances are you have been perusing the internet and have been provided with confusing unclear information. We guarantee that after speaking with us during a free consultation you will have all the answers you need to make better choices moving forward in choosing the right DWI attorney for you. Unfortunately, New Jersey DWI laws are unforgiving and harsh, even for a first time offender. If convicted, you will face heavy fines and fees. More importantly, you could face a loss of your driving privileges in New Jersey for up to one year or more and possibly even jail time under some circumstances. Obviously the impact of a conviction is tremendous.

At LS&P Lawyers, our defense attorneys have years of experience representing clients charged with DWI. Our team includes a former prosecutor and an accomplished DWI defense attorney certified in the Alcotest and Standard Field Sobriety Tests used by police in drunk driving arrests. We invest all of our energy and resources into developing a strong defense for each client. If you have been arrested for DWI, contact us immediately. We will arrange a free initial consultation. Our qualifications and personal, straight-forward approach distinguishes us from other attorneys throughout the state.

Our Approach – What to Expect

In New Jersey, driving while intoxicated is governed by N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.

The first thing we will do is review the details of your case, including reviewing the arrest report and citation. When looking at the facts, we first have to determine if it was reasonable for the police officer to pull you over. The truth of the matter is, it isn’t always reasonable for the police officer to stop your car. The police must have reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop. However, this is a relatively low standard and any motor vehicle violation, including speeding, failure to stop at a stop sign, non-working taillight, etc., may provide reasonable suspicion for the officer to pull you over. However, not every reason is sufficient. We have represented many clients and successfully argued that they should not have been stopped in the first place.

If the stop was reasonable, we must next determine if the police officer had sufficient probable cause to arrest you. Probable cause means there was enough information for the police officer to reasonably believe that a person has committed a crime – in this case, driving while intoxicated. Whether or not probable cause existed is determined by the totality of the circumstances. This means the police officer will take into account everything he is supposedly seeing, hearing, smelling, etc.

He or she will consider:

  • How you look;
  • How you smell;
  • Any admissions you make;
  • Whether there was an accident;
  • Your manner of driving, etc.

The most important consideration by the police is how you performed on the Field Sobriety Tests. There are only three standard field sobriety tests: the walk and turn, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) and the one leg stand. Police often utilize many different tests but these are the only three that are scientifically reliable. If the officer attempts to rely on any test other than these three, we will attack his findings.

Depending on how you perform on these tests and any other circumstances the police officer claims to exist, there may or may not have been probable cause to arrest you. We look closely at each case to see whether we can suppress the results of the Alcotest and or the field sobriety test. If it is determined during a hearing that there was not probable cause to arrest you or no reasonable suspicion to pull you over then we can get the case dismissed.

If the court finds there was probable cause then the case will go to trial. In order to be found guilty of DWI the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated while driving. There are two ways they can do this. First, the state can use the Alcotest (if admissible) or, second, use all of those factors they used to determine probable cause to find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (observation offense).

It is important to realize that as long as the police have probable cause to arrest you, they have the right to ask you to blow into the Alcotest machine to measure your blood alcohol content. Unfortunately, you will have to live with whatever reading the machine determines unless your lawyer can find a way to show those readings should not come into evidence against you.

Discovery (you may have come across this term in your research) is/are items that the state is required to provide to the defendant. This includes amongst other things, the police report, motor vehicle recordings, and certifications for the Alcotest machine. The Alcotest discovery will include numerous calibration certifications and documentation regarding the procedural elements of the administration of the test. The police must adhere to certain Alcotest Procedures. This is where an experienced attorney who handles a lot of DWI’s can really help you.

New Jersey has an implied consent law which means if you refuse to submit to a breath test you will be charged with the separate offense of Refusal. You will be subjected to an additional fine and an automatic and mandatory 7-month license suspension. Although refusals are frequently tough cases to win they are not unbeatable.

Importantly, the inadmissibility of the Alcotest reading will give you the opportunity to challenge the states observation offense. At LS&P Lawyers our certifications in both the Alcotest machine and the field sobriety tests allow us to know what the officers are supposed to do and the problems the machines may have. Because of that, we are able, in most instances, to have a very high rate of success in getting our clients outstanding results and verdicts.

The following is a list of the penalties for the various first offense DWIs in New Jersey:

If you are convicted as a result of an Alcotest reading of .08 up to .09 you will be facing:

  • A 3-month loss of license;
  • Up to 30 days in jail;
  • 12-48 hours in the IDRC (Intoxicated Driver Resource Center) Program;
  • Possible suspension of your registration;
  • $3,000 Motor Vehicle Surcharge ($1,000 each year for 3 years);
  • Insurance surcharges
  • Fines and penalties ranging from $250-$400;
  • Possible installation of the Ignition Interlock Device (this is in the judge’s discretion for a first offense).

If you are convicted as a result of an Alcotest reading of .10 or above you will be facing:

  • 7 months – 1 year loss of license;
  • Up to 30 days in jail;
  • 12-48 hours in the IDRC Program;
  • Possible suspension of your registration;
  • $3,000 Motor Vehicle Surcharge ($1,000 each year for 3 years);
  • Insurance surcharges
  • Fines and penalties ranging from $300-$500;
  • Possible installation of the Ignition Interlock Device (this is in the judge’s discretion for a first offense).

If you were charged with DWI in a School Zone (whether you were aware that you were in a school zone is irrelevant) you will face additional heightened penalties as follows:

  • 1-2 year loss of license;
  • Up to 60 days in jail;
  • Fines and penalties ranging from $500-$800.

DWI is a complicated, extremely technical situation and not all attorneys are able to sufficiently address the problems with the Alcotest and field sobriety procedures. Our unique qualifications allow us to immediately identify flaws and mistakes in the police procedure. We pride ourselves on representing each client with integrity and commitment. Let us get to work for you! We are available 24/7 to answer your call.