New Jersey takes driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol seriously, even when it’s a driver’s first offense. If you have recently been charged with first offense DUI in NJ, you are probably feeling overwhelmed and have a lot of questions. Breslow Law Offices has created a comprehensive guide so you know what to expect at this difficult time. The more knowledgeable you are about the penalties for drunk driving and possible defenses for the charge, the more likely you are to have a successful outcome with your NJ DUI first offense case.
Contact Breslow Law Offices Immediately After Your Arrest
While you probably feel intimidated at the thought of a DUI conviction, remember that federal law grants the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. You have the legal right to obtain an attorney to represent you in your motor vehicle drunk driving case.
Roy Breslow and Casey Breslow-Glugeth have over 45 years of experience representing New Jersey citizens charged with the crime of impaired driving. They are known for building strong attorney-client relationships and using all available resources to fight a DWI conviction. This could include anything from challenging the legality of a police officer stopping you to the arresting officer performing a sobriety test incorrectly. With your future and freedom on the line, we urge you to schedule a free consultation to learn more about our criminal defense services. You may reach Breslow Law Offices in Verona at 973-239-8000 or Long Beach Island at 609-494-8884.
What to Expect When a Police Officer Pulls You Over for Suspected Drunk Driving
A police officer can pull you over if he or she suspects you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or for a traffic offense unrelated to drunk driving. Even when pulling you over for another reason, the police officer can require you to take a sobriety test if he or she feels that you committed the traffic offense due to impaired driving. You could also be pulled over at a DUI checkpoint. To test your sobriety, the police officer may order you to walk in a straight line, touch your finger to your nose, follow his or her finger with your eyes, or another test that measures your physical coordination and reaction time.
You could also be subject to a Breathalyzer test. This device measures the concentration of alcohol in your blood. You meet the legal definition of impaired driving if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) greater than .08 percent. If you fail any of these tests and the police officer feels you are driving impaired after drinking alcohol or consuming mind-altering drugs, he or she will place you under arrest and transport you to the nearest New Jersey police station.
Your Visit to the Police Station
You will need to undergo another sobriety test once you get to the police station. This will most likely be a stationary version of the Breathalyzer test called the Draeger Alcotest breath analyzer system. The police officer who arrested you could also order a blood or urine test if the results from breath tests are inconclusive or you refuse to complete one. However, we don’t recommend that you refuse a Breathalyzer or any other type of sobriety test since this can result in an automatic New Jersey driver’s license suspension. The only way you would not lose your driver’s license after refusing to submit to a sobriety test is if you and your attorney successfully argue against driver’s license suspension in court.
DUI is a traffic violation and not a criminal offense in New Jersey. That means you shouldn’t be required to stay overnight in jail or post bail to secure your release. That could change if you caused serious bodily injury or death to another driver or his or her passengers. You can expect the police department to tow your vehicle and keep it in an impound lot for at least 12 hours after your arrest. You will need to pay to retrieve your vehicle once 12 hours have passed.
Timeline of Events After a DUI Arrest in New Jersey
The arresting officer will issue you a traffic ticket before releasing you from police custody. He or she will issue the ticket based on observed behavior at the traffic stop such as speeding or reckless driving. Next, the local court will assign you a date to appear before a judge. You will be arraigned on charges of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol during your session in court. You can find your court date written on the bottom of the ticket you received from the police officer while still in custody at the police station. We recommend that you contact Breslow Law Offices as soon as you know the date of your arraignment.
During your arraignment, the judge assigned to your NJ DUI first offense case will outline the charges against you. He or she will also explain your legal rights and ask you to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges the state has filed against you. The judge can sentence you immediately if you plead guilty. If you plead not guilty, the judge will postpone your arraignment and set a date for a court trial. It’s critical to attend the arraignment with attorney representation to ensure the best possible outcome in your drunk driving case.
First Offense DUI Penalties in New Jersey
New Jersey separates impaired driving into two categories. The first applies to those who have a BAC of .08 and .09 percent and the second is for drivers who registered a BAC greater than .10 percent during their arrest. These categories only apply to drivers over the age of 21. If you’re aged 20 or younger, the state will enforce its Zero Tolerance Law. That means you are subject to arrest and multiple penalties if you register a BAC greater than .01 percent. Here are the potential penalties for a DUI first offense for drivers with a BAC of .08 or .09 percent:
- Auto insurance surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years
- Driver’s license suspension for a minimum of three months
- Fine ranging from $250 to $400
- Installation of an ignition interlock device for six months to one year
- Jail sentence ranging from 12 hours to 30 days
- Loss of driver’s license for seven months to one year after the initial three-month driver’s license suspension
- Mandatory assessment for drug and alcohol abuse
- Mandatory attendance of two six-hour classes on alcohol and drug-related topics at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)
- Miscellaneous fees and surcharges totaling approximately $500
If your BAC was above .10 percent at the time of your arrest, you face additional fines and a longer driver’s license suspension even when it’s your first offense. Penalties are as follows:
- Fines ranging from $300 to $500
- Initial driver’s license suspension of 45 days
- Insurance surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years, the same penalty for a first offense with a BAC of .08 or .09 percent
- Jail sentence of 30 days
- Mandatory ignition interlock device for the duration of your New Jersey driver’s license suspension plus an additional six months to one year if your BAC registered between .10 and .14 percent
- Mandatory ignition interlock device for an additional 12 to 18 months if your BAC was .15 percent or higher at the time of your arrest
- Miscellaneous fees of approximately $275
- Spend 12 to 48 hours at an IDRC and pay a fine to the IDRC of $230
Drivers under age 21 face driver’s license suspension for three months, mandatory community service for 30 days, and mandatory attendance in a traffic education program at a local IDRC for any BAC over .01 percent. Underage drivers with a BAC of .10 percent or greater could face the same penalties as a driver over the age of 21.
First Offense DUI Penalties for Driving in a School Zone
New Jersey enforces additional penalties against drivers with a DWI conviction that takes place at a school, within 1,000 feet of school property, or in a school crossing zone with or without guards present to help students safely cross the street. Even if you were unaware that you were driving in a school zone, New Jersey law doesn’t consider that a valid defense to a DUI charge. If your DWI conviction in a school zone holds, you face up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $800, and driver’s license suspension for one to two years. These penalties are in addition to the penalties you face for DUI first offense NJ.
Understanding New Jersey’s Implied Consent Laws
When you receive a New Jersey driver’s license, you automatically consent to submitting to a sobriety test if a police officer pulls you over for a suspected DWI offense. You face driver’s license suspension of seven months to one year for refusing a sobriety test, even when it’s your first offense or the state ultimately drops its DUI charges against you. The driver’s license suspension will be in addition to any other loss of driving privileges rather than run with it concurrently.
A New Jersey judge can also order you to install an ignition interlock device when you refuse to submit to a sobriety test. Your car insurance rates could increase due to the refusal even if the prosecution drops its charges against you or you’re found not guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Alternative Penalties for First-Time Offenders in New Jersey
There’s no question that the penalties for drunk driving can be severe, even when it’s a first offense. New Jersey recognizes that this can create an undue hardship for some citizens and does offer alternative penalties in certain situations. For example, you may meet the criteria for drug or alcohol addiction that requires treatment you would not be able to receive in jail. A jail sentence could also mean financial hardship since you cannot work during that time. If attorney Roy Breslow or Casey Breslow-Glugeth can’t get the charges against you reduced or drop, they may argue for one of these alternatives instead:
- Community service
- House arrest that would require you to remain in your home and have your movements monitored with an ankle bracelet
- Longer stay at the IDRC in lieu of a jail sentence
Request a Free Consultation at Breslow Law Offices Today
The thought of facing jail time, large fines, insurance hikes, and other penalties is enough to make anyone feel anxious. Our defense attorneys at Breslow Law Offices understand what you are going through and are here to help with the best legal advice in New Jersey. We encourage you to contact our law firm as soon as possible after your arrest and when you know your court arraignment date. Essex County residents can reach us at our Verona office located at 450 Bloomfield Avenue, Suite 100 at 973-239-8000. Ocean County residents may reach us at our Long Beach Island office located at 4000 Long Beach Blvd. in Brant Beach. The phone number for that location is 609-484-8884.