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Drinking and driving

Everyone knows that the safest and most responsible course of action is to never drink and drive. You can avoid a possibly dangerous situation by including a designated driver in your group, knowing and respecting your limits, or taking a taxi or Uber home. In the real world, however, many people make lapses in judgment and may drive home after having one drink too many. If you are driving at all erratically, you may be pulled over for a DUI/DWI. If you are convicted in New Jersey, you will unfortunately face fines of thousands of dollars, have your license suspended, and, if it is a repeat offense, spend time in jail. The most important thing you can do is act responsibly and avoid drinking and driving. If you do get pulled over, however, you can minimize the negative consequences for your life by knowing your rights, the possible penalties, and how to respond to a DUI charge.

Speaking to a cop: less is more

If you are pulled over, you should cooperate by politely answering a police officer’s questions. However, you are not legally required to incriminate yourself, and you should keep in mind that anything you say to a cop will become part of your record and may be used against you to form a conviction. If you have only had one or two drinks, you should have no problem being honest with an officer. However, if you do not want to incriminate yourself, you can simply respond that you’d like to speak with an attorney before answering questions.

Implied consent: you have to take the breathalyzer test

New Jersey is an “implied consent” state, meaning that when you get your driving license, you provide consent for taking a breathalyzer test. This means that if you get pulled over, you cannot refuse to take the test or ask to speak to an attorney first without penalties. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, your license will be suspended for 7 months to 1 year, and you will have to pay a fine of $300-500. If this is a repeat offense, those numbers increase. It’s important to note that even if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you can still be convicted of a DUI, which means that penalties for refusing to take the test will be added to the penalties for a DUI conviction. Therefore, it is generally advisable to simply take the test.

Field sobriety tests: you can refuse them if you want to

You can, on the other hand, refuse to take field sobriety tests. These tests include standing on one leg, touching your nose with your finger, reciting the alphabet, standing toes-to-heel, and so on. In general, if a police officer asks you to complete field sobriety tests, he or she likely already has probable cause to arrest you for DUI. Field tests can give them additional evidence to convict you later. If an officer asks you to complete these tests, you can politely refuse. If you are sober and an officer asks you to complete field sobriety tests before administering a breathalyzer test, you may want to complete them to demonstrate that you are sober.

DUI fines and penalties

You can be convicted of a DUI if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at least 0.08%. The fines for a DUI with BAC between 0.08% and 0.10% are as follows:

  • $1,000/year surcharge for 3 years
  • $250-400 fine
  • $100 fee for drunk driving fund
  • $75 fee for Neighborhood Services Fund
  • $230 fee for the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC)
  • $100 fee for Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund (AERF)
  • Imprisonment for up to 30 days
  • 12-48 mandatory hours at an IDRC

This adds up to at least $3,755, plus the lost time in prison and at the IDRC and the inconvenience of a suspended license. For a DUI charge with BAC of 0.10% or higher, the fine of $250-400 goes up to $300-500. If you are convicted with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, you will have an ignition interlock device installed for the period of your license suspension plus 6 months to 1 year afterwards.

Repeat DUI convictions

If you have been convicted of a DUI in the past, you will face higher fines and longer prison terms. The surcharges stay the same, but the fines and additional penalties increase as follows.

2nd offense within 10 years:

  • 2 year license suspension
  • $500-1,000 fine
  • Prison term of 48 hours-90 days
  • 30 days of community service
  • 12-48 hours at IDRC
  • Ignition interlock device for 1-3 years following license restoration

3rd offense within 10 years:

  • 10 year license suspension
  • $1,000 fine
  • Prison term of 180 days
  • Up to 90 days of community service (may reduce period of imprisonment)
  • 12-49 hours at IDRC
  • Ignition interlock device for 1-3 years following license restoration

You can see that these penalties will have a huge impact on your life, so it’s essential to be very careful if you have received one DUI conviction.

Can a lawyer help with a DUI conviction?

It may seem pointless to fight a DUI arrest when you’ve had to take a breathalyzer test. However, there are elements of the arrest process that an experienced DUI lawyer can contest to form a defense for you. These include faulty procedure, such as not having probable cause before pulling you over or not reading your Miranda rights. There may also have been problems with the breathalyzer test, such as a malfunctioning instrument or other factors that affected the results, such the presence of mouthwash.

Every DUI case is different, but there may be elements of your case that could overturn or reduce a sentence against you. DUI law, however, is very complicated, making it very challenging to represent yourself. Especially because the stakes of a DUI case are so high, we recommend hiring an attorney to represent you.

Where can you find an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer?

We advise hiring a specialized DUI attorney, rather than a general lawyer, to represent you in court. BernieSez makes it easy to find an experienced New Jersey attorney. You can simply upload your case, and local lawyers will view it and contact you. This makes it fast and easy to find a lawyer and begin working through your case quickly.