Tuesday, February 2, 2010

DUI cases in NJ

Driving under the influence is regulated in New Jersey under NJSA 39:4-50 et seq.  Even a first offender faces mandatory loss of driving privileges.  A blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater mandates a license loss of three months.  If your license is suspended and you get caught driving with a suspened license the penalties are enhanced and means mandatory jail (although sometimes you can get weekend or community service).  Violations occurring in a school zone also have enhanced penalties.  Of course driving under the influence can also refer to driving under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol.

Even a first offender may be subject to a jail sentence of no more than 30 days. but that is assuming that one is not stopped after any injuries to person or property occurred. 

Unlike New York which offers restricted licenses for those who need to drive for things like work, no such right exists in New Jersey.  Therefore, if you are convicted and your license is suspended then you will be restricted from driving.

An additional offense that can add to the penalties is refusal to take a breathalyzer test. 

While NJSA 39:4.50.17 permitted that an interlock device can be imposed as an additional penalty for a first offender, the new change to the law signed under Gov. Corzine mandates such an interlock device for anyone having a blood alcohol content in excess of 0.15.

There have also been recent changes in the law as to how blood alcohol tests are conducted with the new alcotest programs, and it is important to make sure, when defending such a case, that these tests are understood as to how they were conducted.  The key case, decided by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, was State v. Chun, decided in 2008.  But even without a breath or blood test, the courts will recognize police testimony as to things like erratic driving, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, etc. to determine whether a person is under the influence.

Refusal to submit to a test is also punishable by law under NJSA 39:4-50.4 if a police officer proves by preponderance of the evidence that he or she had probable cause to believe that a person was driving on a public highway or even in a quasi-public area like a parking lot, while under the influence of "intoxicating liquor or a narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug or marijuana."   A loss of license for not less than one year or more than two years can result from a conviction for refusal to take a breathalyzer test.

It is important to take an arrest for a DUI extremely seriously, the fines are high, the license suspension is mandatory with the period of time depending upon the number of convictions, and you risk jail time.

Convictions in other states will also be recognized here.  Prior convictions for drunk driving in other states will be considered from the standpoint of imposing penalties for a subsequent New Jersey conviction, and your license can be administratively suspended for the same period of time as would result for a conviction for that same offense in New Jersey.  For instance, if you had a conviction in New York State, your license would be suspended for the same amount of time as a first offender convicted in a New Jersey court would, which would also depend upon the blood alcohol concentration. A first-time offender whose blood alcohol level is between 0.08% and 0.10% can be fined not less than $250 nor more than $400.00 and be incarcerated for up to thirty days and shall lose his or her right to operate a motor vehicle for a period of three months. Heed the word shall, meaning the judge has no discretion as to impose a sentence.

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